Manhunt

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"Don't die, okay?" You turn around, laughing, to stare at your friend.

"I'm not stupid, Jake. I know how to avoid them," you boast, but inside that's not the case. There's nothing but fear inside you.

"They're here. You know that. Be careful." he grins at you. "And if you do get caught, I don't know you."

You shudder. "Don't even joke. I don't want to think about turning in my friend." He gives you mock salute.

"Your wish is my command," he says, before disappearing into the bushes.

You sigh. Idiot. Going off in the opposite direction, you try to make as little noise as possible. They could be anywhere.

You come across a large tree- fir? Evergreen?- whatever it is, its branches are thick, and you will be completely hidden. With a few minutes of struggling, you're close to the trunk, and hidden from sight. As long as you stay put and keep quiet, you'll be fine.

You'll be fine.

You repeat the words over and over, as if repeating them will make them true.

Time seems to inch by, slower and slower the longer you wait. Is Jake okay? Other friends, allies, the resistance? Are they dead?

Have they got them?

Finally, against your better judgement, you crawl out of your hiding spot, shaking off the dries leaves. The sun is hidden behind a cloud, and the sky is grey. Like the day.

You walk cautiously over a field, wincing each time the sharp CRACK of a twig under your foot sounds. It seems to be ten times louder then it normally is in the still atmosphere.

Screams suddenly rent through the air, high and shrill, but definitely human. You cover your ears, heart pounding as the noise gets louder, closer, and in haste you dive into a bush, hoping that they don't see you, oh please don't let them notice you...

Footsteps come right past your hiding place, and you look out. A small, rapidly slowing group followed by a single individual. The group out front is too tired to scream now, and you know they're done before the individual - a young boy, by the looks of it - catches them. You look away as he catches up, but you can't block out the final scream of desperation.

When you look up again, they're walking as a group.

The resistance is falling, You think, leaving the bush as the group passes out of sight. Your heart hammers in your chest as you creep forward, making a beeline for the tall, leafy tree across the field.

"Hey you!"

You jump, whirling around to face the voice, recognizing the face. "Tristan?"

Tristan grins at you, an almost vampire-like smile. The fact that he's walking towards you doesn't calm you down. "So, how've you been?"

You start to back up, trying to keep a lock on Tristan and look behind you. "Oh-oh, fine, nothing out of the ordinary."

Tristan takes another step. "Really? That explains why you're covered in leaves and full of panic..." he pauses, and you can almost confirm that he's gone. He's with them. "You're not... hiding from something, are you?"

Oh shit, you think, backing up some more. Your voice comes out as a squeak when you say, "Who, me?" Tristan laughs, but there's no humour in it. When he looks back at you, though he's still smiling, his eyes are cold, calculating, and show no trace of mercy. Once green, they're now black as night.

That's it, you can't take it for a second longer. You turn and run, trying to contain a scream. Tristan lets out a triumphat yell, starting off after you. The ground pounds beneath your feet, and a rock has cut through the sole of your sneaker. You can feel it cutting into your foot, but don't stop. You can't stop. Tristan lets out a manical laugh behind you, urging you to run even faster.

Your breathing is becoming labored, your footfalls slowing. Up ahead, you spot a break in the trees, and aim for that. You know if he even lays a hand on you, you're dead. Worse than dead.

Crashing through the break, you skid to a stop. It's not a clearing. It is the most precarious rock structure ever, a small ledge on the side of a cliff not two metres away. The ledge is only about ten centimetres wide, and handholds are far apart and small.

Tristan growls, an animalistic sound that's far too close for comfort. You decide to take your chances, steping out onto the ledge and inching along. Tristan follows you, a metre behind and fast gaining. You slide along faster. This time you do scream, a sound that catches the attention of a group on the other side. Can you trust them? Are they with you? It's too late to second guess, you must stay away from Tristan. "HELP!" you scream, and the group stands up. You are close enough to see the numbers, three, and that all are girls, but not more than that.

They stand up, yelling, "Come on!" and you feel a surge of relief. You'll be safe if you make it. You rush the last few metres, losing a handhold at one point, but grab on just in time. You jump off at the end, surprised to see that Tristan is taking his time.

"Hi there," says one of the girls slyly. You take a step back, surveying the scene. One of the girls is on your left, one in front, and the last one on your right. Shit! How could you be so stupid? You edge backwards, stopping when you feel the edge of the cliff under your sneaker.

One of the girls laughs, fixing you with a hauty gaze. "That was remarkably easy," she says, but you're calculating. The girl in the center is slightly to the right, so maybe, just maybe... "I never thought anyone would fall for that, but lo and behold, here you are!"

"Here I am," you agree, poising to run, "but not for long." With that, you take off between two of them, watching their startled faces as they realize you're getting away.

"Go!" shrieks one of them, not bothering to chase you herself. The redhead is close behind you, and you swerve, trying to shake her off-

But the last girl, the taller one with black hair, is cutting you off. With a yell, you swerve again, but too late, her fingertips have already brushed your arm.

It was small. She barely touched you.

But it was enough.

You trip, falling face-first and quickly rolling over to face the sky. The girl has left, they have all left, but you know it's too late for you anyway. Your arm feels like acid has been poured over it, but the sensation lasts only a second.

Paralysis. A feeling of cold, like ice, rushing through your body, redering you unable to even twitch. You can feel it flowing through your blood, and it seeps into your head. You fight it, trying to keep the cold at bay, but the fight last only seconds. The cold infiltrates your thoughts, twisting memories and sending signals until you want to scream in agony-

Then silence.

The temperature is the same. There is no difference. You are still you.

And yet... something must be different. You are calm. No more running, no more hiding. It's just a game. Like tag. Just one touch, and you can pass on the feeling of peace. No need to panic, says something in your head, it's just a game. Of course it is. You get to your feet, heading back into the forest, smiling and walking along.

Where's Jake? He would love to play... He would, wouldn't he? You begin a search, looking around for your friend. The task does not take long, as Jake himself is wandering around with a smile as large as yours.

"You caught?" he ask, excitement evident. You feel a bit disappointed someone got to him first, but you nod.

"Yeah. Some girls back there." You wave your hand behind you in the general direction from which you came. He nods, and begins to walk, you falling into step beside him.

A rustle in the bushes alerts you of someone's presence. How about them, whoever they are? Let's get them to join... A boy breaks out of the bushes, and with a laugh, you and Jake run after him. You are gaining on him...

Now this is fun.

This is Manhunt.

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