I kept on running. My heart was pounding in my chest, my legs were aching, but I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t even spare the second it would take to glance behind me.
Besides, I knew that they were getting closer.
I sucked in a deep breath, trying to control the precious oxygen. Focus, Jack, I told myself. You need to focus. Running will only keep you alive for a little while longer.
You need to think.
I glanced back and forth as I took another corner. I was on a street, both sides lined with small shops. I could feel the sun shining down on me, warming my wind-ruffled hair. If not for my pounding heart and screaming inner voice, it could almost have been peaceful.
Up ahead of me, I saw one of them come sweeping into the intersection in front of me. They were getting smarter, trying to cut me off. The shadowy mass, at least a dozen feet tall, rippled with the suggestion of bones, sinews, strange and abhorrent limbs hidden beneath the almost merciful blackness that ate all light.
I didn’t even slow as I turned. A shop came in front of me, and I hit the door with a lowered shoulder. It yielded, and I came flying inside.
I skidded, but stayed on my feet, staring around the shop. It looked to be some sort of coffee shop, someplace filled with tables and students on computers. No one looked up, of course. They couldn’t even see me, couldn’t perceive that I was even there.
Except one young man.
For a moment, we made eye contact, and I saw him freeze. His eyes widened, and his hand, halfway to the coffee cup beside his laptop, froze in mid-grasp.
I rushed forward, slamming both my hands down in front of the man, making him jerk in surprise. “You!” I growled, my voice halfway between a roar and a pant. “You’re him, aren’t you?”
“Oh my god,” the young man in front of me stammered, staring up at me. “Oh god, I’m having a stroke.”
Outside the shop, a loud thud echoed through the room as one of the Unspeakables slammed into the door. The wood held for the moment, but I could already see tendrils of blackness sneaking in through the cracks. I had a minute, maybe two.
“Set take me, I don’t have time for this!” I snarled down at the confused young man in front of me. Up close, he was anything but intimidating. He looked soft and weak. I doubted he’d last ten minutes in my world.
But it wasn’t my world – not really.
It was his, wasn’t it? He had made it.
The young man was currently staring past me, his eyes locked on the shaking, sweating doors. “What the hell are-” he began, but I was already moving around behind him.
“Hunters,” I said, snapping my fingers in front of the man’s face to break his spell. “Now, write them away!”
I shook my head back and forth. “Ugh, I don’t have- look, you made them!” I shouted, stabbing my finger towards the door. The wood was slowly splintering, and I could see the entire frame starting to give way. “So you can write them out of existence!”
“I – I mean, I imagined them, but I didn’t create anything,” the young man in front of me stammered. He really was useless. And soon, we’d both be dead.
“Write!” I shouted again, stabbing my fingers down at the slim laptop in front of the man. And, his fingers trembling, he started to type.
The Unspeakable howled in rage. All it knew was blind rage. It had no concept of satisfaction, even of itself. All it knew was blind anger, hunger for the destruction of its target, hidden behind this puny and fragile defense.
“What – insight?” I snarled, staring over the young man’s shoulder at the words on the screen. “That won’t help us!” The door had almost broken away from its frame.
“Just give me a second!” the man snapped back, and his fingers kept moving.
The Unspeakable pulled back, about to throw its entire weight into the flimsy barrier. But even as it charged forward, the whole building shimmered, fading away.
The Unspeakable didn’t have eyes. It perceived what was truly there, seeing through any illusions.
But a moment later, the building truly was not there. It had faded, not just from sight, but out of the entire plane of existence. The Unspeakable’s quarry had escaped, and its howls of impotent rage threatened to tear its entire being asunder as it searched helplessly for a trail that was no longer there.
I lifted my head, staring out the windows of the building. The loud cracking of the door slowly splintering had stopped. So had all other noise from outside. I could hear nothing, and all that swirled outside the windows was mist.
“But, I- what just happened?” stammered the young man in front of me. “I mean, my writing isn’t real!”
I reached down and slowly patted him on the shoulder. “It is here,” I told him. “Now, come on – they’ll figure out our trick soon enough and be after us again.”
Listening intently, I slowly advanced towards the door. “Come on, Author!” I shouted over my shoulder.
Behind me, the young man stood up, tucked his laptop under one arm, and then hesitated. “I mean, I bet there won’t be a good coffee shop for miles,” he muttered to himself, looking down at the table. “Maybe I can grab a to go cup?”
“Coming, coming!” the young man yelled back, tossing back the rest of his coffee as he scurried towards the door, following the protagonist he created years ago.