Sleep

Opal shoved a branch aside and scrambled up the slope out of the swamp. Every step was exhausting, every movement a reminder of how long she’d gone without sleep.

She’d ditched her phone somewhere far away, remembering things she’d seen on TV about the cops tracking phones. Without it, she couldn’t check what time or day it was, but she knew there had been nights since she left the blood-stained street outside the club and ran.

Shouts and barking filtered through the trees, the noises muffled and fragmented. The cops were closing in again. That meant she had to keep moving. No one would believe it was self-defense. No one ever believed the word of a hooker against that of a customer, especially when the customer was a congressman. He might not be able to talk any more, but his body would tell the story for him.

At the top of the bank she leaned against a tree, resting aching muscles and catching her breath. The rough bark gouged at the palm of her hand. Bright lights danced whenever she blinked. There was a stabbing pain in her gut that she didn’t want to think about.

A muttering voice made her twist around. One foot gave way beneath her and she collapsed in the dirt, pointing her gun at empty air.

Then she felt her lips move and realized that the muttering was her.

She couldn’t keep running. Not like this. Not with her legs aching and the cops closing in, and her thoughts rattling disconnected around the inside of her head. She needed to sleep so she could escape. She needed to escape so she could sleep.

She forced her thoughts back to the present. If she couldn’t keep running from the ever-tightening ring of cops then she needed to get past them. Reluctantly, she slid into the swamp and trudged back toward the sounds of pursuit. The trees looked like people, arms swaying in the air, pixies dancing on their fingers in a scene from a childhood cartoon. Laughter shook her as she pulled herself up the far bank, thin mud dripping from her thighs.

A minute later she stepped out onto a dirt track. She must have gotten turned around, because she didn’t remember this from before. Or maybe she’d just forgotten. She’d been forgetting a lot this past day.

A cop stood beside the track, his car behind him. He raised his gun as Opal did. His hand was steadier but she couldn’t afford to back down.

“I’m taking your car,” Opal said. “Get out of my way or get shot.”

The cop swayed from side to side. His lips moved. The sounds were garbage.

“I said get out of the way,” Opal said.

The cop stood firm, though now the world around him swayed.

Opal pulled the trigger. She expected an explosion of blood, like when she’d shot her customer, but nothing like that happened. She closed her eyes and when she opened them the cop was gone. There were only trees.

She was tired. If she’d imagined that cop, maybe she’d imagined the sounds following her too. Maybe she’d been safe for hours but just too exhausted to believe it.

This time she let herself laugh.

Arms dangling by her sides, she walked over to the car, opened the door, and lay down on the back seat.

You could still have a cop car without a cop, right?

The gun slid from her hand onto the floor of the car. Something still hurt inside her. She would deal with that later.

As sleep descended, she imagined for a moment that she smelled blood. There was a rattle like handcuffs and then unconsciousness.

 

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