He stumbled over a root and the cry that pursued him rose even higher. He saw a shelter burst into flames and the fire flapped at his right shoulder and there was the glitter of water. Then he was down, rolling over and over in the warm sand, crouching with arm to ward off, trying to cry for mercy.
He staggered to his feet, tensed for more terrors, and felt the edge of the tide lap against his heels. The first figures, looking less human and more beast-like with every step, began filtering through the layer of trees. Ralph instinctively stepped back in retreat, feeling the water swell around his feet. More painted faces appeared slowly heading down the beach, Ralph matching their pace ...view middle of the document...
They were hunting the beast as they had been from the start; the beast that changed forms and methods, but was always the same. It was, to them, whatever needed to be killed. Ralph was now the object of their loathing.
The chant began to grow, raising itself to be the only sound heard. It even drowned out Ralph's own pulse, which he could feel pounding in his ears, a silent sort of scream. The masked faces advanced until they came to the edge of the water; upon where, by no particular command, they began to stop. Each savage boy shot sideways glances down the line, inquiring whether to continue on and pursue Ralph into the water.
Ralph watched the faces. Though smeared with clay and paint, they were still the faces of what once were his companions. Ralph picked out Jack, towards the middle of the line. His face was etched with hatred as he contemplated a sea-attack, his ocean blue eyes were alight with a fiery tempest, seeming to reflect the flames that licked the tallest leaves in the forest canopy and gnawed the wood to ash.
With the slightest give-away in his face, Jack began to pull back his spear. Ralph saw his muscles contract as he pulled back his hand to throw. Ralph knew he wouldn't be able dodge the skilled spear. Without entirely thinking, he turned and dived out down under the water. His wounds burned in the saltwater, and seconds later Jack's spear pierced the water. Shortly after that first spear was thrown, the others began to follow in suit and hurled their spears after the spot where Ralph had gone under. The spears were slowed considerably by the resistance of the water, and by the time they reached where Ralph was they were just floating down, pulled only by gravity.
Ralph paused to watch as the spears flowed down towards him, no longer fast enough to be harmful. His appreciation for their elegant swimming was short-lived, though, as he remembered that they were still out on the beach waiting. He dove a little deeper and began swimming parallel to that edge of the island. He took it as a good sign that no more spears were breaking the surface after him, but he still kept swimming ahead.
When finally he hoped he had covered enough distance and his lungs were screaming, Ralph slowly ascended and peeked his head out of the water. He was a little farther from the island than he had realized and the line of tiny people on the beach was still looking intently at the place where he had disappeared. Treading water, alone in body and spirit, Ralph's mind explored his situation. Being in the water felt so natural, it almost had the same effect as standing on his head and he began to calm down and think. He was soon bitten again by the sting of salt in his open wounds and aware that the largest of them, by his ribs, was leaking red droplets to dissolve in and tinge the water. He was also aware of the ache in his muscles, his arms and legs were tired. The rushed resting last night had not been nearly enough to...