Regan’s leg throbbed in agony with each step, and she could feel
the hot blood dripping down and getting soaked up by her socks, turning her
jeans a dark red. But the mad squeaking of the rodents stampeding behind them
reminded her to ignore the pain and keep running.
If one of them had been willing to take a chunk out of her ankle, they probably
wouldn’t have any issue with eating human flesh. Regular rats certainly didn’t.
“Come on! Keep moving!” She could sense the creatures scampering at their
heels, occasionally chancing a leap to latch onto their legs. That couldn’t happen. Like it or not, she was
currently responsible for the physical wellbeing of a teenager. Regan briefly
considered stopping, turning around, and giving all of those rat creatures a
nice scream to remember her by, but that had to be an absolute last resort. She
didn’t need a stranger—let alone a high school aged boy who no doubt liked to
gossip—to know about that.

Regan tried to sprint in the direction of the nearest edge of
the Common, where she was parked nearby, hoping that the rats wouldn’t try to
follow them outside of the park. But as her feet started pounding the pavement
and the animals made no sign of slowing down, that spark of hope was
extinguished. And what was worse, the boy leaned forward and coughed—a wheezy
sound that seemed to rattle his lungs. It sounded a lot like—crap. If it was what she suspected… Regan
bounded back and pulled lightly at his jacket. Her eyes darted between him and
the rats that were gaining on them. “Do you have asthma?” It didn’t seem like it was at the point where he’d need an
inhaler, but if he kept pushing his lungs, they could get into that territory.
And if he didn’t have an inhaler on
him, Regan couldn’t get him to a hospital—even if this situation permitted it. Hopefully
he was sick. Had a cold. Inhaled something as they were running. But Regan wasn’t
unfamiliar with what asthma looked and sounded like, and in this situation, it
could become reason for a death sentence. If her limp wasn’t enough of one
already. “You—what’s your name? We need to get out of here. They’re still

The mangy yellow-toothed rodent that’d bit her seemed to have
recovered from being swung into a tree. It was leading the charge, its whiskers
crinkled angrily and its tail swishing. They were coming closer still, and Regan’s
heart thumped in her chest. Think fast.
Do something. You’re the adult here.
Oh, how she hated being the adult
sometimes. Taking charge in the morgue or in a medical emergency was all well
and good. Taking charge as they were being chased by rats that wanted to eat
them was new terrain. And Regan did not like new terrain. Another cough from
the boy, and she knew she had to do something.
And fast. “Keep running, okay? Or if you can’t run, walk. I’ll catch up.” The
move wasn’t entirely self-sacrificing. She didn’t want him to get a good
look or listen at what she was about to do. And heck, she wasn’t even sure if
she could do it. Usually when she attempted to utilize her symptoms in constructive ways, it was full monty or nothing at all.
Practicing with mason jars couldn’t simulate the pressures that came with real
life situations. But the rats probably didn’t need a 200 decibel screech, and
she didn’t want the attention that inevitably came with it—or the damage to the
boy’s tympanic membranes.

Once she saw him start to run away, she turned her attention
completely to the rats. Only a couple meters away now, and some of them reared
up, ready to strike. What he she ever
done to them? Hopefully the boy was far enough away now that this wouldn’t
raise any questions. Regan took a deep breath, holding it in her chest. This
wasn’t easy, but Deirdre had helped her with the technique. Instead of releasing
it in one loud burst of a scream, she let it reverberate in the back of her
throat. Practically made the base of her skull vibrate. When Regan couldn’t
stand it anymore, she let the screech roll out—not as loud as a scream, but sharp
enough to make the rats screech back in reply. They rolled around on the
ground, some of them stunned into stillness and others darting around in tight
circles. Regan didn’t want to wait to see how long it would take them to follow
in pursuit—she ran to catch up with the boy. Dared to take one glance behind
her shoulder and saw that one of the rats was already finding its way back onto
its feet, dark eyes shining in newly incensed fury. Uh oh. As she started
running again she was reminded how much her ankle smarted; the injury felt
almost stiff now, and her stomach twisted in anxiety. The last thing she wanted
was to see a doctor.

At least the kid was alright. Mostly. She couldn’t tell how his
breathing was, though he was still on his feet, which was a good sign at this
point. “My car isn’t far, we’re almost there! It’s the silver Civic.” Regan dug
her car keys out of her pocket, fishing them out just as the shrieks started
getting louder. Closer.

the woman tell him to keep moving, he was briefly reminded of gym class at
school back when he hadn’t been excused from participating yet. So many
teachers had called for him to keep
going, Dustin, keep moving, just do it, don’t slow down, it’s not over yet!

and he had always, always felt like either flipping them off, crying, or dying.
Or all at once. Because the only reason his lungs felt like they were about to
escape his chest was because he wasn’t sporty, and boys weren’t supposed to be
like that. He had almost been relieved when his doctor diagnosed him with
asthma, because at least this meant that maybe, it wasn’t all his fault that he
couldn’t breathe when he was running. At first, his doctor had recommended that
he still participate in gym at school and do sports, but soon it had been clear
that nearly dying every time he participated in PE was far from ideal and so
he’d been excused from then onwards.

then she even pulled at his jacket, asking if he had asthma. No shit, he wanted to answer. Fuck off was another, and so was save yourself and leave me to the rats.
But with his lungs protesting loudly, all he could get out was a small “Yes!”
in between two coughs. He didn’t even answer her when she asked for his name.
Talking usually made it worse, taking the little air that he had left.

gave her an incredulous look when she told him to keep moving while she stayed
behind. He wasn’t sure how long he could keep on running, and it wasn’t like he
could outwalk the rats, they were much faster than that. And what was she going
to do? Those things looked vicious, and the one that she had thrown into the
tree seemed to have come back with vengeance visible in its evil eyes. Was she
going to fight them? With what? She hadn’t seemed to be able to fight them
earlier near the bench, what was she going to do now? Clearly, she wasn’t going
to sacrifice her own life for a stranger so that the rurtles would consume her
first and not come after him. Dustin refused to believe that anyone was that
selfless and stupid.

fuck it, he had to keep running. Maybe this woman had just thought of a plan,
or maybe she just remembered she was carrying rat poison up her sleeve, but she
wasn’t going to tell him, so there wasn’t anything he could do. Hopefully she
would indeed catch up with him. Despite her injury, she seemed in good physical
condition otherwise, the fact that she’d done this running thing before voluntary indicated so.  So he just took off, trying to get his legs to
move as fast as possible while staying conscious. His lungs protested loudly,
and every breath felt far too shallow although he was trying to get as much air
into his chest as physically possible. He kept running and running. This was
it. He had to stop now. Or he would literally die, he would suffocate.

this was the moment that the woman finally caught up with him, shouting
something about a silver car. They could make it. Maybe. If his lungs held it
together until they reached the car park, they could make it. Speeding up a
little in the last metres, Dustin reached for the handle of the passenger side,
opening the door as soon as he heard the car unlock, slamming the door shut
before he even sat down properly to keep out the hungry, vicious creatures. “Are
you good to drive? We need to get you to hospital. If not – my mum is super
close, she is shopping in Son of a Stitch right now, she could drive you,
probably, fuck, what of those things are poisonous? What if they carry some
sort of virus? Fuck, you definitely need to get to hospital as soon as possible-“
he took in a wheezing breath, looking at the woman with big, worried eyes.


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