Gavin Colquist shrieked, his clothes catching on thorns and branches as he sprinted through the underbrush. By the time he had run the thirty yards to his car, thin red lines paralleled the rips in his polyester button-down shirt. His torn shirt and battered cargo shorts clung to his sweat-soaked skin. Beneath his knees, short straight ribbons of red bled from scratches that looked like razor cuts. He tried to open the door. Locked! He scrambled to find the keys in his right pocket, frantic to get in the car. As he fumbled with the keys in the lock cylinder, he felt the thuds of his pursuer’s feet hit the ground behind him. Colquist yanked the key from the door and, clutching his key chain in his right hand, spun around toward his attacker. He swung hard with the key protruding from between the middle fingers of his clenched fist like a knife, slicing through only air as his attacker dodged the swing. As the man lunged toward him, Colquist heard an odd sound, like the buzz a bee makes as it darts by the ear. The man slumped to the ground, blood gushing from a wound in his temple. Colquist’s heart raced as he tried to process what had happened. He heard branches crunching behind him. He pivoted on his heels, toward the noise. An old woman, her grey hair twisted into a bun rising above the back of her head, approached. The skin on her face and arms looked like tree bark, brown and scarred and twisted. Her piercing blue eyes seemed to him almost otherworldly. She held a black rifle, the end of its barrel equipped with what Colquist assumed must be a silencer; he’d seen such equipment in the movies.
When she was ten feet away, she stopped. “You almost didn’t make it. That bastard,” nodding to the corpse on the ground, “would have killed you if I hadn’t shot him.”
Colquist looked at the dead man lying almost at his feet. He was huge, Colquist thought, scanning the man’s body.
“What, what, what, who…is he?” Colquist’s eyes bobbed between the corpse and the old woman.
“He was Cyrus. Only name he had. Lived out here like an animal. Killed livestock, game, anything he could eat. He’s killed people before. And he would have killed you. And he would have eaten you as sure as the sun shines.”
Colquist shifted his weight from his left foot to the right and back again. “Well, thank you for saving my life! I guess we better call the police…or sheriff…or whoever.”
“This land isn’t for the law. We make our own laws out here. What I did was just. Right. There’s no need to ask for trouble by calling the law.” The old woman’s face morphed from deadpan to menacing.
Colquist’s heart began to race again. “Okay. But…”
The old woman’s eyes blazed and she gritted her teeth. “But, what? You the type that, once you’ve gone, decide to bring the law back here ’cause you saw something didn’t match your idea of civilized?”
“No. I’m still just scared. Scared that he tried to get me and scared that you killed him.”
She cocked her head, her mouth morphing into a scowl, as she raised her eyebrows. It looked to Colquist like she was trying to decide what to do with him. She still held the rifle, pointed toward the ground, but in his direction.
“Tell you what we’re gonna do,” the woman said, “we’re gonna go to my place and sit on the porch and talk about this.”
Colquist’s heart continued to race as he frantically searched for something to tell her that would convince her he wouldn’t bring the law back. “Look, there’s nothing I want more than to forget I was ever here. Let me just get in my car and leave. I’ll never come back and won’t send anyone.”
She raised the gun, pointing it toward Colquist, a sinister smile crossing her face. “No, you won’t. But you’re not gonna leave, either. I have something in mind for you. You’ll get used to it out here. Now that he’s gone, it’ll be more peaceful.”
[I’m exploring a little, here. This sort of stuff isn’t really satisfying, even if I complete a story. But it helps me understand how to begin to capture sensations (e.g., fear, panic, terror) that might prove handy in another genre of writing.]