Gabriel Hall ran.
He ran faster than he ever had when the bullies at school were chasing him. He ran as if there were demons snapping at his heels-- which in a way, there were.
You can do that, his mind urged him as he darted into the nearest alley and barely managed to leap over the pile of trash at the entrance. You can end it now-- all you have to do is use that on them.
He ignored the inner voice, arms pumping as he struggled to pull in enough air for his straining lungs. No. He had promised. He had promised her he would never use that-- not unless there was no other option. And right now running like a scared rabbit was his first and foremost option.
His survival instincts argued with him, but he pressed them back with practiced efficiency, concentrating all his energy on simply running.
There was a crash behind him, a curse, and a hoot of laughter.
They were gaining on him.
His breath rose in his throat in a terrified sob, and he began to glance around frantically for an escape route. If he was closer to his own neighborhood, the streets around the orphanage he'd grown up in, he would have probably lost his pursuers within the first five minutes. But this was many blocks away from the orphanage and the kind-hearted nuns who ran the place. He was on his own now; he hadn't even had the chance to slow down and flag down a cop car. Not with them right on his heels.
His inner child told him those hunting him were Monsters, plain and simple. The influence of the nuns suggested they were something more akin to devils. Whichever they were, he didn't plan on sticking around to find out. A surge of terrible guilt rose up like bile, almost overriding his fear for a moment. He had left Eric, left his closest friend behind to the mercy of those things.
He almost missed the fire escape.
He jumped as high as he could, dragging the steel ladder down low enough to reach the first rung with his foot. It screeched horribly from disuse, but he hardly heard it over his thundering heart as he scrambled up, barking his shin on one of the rungs. Doesn't matter-- just go go go, his mind wailed. Up he went like a squirrel, and as soon as he reached the fire escape balcony outside a second story window, he yanked the ladder back up so that it was out of reach of anything below. He dashed up the zig-zagging stairs, all the way up to the roof. He had reached the fifth floor when he heard the angry curses from below from the monsters as they realized they would not be able to follow.
Doesn't matter-- go go go.
He reached the roof and hoisted himself over the ledge. There his legs gave out on him, and he collapsed on the gravelled flat-top, his limbs quivering as he fough to regain his breath, eyes closed tightly in fear and exhaustion. Can't stay here forever, his mind reminded him sharply. Can't stay too long or they'll find you. Still he lay there, struggling to hear anything over the blood rushing in his ears, until he thought he was recovered enough to run again. He got to his feet, and it was more difficult than he'd thought it'd be, because his legs were shaking from his mad run through the streets.
He made himself get up, and took a quick, cautious peek over the edge. No one was in the streets below, or climbing the ladder after him. He felt relief and fear both at once, hoping they had abandoned the chase, but afraid that they were merely finding another way up.
He hurried over to the door that would lead inside the building, but after a few yanks on the knob, gave a noise of despair. It was locked from the inside. The door looked old, and perhaps could have been forced by someone of heavier girth or greater strength, but Gabriel was a slight boy who had always been better at speed than strength. It was his speed that had saved him from the same fate as Eric this night, but right now he was wishing desperately that he had his friend's wide shoulders and well-built arms.
He heard a noise and looked around quickly, his heart kicking up a notch. Nowhere to hide. They were coming-- up the other side of the building. Gabriel could have kicked himself for his thoughtlessness. There was a fire escape on both sides of the building. He should have pulled up the ladder over there instead of tugging uselessly at a door.
He heard their steps on the metal balcony of the escape and one of them muttering irritably, "I don't see the fucking point. It's not like anyone's gonna believe the little shit if he goes crying wolf."
"Shut up," another growled. "He can still ID us. Get your ass in gear."
Gabriel had only a few precious seconds to make his decision, and despite his life or death situation, it was a hard one to make. For years he had kept it deep inside. He had promised he would never use it again. It was too dangerous, it made him too different.
He saw the head of the first monster-- who looked remarkably like a man despite the fangs he bared at the sight of Gabriel --pop over the roof's edge.
Taking a deep breath, Gabriel turned his head quickly back to the door and pushed hard with his mind.
The door was blown off its hinges and fell down the steps inside with a crash. Gabriel didn't stop to look back at his pursuers, though he heard their gasps of surprise. He scrambled over the broken door and raced down the stairs into the building.