The sound of metal meeting metal followed by a high-pitched scream had my muscles constricting, and I flinched and almost tripped over my own feet in my haste to get away from the sound. There was a ringing in my right ear, loud and searing, my brain felt as though it was being scrambled, my heart racing like it wanted to jump out of my chest and run away.
“Are you okay?” Fiona asked, her voice bathed in that ringing, off and distant.
“Surely this is truly getting annoying,” I said instead, freaked out and yet also somewhat angry, though I couldn’t quite grasp why. Perhaps it was the fact that I couldn’t explain it that pissed me off, but did I truly want an answer?
The sound came again, even closer this time, as though twice, the second more like a ricochet than a banging. Somehow that fact wasn’t nearly as calming or offered any sort of relief the way I thought it would. It was another thing I couldn’t explain, my heart nearly jumping into my throat. If it wasn’t the disembodied hammering, what was it then?
Grabbing Fiona’s hand, I pulled her with me just as another shot came, the bullet hitting the metal high enough that it could’ve hit my head. How was this supposed to be a simulation when the shots were so real? I didn’t feel like finding the answer anymore, even less as two more shots followed, and the sound of an approaching ship became so clear I wanted to slap myself for not having noticed it sooner.
“Are you still sure this isn’t real?” Fiona asked, her voice panicked, her grip on my hand turning viselike. “Because this feels and sounds really fucking real!”
I wasn’t, and I wasn’t sure if it mattered, either. The only thing I knew for certain was that we needed to get out of their line of sight so they couldn’t shoot us, and maybe even lose them. But we’d wandered far along the freighter, the building now seemingly unreachable, even farther than it seemed before, my legs quickly starting to burn with exhaustion.
A woman shouted something behind us, her tone commandeering, a good indication that she was the captain, and her crew chased after us. As much as I wanted to look over my shoulder to see how close they were, or how many, I was too afraid.
The next time a passageway opened to our right, we took it, the towers of containers to either side even more threatening now. This was a mistake. There was nowhere to take cover until we came out the other side, so if they reached the opening behind us and started shooting, we’d be easy targets.
We ran and ran, yet the exit seemed just as far away, the illusion as though we were racing toward the light at the end of the tunnel and the afterlife waiting on the other side. Almost. Maybe a dozen or so more feet and we’d make it out, win more time, a measly advantage. My heart nearly jumped out of my chest as a bullet ricocheted off the container to my right.
Flinching away, I crashed my left shoulder into the container on the other side hard enough for a painful jolt to race through my body. Worst possible timing.
“Are you okay?” Fiona asked, worry splashed across her face and voice, her hand touching my arm.
“Doesn’t matter,” I said, rolling my shoulder with gritted teeth, the pain oddly radiating from both my arms. We continued, all of this taking only a few seconds, but it was precious time lost. Glancing over Fiona’s head, I could see our pursuers closing in on us quickly, and while they weren’t the best at hitting their targets from afar, I wasn’t willing to test their close-range skills.
Alice Reeds was born in a small town in Germany but spent her first eight years in Florida, USA. Later on, she moved back to Europe, where her family moved around a lot. She was raised trilingual and has a basic understanding of Russian, read and spoken. After getting her International Baccalaureate Diploma, Alice is studying English Language and Literature at University. In her free time Alice mostly writes, reads, figure and/or roller skates, or watches countless let’s plays and figure skating videos.