The child didn’t notice the gash on her shin, or the cut on her left cheek. All she wanted to do was to find somewhere to hide. She wiped some spattered mud from her face and continued to push her way through a thorny hedge that tugged at her clothes and left her body covered in scratches. When she emerged from the spikey bushes her brown hair was covered in leaves, seedpods and dirt. Shreds of pink nylon hung down from her torn dress, and her white satin shoes were ragged. But the child didn’t seem to care. She caught her breath and ran through the sodden, rutted fields.
Stumbling and falling, she headed towards a low privet hedge at the end of an overgrown meadow.
Behind a picket fence the girl saw a house half hidden behind two large fir trees. The garden was overgrown and the lawn strewn with rusty barrels, ripped tarpaulins and dented oil drums. She climbed over the fence, looked around, and spied a dilapidated outbuilding a few feet away with a large stack of wood propped up against it. The girl ran towards the building and ducked down behind a water butt attached to a cracked drainpipe.
When her breathing slowed and the pounding in her chest eased, she tilted her head to one side and listened. A strange shuffling sound like someone brushing up dead leaves made the girl hold her breath. It was not leaves though, but footsteps heading her way. They stopped and she sucked her stomach in. Almost blue from lack of oxygen, the girl opened her mouth and let the held-in air out. A loud growling sound made her stiffen and she saw a dog’s snout push its way between the butt and the wall. Its breath was hot and smelled of day old meat. The girl grimaced, squeezed herself further in between the brick wall and piles of seasoned timber, pressed her back against cold stone and slid noiselessly to the ground.
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