Alone In The Darkness is a novel I wrote in early 2016. I will be releasing a new chapter every Monday and Friday, starting on July 18th 2016. If you enjoy the book and would like to support me please click the link and purchase my book through Amazon. You can also find my book on the mobile reading apps: Wattpad, Jukepop, and Inkitt.

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Chapter Twenty-Nine

 

Jennifer exited out the back door of the house, her feet leaving trails in the damp grass. She ran down the length of the house as her ears trained on the door behind her, anticipating the pursuit. Her ankle was still sore, but the rush of adrenaline carried her forward and her limp gave way to an open sprint. She reached the corner of the house and she heard a series of muffled voices and then gunfire. She fell to her knees covering her head and skidded through the grass. She looked back towards the door but it remained closed. Her mind raced trying to provide answers to what she heard. Where they shooting at her? She knew this was not the moment to wait and see. She lifted herself up and continued running towards the rows of parked cars. As she broke the edge of the driveway she again ducked as she heard a long barrage of shots coming from the house. There was a moment of silence and two more shots rang out. She captured her breath scanning the yard and hoping she was alone. She asked herself if they might be fighting inside the house. Could the man upstairs be shooting in the house?

Jennifer stared at the cars and scanned the windows for any faces. It was clear and she sprinted across the driveway to the open easement. As she passed the last car, she heard another shot from the house. She stood at the edge of the bowed gravel easement surrounded by brambles and willow trees. Above her, tall pines and cottonwood trees lifted into the sky and swayed gently in the early morning breeze. The branches made a clapping sound and for a moment it felt like the whole world was applauding.

Jennifer looked back at the house to see a stumbling shape moving through the grass. A hand was lifted to his face as he ran through the grass towards her. Jennifer processed the sight and her heart sank. A sickness swelled in her stomach as she realized it was the man from upstairs. He must have been shooting at the men in the house. He had removed the mask and gown and she could see the deep lines of blood running down his face and throat. His one good eye trained on her as he clumsily jogged across the driveway. Jennifer could not help but scream as she took flight down the easement.

Ahead of her was a winding gravel road that met up with the valley highway and bordered the main river. Her feet slid and stumbled over the large gravel rocks that formed the surface of the road. The road was not maintained and she weaved around the deep potholes that were filled with rainwater. Her eyes trained on the road ahead as she ignored the pain her body felt. She ran knowing just ahead of her was the main road, and all she had to do was flag down a passing vehicle. Vadym was close. She could feel his presence on her back, pursuing her down the road. She glanced back to see Vadym moving quickly. He had narrowed the distance and she could hear him panting.

“Come here,” he cried out to her. The words hung in the air over Jennifer. Jennifer lowered her head and pressed on. Her feet plowed into the gravel as she willed her body to move.

The road lifted to a set of decaying rails marking the edge of a small wooden bridge. Below a deep swift creek poured over smooth river rock. The water boiled and undulated over the unseen terrain. The creek originated high up along the mountain ridge from the melting snowpack weaving through logging cuts and down through homesteads, ending into the main river bordering the valley road. Jennifer could hear Vadym’s footsteps behind her. In that moment she realized that she would not make it to the main road ahead. She would fall victim to him on this easement and this time she would not be able to fight back.

Vadym growled behind her as he knew he was close. The only thought in his mind was retribution and punishment.

Her first step hit the bridge with a dull and hollow thud. The wooden boards gave and were weak from the weight of the cars driving over each day. She planted her strong leg into the groove of a wooden slat and she jumped over the old rotting railing. Her back foot clipped the edge and sent her tumbling into the creek. Wooden debris fell into the water as her body contorted entering head first.

The water engulfed Jennifer’s body and for a moment, her mind reveled in the silence and peace of the stream. Her body turned in the water and her back gently bumped the muddy creek floor. Her eyes could feel the cold snowmelt as she opened them to the blackness. The early morning light could not penetrate the water and she saw nothing. She was wrapped in the darkness and for the first time that evening she felt safe and alone. Her body merged and rolled with the current as she was carried along.

Her arms reached out feeling the slick smoothness of the rocks running by her as bubbles flowed out of her nose to the surface. Her hands lost contact with the creek bed and she began to resurface. The peace of the water was broken when her head emerged. The air moved along her face as she was carried by the stream. The water bubbled and boiled all around her. She felt reborn. The water washed away the night and provided new guidance and purpose. She had a chance to survive. She gasped for her first new breath, filling her lungs. Her chest lifted as she looked back to the bridge. Vadym stood, shocked at the turn of events. He was scanning the creek trying to locate Jennifer as she bobbed. The stress of running caused his eye socket to pulse fresh blood down his cheek.

A voice called out from the easement. He looked up the road to see a man carefully jogging down the easement from the house. He paused for a moment and his one good eye opened wide. He did not know this man. A voice called out to him to freeze. Vadym quickly scaled the railing and clumsily fell into the creek, releasing a terrible splash as a bullet struck the railing behind him.

Conners approached the railing staring off down the creek and saw two heads bobbing in rhythm. His leg screamed at him to stop but he pressed on continuing slowly down the easement towards the main road.

Jennifer heard the splash and the gunshot. She turned her body allowing her childhood swim classes to take over. Hanging willow branches slapped at her face as the creek flowed quicker around a turn. She reached out feeling the water for any unseen branches or logs that may slow her progress. Her belly lightly slid over the creek floor. Ahead Jennifer could see the rolling boil of a gravel bar. The stream was shallowing. She could not float through this section and she stood. Her knees pumped lifting her out of the water. The wet clothes hung on her body, dripping and adding the burden of extra weight. She could see the smooth deeper water ahead and began to sprint over the loose gravel. She reached the deeper section and dove into the creek. Behind her, Vadym ran through the gravel with his arms up balancing over the uneven ground. His head was turned revealing his good eye locked on Jennifer who was now in an open swim and gaining distance.

