Her feet pounded over the gravel pathway.  Blue tennis shoes skidded on the tiny rocks, her feet nearly flying out beneath her.  She caught herself, her arms flailing through the air to keep her balance.  Her chest heaved as she continued to run.  The wind whipped through her hair, blowing it in her eyes.  She chanced a look over her shoulder.  He was behind her, and he was catching up.

There.  Off to the right.  Behind a cluster of bushes.  Somewhere she could hide.  Hoping she could duck quickly out of sight, she veered off the path.  She spotted the small opening and grasping the edge, thrust herself through.  Even as her chest burned, she held her breath so he wouldn’t hear her gasping for air.  Footsteps raced past her, and she closed her eyes in relief.  Safe.  For now.

She knew what would happen if he found her.  It would be her turn.  Just like the others.

For the first time, she glanced around the enclosure she had escaped into.  It was like a cave, but wasn’t.  Sunlight peeked through various openings overhead and on the sides.  Vines lay nestled in thick, heavy ropes around the edges.  It looked like a cage, she thought, and shuddered.

Goosebumps broke out over her arms.  She felt a cool breeze lift her hair from her neck.  The sun shone bright and warmed her skin where the beams lay, but all of a sudden she felt cold.  She wrapped her arms around her stomach and drew her knees to her chest.

Something rustled behind her and she turned quickly to see if he had found her.  It was not him, but one of the vines was weaving slightly.  Just the wind.  She laughed softly and shook her head.  There was her imagination, running wild again.  Silly girl.

No, wait.  What…  Her eyes widened as she watched the vine sway, then start to creep eerily up the wall.  She watched, horrified, as it made its way steadily upwards.  Soon, other vines joined in the journey.  They wove amongst each other, slowly at first then increasingly faster.  Soon she could barely see any light at all due to the vines covering the openings, including the one she had used to enter.  Then the light was gone.

Her breaths came faster as she looked around for any escape, realizing there was none.  Even though the walls did not move, she could feel them closing in on her, pressing against her.  She buried her head in her knees and started rocking.  Her eyes shut tight; she could imagine the vines crawling across the floor towards her, reaching out to snare her by the ankle.  She heard a odd noise, then realized she was whimpering out loud.  Unable to stand it any longer, she opened her eyes and looked around.  The vines were not coming any closer, but they were tightening around each other like a vise.

Suddenly she heard a loud crack, then another.  Since the vines were now covering every inch, she could not tell where the sound was coming from, or what was making it.  What was happening now?  There was another.  Something was striking the vines from the outside.  A section of vine dangled loosely from the ceiling, and then dropped to the floor.  She couldn’t take her eyes off it, but it did not move.

Glancing above her, there was a flash of light as something swung down, then more broken vines rained down.  An opening gradually grew larger above her head, and then a hand extended downwards.  An open hand reaching towards her.

“Take my hand.”  The disembodied voice echoed in the small confined space.  Suspicious, she didn’t know what to do.  Take this hand that seemed to be her salvation?  Or was it not what it seemed?  She looked down at the vines by her feet.  One was beginning to curl and twist around as if it was searching for something.

She would take her chances.  Standing up, she reached for the hand and gripped it firmly.  She let herself be drawn upwards, and fought her way through the small opening, her slim form barely squeezing through.  Struggling out, she lost her balance and tumbled into the boy.  They rolled down a small hill and lay tangled together.  She rolled to the side and lay on her back, staring up at the blue sky that she thought she would never see again.

She looked aside to the boy lying next to her, a smile on his face.  She could feel something bubble up inside her and started giggling.  The boy started chuckling beside her.  Their laughter grew louder, until they lay there clutching their sides and rolling on the ground.  Their amusement slowly subsiding, they finally rose to their feet and looked brightly at one another.

“Same time tomorrow?” he asked.

“Right after school.  I’ll be here.”  They started down the path in separate directions, both making their way back home.

She stopped and looked back at the metal dome climber.  She could see other kids playing on the swings in the background.  Off in the distance she heard a loud shout, “Tag! You’re it!”

She started walking down the gravel path, grinning.  Perhaps tomorrow she would be the rescuer.

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