He doesn't think; he just reacts. It's something that has gotten him far in life, something that has made him who he is. He doesn't hesitate, doesn't take a moment. He runs on instinct, and instinct is telling him to run, run run run far away before they take him. He has to stay alive, protect it because it is his and he earned it through blood and tears and sweat.
He can see disapproving scowls, hear voices filled with derision. They float through his mind as he runs, always just ahead, never behind him. If he can outrun the faces and the laughter, then he'll be okay. He'll wake up and he'll remember and it will be the way it was before the darkness and the sadness and the loss. He'll open his eyes and see their faces smiling back at him and the sun will be in the sky; the darkness that envelops him will be gone, banished.
He presses forward, pushes himself until the ache in his legs is distant and half-remembered like everything else.
It's better to forget, whispers the dark, what use is the light? They have forgotten you, and you have forgotten them.
No. No no no no no no.
He runs faster, harder. The faces twist and bend and swirl, until he sees smoke trailing lazily in the air and the slant of green, green eyes. The air around him is heavy and empty and full of promise, and if he can just call it forward, shape it and hold it in his hand, he can break free.
Away from the darkness.
Away from the light.
Away away away. Back to his play island with his pretend friends and the fruit that represents a connection that cannot be broken. He can taste it, the bittersweet tang of the juice in his mouth, and he thinks he can see a flash of brown hair, a glimpse of a white stone, before it is all gone. Gone, gone, gone.
Like everything else.
Like everyone else.
The laughter is back, urging him on. Lose yourself, it says seductively, you have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.
For a brief moment, mere seconds, he considers, and he falls. The heavy air dissipates and he hits the floor.
And he doesn't open his eyes.