The cold of the water bit at Jennifer and she began to shiver as her body fought to keep her blood flowing. She couldn’t stay in the stream any longer as she knew hypothermia would began to take its toll. She hurried swinging her arms, cupping her hands, and pulled herself through the creek. The raging water turned and opened to the main river. Above her head she crossed under the valley road bridge. She could see the concrete footings on the river bank and the eroded walls lifted up to the road above. The rusted metal girders were bolted together and the green paint, long flaked off, was decorated with graffiti by bored valley teens. A large logging truck passed overhead loaded with fresh cedar from a cut deep in the mountains. It rounded the corner and the thunderous engine braking echoed along the dark walls of the valley. Jennifer could smell the cedar and she began to wince and cry. She knew that freedom was only a few feet away but the speed of the stream was too swift.

The momentum of the creek took Jennifer out into the middle of the river. She was a small dot barely distinguishable from a floating branch or clump of leaves. The immense river consumed her, hiding her location. The early morning light illuminated the banks of the river displaying the gravel islands with desperate willows clinging against the swift current. The river walls oscillated between sandy cliffs and gravel beds, meandering through the valley like a snake moving through grass. It turned and swayed in a dance, giving land and taking shore. Homes were dotted along the edge enjoying its bounty and fearing its rage.

She looked back and could not see Vadym floating in the river. The river was raging and Jennifer could barely focus over the noise of the water. It was still dark and she could not make out any shapes in the water. The river was notorious for hidden trees and large boulders that would disappear her forever, or until the next flood loosened her body’s hiding place. She told herself to remain quiet. Vadym could be anywhere.

She scanned back along the bank and saw a gravel shore jetting out and leading up through brambles to the valley road. In the distance she heard the echoing sounds of emergency vehicles coming up the valley. Where they coming for her? Did they know she needed help? It would be a bad luck if they were to drive by, leaving her to die at Vadym’s hands. She carefully coaxed her body across the current and towards the gravel beach looking out for Vadym who was hidden in the water somewhere in the dark boil. She fought the cold as her body tired against the strain. She swam through the water as her hands began to feel the riverbed. Her arms were numb from the cold and she struggled to lift herself out of the water. She emerged onto the shore walking stiffly through the gravel. Behind her, Vadym lurked in the shadows of the river.

She crossed the soft bed of gravel rock and hid herself in the tall reed grass line in the bank. Vadym could be anywhere. She hid with her eyes scanning the shore waiting for Vadym to surface. The sounds of the emergency vehicles grew louder as they approached. Jennifer knew if she could hold out that they would be able to protect her.

Her eyes and ears danced to every sound the river gave off. She was fooled by small waves and floating branches. To her right she heard a crack among the rocks and her eyes darted like a frightened doe.

From the darkness a voice broke through, “No one will find you.”

Jennifer dared not respond for fear of giving away her position.

The voice continued, “You’re close. I can hear you dripping.”

The voice was so very close. Could Vadym see her? Was he just playing games? She continued to search with her eyes looking for any movement. The sounds of the emergency vehicles were nearly upon them. Jennifer could not see Vadym was but she knew she had to get to the road and signal for help.

Jennifer broke her silence and between breaths and called out, “Help me! Please!”

Emergency vehicles were at the road. Jennifer could see the lights illuminating the trees and grass. The vehicles continued and turned down the easement. Jennifer’s feet touched dry rock and she pushed forward towards an open cut in the brambles. She continued to cry out as a rock connected with the side of her head. She fell to the ground into a clump of river grass, her body hidden from view.

She moaned as her arms reached up to the road. She screamed into the early morning light, “Help me…” her voice trailing off.

Vadym staggered above her, swaying, still dripping the river about him. His chest heaved with deep gasps of air. He pulled Jennifer’s leg and she was dragged out of the grass with her hands tearing at clumps. She rolled to her back and through a dizzy fog she saw the shape of Vadym standing over her. He lowered himself and straddled her waist as Jennifer weakly pounded Vadym’s chest. She called out, “Please no!”

Emergency vehicles had left down the easement to the house. The riverbank returned to sounds of bubbling water. Vadym laughed, “Help is on its way to you.”

She sobbed and the tears began to fall from her eyes. Vadym reached to his right and pulled up a large rock and brought it above head. Jennifer’s body and mind gave up, she had fought and lost. Her eyes closed and prepared for the swift end.

She never heard the shot but she felt the warmth across her face. Little drops of warm blood covered her as Vadym fell to her side. The rock dumped over his body and he lay still. She was in a purgatory, silent and alone. Was she dead, she wondered.

Her head was gently lifted and her cold body was pulled to the grass and cradled in Officer Conners’ lap, “Jenny, we’ve been looking for you all night.” She had no voice to share and cried in his arms. His voice leaned into her ear and softly soothed her, “You’re going to be ok.”

“Where did you come from?” was all that Jennifer could muster.

“From the house. I heard you.” Jennifer believed him, feeling safety for the first time this night.

“Who are you?”

“Officer Conners.”

Before her mind was lost to sleep, she glanced up at Conners and met his eyes lowering her head and whispering, “Thanks.”

Conners smiled. He knew that the woman had been through hell, he could see it on her clothes. The dirt and blood mixed forming a timeline. He was relieved and spoke to her, “I’m happy to help.”

Jennifer never heard this comment as she was already fast asleep. From the road above the bank, the red and blue lights came to a stop and men poured out stumbling down the river’s edge to assist.

 

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