And so Dominick ran.

It wasn’t long before the sounds of fighting fell away behind him. He crested a short rise and continued on down the other side. Soon he was among trees. He’d always heard that when something was chasing you, it was best to bob and weave, changing direction as much as possible. You want to make yourself a difficult target to hit. Of course, a nagging doubt tugged at him, that might only be when someone is shooting at you. Or, now that he really thought about it, when you were being chased by an alligator. But he didn’t want to take any chances. Fear will make you do some silly things, and fear was most certainly in the driver’s seat for the time being.

So, once in the tress he did just that, turning sharply every now and again, weaving in and out of the trees. Sprinting off in one direction for a few dozen steps before making a dramatic turn and continuing on. He was running blindly now, fueled by adrenaline, choosing his direction on whim.

If it hadn’t been for the large stream, he may not have stopped until he collapsed. As it was, he hadn’t even seen the stream until he was thigh deep and falling into the water.

He splashed around a bit as his brain tried to process the sudden change of environment, but eventually he crawled onto the bank. Dominick bent, hands on knees, and attempted to catch his breath as water dripped from him. Running was not something he did on a daily basis. Even weekly. Maybe the odd dash from his car into the Happy Hamburger when he was running late, but that was about it.

It was then, as his heartbeat slowed to normal, as his breathing grew less intense, as water fell from his hair and into his eyes, that he realized he was alone. Even worse, he wasn’t certain he’d be able to find his way back. In fact, as he took in the new scenery, he couldn’t even be sure that he’d climbed out of the stream on the correct side. He sat, not knowing what to do.

He could call out for his friends, but thought of attracting something like one of those gorilla goats kept his mouth shut. This was an alien world to him. Who knew what could be out there, lurking, waiting to strike, to attack, to sink its pointy fangs into his tender flesh. It was enough to make a grown man cry. And so, because Dominick was a grown man, he cried.

He’d never really cried before. Not since he was a kid. He had never really felt the need. But now, it was all he could do.

He cried until he could cry no more. Then, wiping his eyes, he rose. He had a decision to make.

The stream rolled lazily along a small valley. He could see nothing more beyond the trees that sloped up to either side. So what was he to do? Turn his back on the stream and climb the hill on this side, or cross the stream and climb the hill on the other?

He had a fifty/fifty shot at getting it right. Of course, if he got it wrong, he may not know it for a while. Even if he chose the correct side of the stream, it meant little. He’d run at such a random frenzy through the woods that he had no idea which direction beyond the stream he was supposed to go.

He thought of crying some more but pushed it aside.

He was just going to have to choose.

Had Dominick been in his right mind, he would’ve recalled the time he had been left in the Pine Park Mall in Kansas City. He’d been five and had gone back-to-school shopping with his parents. At one point, as he had been following them through the mall, he fell behind. His interest had been caught by a clown and had stopped to investigate. The clown had been making balloon animals for the other children and it was as Dominick turned to ask his parents if he could have one, he found that they were gone.

The reason why this memory would have been helpful to Dominick at this moment in time was that he’d run all over the mall looking for his parents only to be told later that if lost, the smartest thing to do is to stay where you are at. See, his parents were looking for him while he was looking for them, which made both of their searches all the more difficult.

But Dominick wasn’t thinking about that day in the mall. He wasn’t thinking about much other than being eaten by some terrible monster.

So he picked a direction and began walking.

Unfortunately for him, the direction he had chosen was the wrong one and with every step he moved further and further from his companions.

Here ends Chapter Eleven

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