Doors burst outward and a man tumbled into the street along with light from inside. He rolled several times, then lay still for a moment. Once he got his bearings, he stood up and took off running.
Just seconds later, the doors burst open again and four men stumbled into the darkness. They looked about, spotted the man running down the road, and shouted to one another, “There he goes!” Each finished the beer they had in hand and tossed the mugs to the ground. “We’re coming, Sarsost.”
Sarsost took the first alley on his right, and when it ended in another street, he turned left. Immediately on his right, a road led off diagonally, and he followed it. Just as he entered the cul-de-sac, a yard of dogs on his left erupted into howl. Their barks startled Sarsost, and he stumbled sideways.
He caught his footing and continued on. A fountain shot water high into the air, which caught light from the buildings surrounding the cul-de-sac. Sarsost ran around it, and here spotted a small path leading between a bank and a church. Behind him, he heard voices and the dogs stopped barking. The church’s bells tolled six times, and he kept to the path, past large flower beds belonging the church.
The path led back some ways, and turned into a small bridge. As he ran over the bridge, he noticed the tower looming ahead of him. He ran around the tower, but found no outlet; just high walls that circled back to the bridge. He could hear flowing water on the far side of the wall. Had the the bridge lead him to a dead end?
He circled back around the tower; now sure of no other way out but the bridge. He stopped when he saw the group of men standing near the fountain. One held a leash and the dog at its end leapt toward Sarsost, growling. The men smiled and headed toward the path as Sarsost turned around. A small statue sat atop a hill northwest of the tower. Sarsost ran to it and hunched behind the northern face.
He spotted a loose stone at the statue’s base and worked with his fingers to pry it out. The church’s bells rang out again and Sarsost looked to the direction of the noise, to the east. Clouds parted on the horizon and a lone star shone through. The light gave him a glimmer of hope. The dog came into view past the statue as it dragged along its master. The dog caught his scent and then lunged in his direction, straining against the leash. The dog’s master and his friends came to a stop.
“You chose a bad spot to run to,” called out one.
“Though it makes it easier for us,” said another.
The master said, “Sit.” And the dog obeyed.
Sarsost looked again at the star. It flitted behind a cloud.
The master unhooked the dog’s leash, but it didn’t move. “Go,” and the dog bolted forward.
Sarsost pried at the stone again, and caught another glimpse of the star, as the cloud moved past it. His heart filled with dread as the dog bounded up the hill, snarling. The rock slid from its home in the statue’s base, and Sarsost swung it at the dog, but missed. The dog sank its teeth into his arm, and then violently shook its head. Sarsost’s skin tore and blood poured out. The dog then jumped at Sarsost’s throat and a bite muffled the screams. His eyes fixed on the star - dread giving way to hazy black. The star. The star.