Looking back I saw the two beasts getting closer and closer at an accelerating rate. In their eyes there was eagerness. They weren’t advocates for mendicity, they clearly stated that with each one of their strides. Their bulky bodies would faithfully serve their ideologies. Simplicity is a weapon in itself.
I led my team into a side street. It would have been a mistake to retrace our steps along the avenue, thinking of the bridge as our salvation, because our assailants would have catched up with us at the beginning of the bridge, bit us senseless, and then dropped us down into the abyss, our bodies just lumps smashing against the dry banks with a final thump.
Turd also looked back and understood that the fascists would close in on us very soon. They were relentless and hungry hyenas, and we were a bunch of impaired prey items. The street was narrow, the sidewalks only wide enough for one person, and the cobblestoned pavement just able to accept one small vehicle at a time. OldThrown was now one meter in front of me. I had to start each one of my strides by launching my right hip forward and then rotating the rest of my body. And even doing so, my hip joint was burning with pain. The boots of the fascists were stomping against the cobbles, that drumming bouncing from wall to wall. Every second they reduced in half the distance that separated us. Every second we were seconds away from being trampled down and then dealt with.
“You pieces of shit,” one of our prosecutors interjected. His voice had sounded so close behind me that it didn’t seem to be much of a point in keeping my sluggish escape. The only result of my painful effort was going to be a ridiculously short postponement of my beating. Turd was right behind me. The hand of the predator would snatch Turd first, or the assailant foot would kick him out of balance and then Turd would be in their arms. Then I would keep running for a few more seconds until my turn came, or I would stop running at that point, because it wouldn’t make any difference anymore.
I glanced over my shoulder again. The main fascist was looming over Turd, the gigantic hand already starting its descent to land on Turd’s shoulder. Turd must have correctly read my panicked expression, understanding the immediacy of the hunting strike, for he took action.
“Turtle and snail,” he said, like nothing of relevance were carried out by those words. Months before he wouldn’t have done anything so blatant to save his own butt. But this was a new Turd. This was The Company’s Turd. Riding the surf, even if he didn’t know how, not afraid to fall and be submerged under the raging wave.
Turtle and snail, then. Of thousands over thousands of possible combinations, he chose and launched those two words.
The two fascists had gotten to a mere meter of their target. They only had to outrun us that much to take us down. But they were now unable to do so. Second after second they remained behind us, that last meter still separating us. The Company kept running at a sad speed. The fascists ran at the same speed, although their young and buffy bodies were not slowed down by arthritis and years of inactivity. It was more like they were characters in a slow-motion movie. They were clearly baffled. It must have been surprising for their minds to be more active than their bodies. Their brains so accustomed to lag behind their animalistic actions, now suddenly having the time, the privilege to play with their thoughts between step and step.
We turned a corner and the new street was even narrower. Horribly steep. Too steep for The Company to run uphill. I was the first one to transition from trotting to walking fast, and then just walking. Turd and OldThrown were now ahead of me. The two fascists seemed to be trudging through a river of mud. One almost wanted to feel sorry for them. It was clear that every one of their steps was an arduous endeavor. A huge effort was required for them to simply pull a leg up, then an extra exertion to move it forward and to gather the motivation to start all over again with the other leg.
I didn’t stop walking, even though it was difficult for me to breathe and there was a pain punching on my breast. At some point I was able to increase my distance from the fascists, but I couldn’t stop. If I stopped I wouldn’t be able to go again, I would kneel down and collapse, and the fascists would only need to move their legs several times to get to me and dispatch me, even if that took them several minutes.
I glanced again at my predators. They seemed less dangerous in their confusion. They kept looking at their legs, flabbergasted by their inefficiency, worried that such a condition should be perpetual.
“What the fuck?” the subordinate fascist complained, frustrated by being so limited by his own body. He stopped, too puzzled by his current situation to cope any longer.
“Don’t know,” the dominant fascist said, also coming to a halt. “Must be drugs, mate,” he added, although his limited brain must haven’t been too assured with that concept.
We took the first passage to the right, and I felt more at ease, as if by putting those two out of sight they became less of a threat, a distant memory. In reality, after a quick break they could regain their full speed and reach us in no time. And their fury would be accentuated by their recent frustration.
It was a narrow passage, but we were going downhill now and I resumed my running. OldThrown was ahead, trotting like a discombobulated pony. I doubt he remembered what he was running away from. He didn’t seem to need a reason, though. His joy emanated from the act of escaping. In a close second position, Turd wobbled, an obese penguin threatening to topple sideways at every step. I wasn’t too far behind my comrades.
The labyrinth unfolded as we advanced, and we spent no time choosing a direction at each crossroads, one way was as good as any other. No surprise then that we ended up dragging ourselves through a street with dirty walls and putrescent air, hung-up clothes over our heads a ceiling dripping on us. A doorway was open and in we went, because if our enemies were following us we had to trick them, get ourselves so stupidly lost that they would never have a chance to find us. The corridor beyond the doorway contained a flight of stairs, some apartment doors, no need to check if they were locked, and at the end of the corridor a window overlooking an enclosed courtyard. OldThrown didn’t stop running until he reached the end of the corridor, and then, without looking at us to seek our approval, not even noticing that there was a one-meter drop, he just squeezed through the window and landed on uncut grass scented by stray cats. As if he were the king and us his jokers, we scurried to follow suit. The unattended courtyard had developed the air of a jungle. There were trees of several denominations protruding from the sea of grass, a group of cats across the courtyard observing our advances, and an open gate beyond which we ran again along a filthy street.
We turned on the least promising corners, getting lost in such a manner that nobody could have logically deciphered our whereabouts. We closed doors behind us. We went up and down stairs and artificial promontories. We confused our bodies in the tangle of alleyways, patios, staircases and canals. Now we were in a run that we didn’t longer understand. We had to cross some private gardens, more than once hearing the imprecations of those stupid hulks that hated us, wasting their precious time telling us what they thought of us, returning to their sunbathing or barbecuing as soon as our bodies climbed up to their fence and fell to the other side. Over one of those fences we went and we landed on a small cemetery. There were dandelions and sparrows welcoming us. The steeple launched a sense of protection on us. The slates on the roof of the church, the same color as the tombstones, seemed to reflect away the sights of our enemies, making us invisible. Time to rest.
The three of us laid our backs on erect tombstones. The ground was wet but I couldn’t care. I stretched my legs and enjoyed my stillness. It took a while, but eventually I was able to breath normally again. I could have closed my eyes and dozed off. I turned my head and contemplated Turd’s serious face.
“Why Turtle and Snail?” I asked.
Turd looked at me and shrugged his shoulders.
“I mean, it worked alright, so thank you very much, but why not call them Rock and Brick?” I insisted.
Turd didn’t respond for a while. I could see how throwing names as a defense mechanism was something dirty to him. Not something to reminisce about. But I understood and appreciated that sometimes one had to take the uncomfortable path. Doing the wrong thing in order to do the right thing.
He looked at me again and smiled.
“They didn’t look like their names were Rock and Brick, nor Anchor and Anvil, you know,” he said. “Turtle and Snail is the best I could do given their faces.”