An excerpt from my WIP, here. At the surface, it's a chase story. An army deserter and a pair of siblings, brother and sister, are fleeing from a man with nearly unlimited power and authority. Simon is the brother, about sixteen years old. He was separated from the others during a mishap on a river and forced to flee deep into the forest with nothing but a musket and one shot's worth of powder scavenged from a handful of soaked paper cartridges. Mainly, I'm looking to see if this section conveys a proper sense of hopelessness, of desperation. Though of course, all critiques of any kind are welcome. You can ignore the part about large echoing rooms and blue lightning, it's a reference to an earlier disturbing experience. ---------------------------------------------------------- He ran with abandon. Where there was no path, he made one, pushing and snapping his way through the underbrush. He splashed through shallow creeks and scrambled over fallen trees, tearing cloths and skin in the process. He had no thought for direction or safety, only that he must go always deeper, that he must run until he could run no more. The sun was red and low when he collapsed at last into the long shadow of a tall hickory. He curled up against the shaggy, plated bark of the trunk, sheltered by low-hanging branches and broad leaves. Sleep took him as the pink sky darkened to a cool and lonely night. It was hunger that woke Simon as the early morning sun began filtering through the leaves. The hole in his middle had been growing steadily, and his flight of the day before had only made it worse. He uncurled himself and creaked to his feet, clothes and skin still stiff with dried sweat. He stood with eyes closed and breathed in the scent of the wood, a floral mix of green and living things with an underlying sweetness of rot and decay. Tension bled from cramped muscles and he was tempted to stay where he was, to laze away the day in the shade. But he knew that he was only delaying a decision that he didn’t know how to make. Fort Meyer had been the only place available to him, the only bastion of civilization in a sea of wilderness, and now that was closed to him. There was nowhere left to go, no one left to tell him what to do. He set off at an easy pace, deeper into the forest. He wasn’t quite sure how far he had traveled from the river, and there was a chance that he could still be found. Merely running away was a poor substitute for a destination, but it would have to do for now. He had nothing else. So he walked. He walked over small hills and between great ones. He walked through tight thickets of young saplings with brazen arms stretched wide, and through vast, cavernous rooms roofed by the towering old masters of the wood. When he grew tired, he rested. When it became too dark to see, he curled up in some hollow of the ground and slept until the sun came again. At streams and ponds he filled his stomach to bursting, blunting the bite of hunger for a while, but always he walked. Stopping would mean he had nowhere to go. He talked as he traveled, mumbling his thoughts aloud in time to the rhythm of his feet as he dragged one in front of the other, over and over again. He talked to himself about catching fireflies with Elizabeth on warm summer nights. He talked about sneaking tastes of Mrs. Hill’s cooking before dinner. Fourteen years at my table and you ain’t starved a one of ‘em. He almost started laughing at that, but choked it off short, unsure if he would have been able to stop. He thought about large, echoing rooms with dripping water and lightning that didn’t flash and fade but froze in place, glowing blue in the dark. He didn’t put those thoughts to words. A few days passed, he didn’t know how many, before he thought of killing himself. He didn’t want to starve to death, to let the hollow pit in his middle grow until it consumed him, but he could feel himself weakening by the hour. Already he rested nearly as much as he walked. Whole hours of the day were lost in the blink of an eye. He would start a thought in the morning and finish it in the evening. He would spend hours walking, staring at his feet as he slogged through the brush, only to glance up and find himself not a hundred paces from where he had started. He began dreaming up ways to find death before it found him. There was still one shot loaded in his musket, if the powder was any good. He could jump from one of the high cliffs that loomed over him in silent observance. He could lay down in one of the cool creeks that ran between the hills, just close his eyes and let the water wash away what was left of him.