Warning: This work has been rated 16+.
Ralys glanced out the window. The sun would be setting soon. Traveling was best done at night, there was less of a chance of getting caught. By another person, that is. A lot of animals stalked about in the darkness, but he would rather deal with a mutt or some escaped zoo animal than another person. People had blood-lust gleaming in their eyes, and chances were most wouldn't make death quick. There was an aspect of pride to it as well, though. Ralys would rather subject himself to a quick death by animal than let some bumbling brute steal all his stuff and gloat about their latest kill, as if human life meant nothing. Which, nowadays, was true. Beyonce's net worth would be half a penny out there.
Ralys gathered his things up, taking care in how he placed it in his bag; clothes at the bottom, his journal on top, his phone and charger into the side pocket, food tucked into every empty space left, but leaving room for— He paused before setting the jewelry box into the bag. One of its corners was chipped when it fell out during his narrow escape before. He'd need to be more careful with it. He took one of his shirts, using it to wrap the box, "Hopefully that'll do."
One final sweep of the house for valuables, and Ralys was out the back door. The sun was just below the horizon, casting the neighborhood in dull light. He set off through the backyards of the neighborhood, training his eyes on the highway signs in the distance. Once he got on the highway, he'd have the exit numbers to keep him on track. No more navigating that stupid map. Not for a while, anyway. Ralys reread the last note at the bottom of the map, 'Exit 11 takes you to [insert city name here lol], once you get there, find Harrington. He'll get you here, if you're worth bringing.' He grimaced. He imagined getting all the way there, finding this Harrington guy, and being told he wasn't good enough to be taken to Gleamwood. What would he do? After all of this... after everything he'd lost...
He shook his head. No use thinking about it now. He'd come this far, and this sliver of hope was better than wandering aimlessly in these neighborhoods.
The on-ramp was packed with cars. Ralys gave most the cars a quick once over for anything that might have been left behind, but he didn't find much..He stopped at one car, scanning the seats with his flashlight. The stench hit him hard, and he covered his face with his sleeve. A man sat in the passenger's seat, a bullet wound to the head and- Ralys took a closer look -it seemed someone had taken eight of his fingernails. To convince him to give up something valuable, no doubt. "Eight, huh? You musta had something real good with you." He continued, looking through each car he passed, but most had already been stripped of anything of use. Seats, radios, clothes, some were even missing car parts like the doors and hood. He wondered if cars would ever work again. The streets were too crowded to even drive, but maybe one day things would be put together again to get roads moving again.He slipped into the driver's seat of a decently intact truck and played with the steering wheel. He hadn't been able to get his driver's license, and now that the impending probability that he'd never even get the chance to get one hung over his head. He suddenly felt nostalgic for a time he never even had.
There was movement in the rear view mirror.
His heart jumped. He slipped down in the seat, turning his flashlight off, keeping the side mirror in sight. Had it been an animal? A person? A million scenarios raced through his mind. He clenched his fists, suddenly a little too aware of his fingernails as they dug into his palms. He grabbed his knife, pushing the door slowly to reposition the mirror and look around. A flashlight shone directly in the mirror. Ralys choked on a scream. He slipped down further, crouching down by the pedals.
He could barely hear their voices over his pounding heart.
"I thought I saw somethin' over here, Alv." One was saying. The clang of hitting a car nearby filled the air, "Hello~? Anybody there?" One man sang.
Ralys shakily pushed the door open as slowly as he could. He could see their dark silhouettes coming closer to the truck, hitting every car they passed with their guns. Ralys took a deep breath and tried to calm himself enough to think of a plan. If he stayed here, they would definitely find him. If he ran, he could hop the guardrails and lose them in the trees.
He heard their guns hit the car behind the truck. He clutched his bag, took a deep breath and—
Ralys bolted from the car.
"Hey! He's over here!"
A gunshot rang out, then another, and another.
Sharp pain cut across his neck as one grazed him.
Fear bubbled up from his chest, and came out in a sob. "Oh my— shit, this is not the time!" Ralys screamed, swiping away his tears as he sprinted for the highway railing. He jumped over it, clearing it with ease, but his landing was sloppy. His ankle twisted and he lost his balance, tumbling down the slope on the other side. If he didn't know any better, he'd say he somehow rolled over every single rock and root on the way down...
He stilled at the bottom, right at the treeline. He could hear the shouting of the two men from the top, "We just wanted to get to know you a little!" They cackled, calling slurs and expletives down to him. He flinched as they shot down at him, missing him completely, but cackling as they taunted. After a moment, though, they left.
Everything ached as Ralys lay there on the ground trying to regain his strength. He touched his hand to his neck and pulled it back, seeing his hand covered in blood. "Oh geez," he muttered. "Harrington better think I'm worth it..."