It was getting dark, but Zach thought he’d better stay put a little longer. He’d ducked behind a dumpster in a trash-strewn alley about twenty minutes ago—not his best bet by any stretch, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. He thought he’d be okay until nightfall, anyway. Until then he planned to lay low. Because they were still out there somewhere, and if they caught him he was dead meat.
He glanced up at the narrow ribbon of darkening summer sky between the alley’s high walls and was rocked by vertigo. The world tilted insanely on its head, leaving him seemingly suspended above a deep shaft that opened on a bottomless black void. He looked quickly away and waited for the world to right itself again, running a trembling hand along his cheek. His palm made a sandpaper sound against his stubble. His eyes darted back and forth. He couldn’t go on like this. Running. Half-starved and dying of thirst. Zach had checked inside the rancid-smelling dumpster for something to eat, but no luck. So he hunkered there in the gathering darkness with only his fear and hate to fill the emptiness.
Zach thought fleetingly of the heads of the orphanage where he had spent a hellish childhood, and how they often spoke of a time when food was abundant. He grunted. Fucking lies.
At the alley’s entrance he heard a gruff voice: “Let’s check in here.” On the heels of that, a sharp, nasal assent, “Yeah, yeah,” followed by a high-pitched giggle. Zach felt his skin crawl. He looked frantically about for something to use as a weapon and was rewarded with nothing but a flimsy slat from a busted crate. But he gripped the piece of wood in his white-knuckled fist as if his life depended on it—which he knew damn well was probably true.
The waning daylight was leaving widening pools of shadow around him, and Zach immersed himself in one of them. Crouching lower, he pressed his back into the corner made by the dumpster and the alley’s rough brick wall, trying to make himself just another shadow.