The gum in my mouth gave up the last traces of flavour hours ago, I'd spit it into the enveloping mud but at least it distracts me from the rending need in my belly. The rain started sending its cold threads winding through the seams of my coat before sundown, and I've been awake for so long now that my memories of the morning seem surreal, dislocated, events that happened to a cardboard character in some cheap tv show. For the 10th time in the last 5 minutes I consider giving up, sitting down and waiting for them to come. For the tenth time I tell myself it isn't an option.
I pulled my overcoat closer around me, it offered no warmth nor comfort, but something inside me needed the closeness of the fabric. I should keep moving, although maybe I shouldn't have started moving in the first place, but I knew I couldn't return now. The gnawing in my stomach grew stronger, and I bit down hard on the tasteless gum. How long had it been since I'd had some food? It felt like days. There was a coffee shop at the end of this street, I would stay for a while. I knew I couldn't hang around long, they wouldn't be far behind. I approached carefully, making sure no one had followed me, and entered.
What little light there is inside comes through from the kitchen. The door is gone. There is no food here. I spot an umbrella behind some broken chairs, but I'm interrupted by a shuffle in the darkness. As I turn to see I hear an old, tired voice talk to me in a language I don't understand. There is a movement in the darkness and something is removed from a hole in the wall into the kitchen. A beam of light spills out over a chessboard, and two old men. One is peering at me from above his glasses while the other sits back down, talking with a tired resignation in his voice.
"You don't understand a word he's saying, do you?" the man with the glasses asks
"No" I admit.
"Neither do I, but he plays ok", he tells me as he motions for me to come closer.
I didn't stay long, there were shouts, mostly indecipherable, but one could be heard again and again, "Where is he?". It echoed ominously down the rough passage as I began my descent, the walls were so close I was finding it difficult to breath let alone move, but I shuffled downward as fast as I could. As I continued down I noticed that the walls were widing, and the slope levelling out, by the time I was level I was able to crawl along on my hands and knees. The air smelt of old soil, with a hint of raw sewage impinging on my senses. It was pitch black. It wasn't until now that I could actually access the bag, I reached in for the torch and found it almost instantly. I flicked the light on and everything came into sharp focus.
I was in a small, cramped tunnel dug through the earth and held in places by old wooden struts. Ahead of me the tunnel widened slightly and continued on forward to reveal a stone wall some 20 meters distant, I scurried ahead as fast as I could.