If You're Living, You're Winning

Gambrol burst through the pine needle arch. From one step to the next, he was in full flight, running hard, and then it was like wading through chest high invisible mud. Something held him back, resisting his forward motion. Frantic to escape the nightmarish place behind him, he desperately tried to plow forward, taking one firm step after another. His skin was on fire. On the next step, the air disappeared. Panicking, he clawed at his throat. Finding nothing, he thought about retreating.

The only way to escape is to die.

He surged forward.

With a quiet popping sound, he was violently ejected onto a gravel road. Arms quivering, he pushed himself up to his hands and knees. His clothes were gone, left behind. Everywhere he looked, his skin was red and swollen. An echoing pop burst somewhere inside his chest. Reflexively, he howled like a bitterwulf. The shrill sound pierced the night, on and on, until the need for air forced him to stop. Drawing ragged, shaking breaths, all he felt was pain—but he lived.

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