Andrew charged toward the markets. He glanced behind him. They were fast today.
But, I'm faster!
A rock whistled past his ear, another grazed the back of his neck. His feet hammered harder.
Past the t-shirt shop, the bakery, the old stone restaurant. Pale faces stared from behind the darkened glass. Andrew saw the distorted reflection of his own body fly across the windows.
His breathing was steady, despite his speed.
Nearly to the steps.
His heart raced but his stride was strong as he dodged the garbage bins lining the street.
Jack should be here. Andrew imagined his ex-best friend sprinting beside him, their jackets flapping in unison.
Only two more blocks until he arrived at the long flight of stone stairs that led down to an alley, then into the marketplace. There, among throngs of people and stalls, Andrew could twist and dart like a cat. He would be safe. He only had to reach the bottom of Convict's Steps.
One more block.
Andrew could see the historical plaque at the top of the stairs. His legs pumped faster. The garbage bins stood like sentries, allowing him to pass. Would he make it? He looked back. The glance caused him to veer sideways and his foot slipped beneath the wheels of the final bin. He crashed onto one knee. His hands fumbled across cold plastic as he searched for a handhold. The bin toppled over.
Rotten fruit, empty fish tins, and a myriad of mysterious plastic bags sprawled across the street, releasing a blended smell of varying degrees of decay. Andrew placed one palm on the ground and the bruised flesh of a black banana oozed between his fingers. Holding his breath and wiping the goo on his jeans, he scrambled to his feet. He skidded through the garbage and headed for the steps.
Andrew swung around the stone marker, his fingers slipping with banana slime. A quick glance over his shoulder showed three gasping boys hurtling toward him. With a grim smile and an over-confident jump, Andrew's foot landed on the edge of the second step. His trek through the garbage had left a wad of greasy gunk under his shoe and his foot skidded across the stone.
The cold steps battered his knees, elbows, even his chin. Sky, stone, and shadows whirled over and around him, again and again. A brutal thud, a shot of hot pain, and everything was still.