In the country, Jim's grandfather used to say, there was nowhere to hide. The city was full of niches and cracks, little places to stow yourself away, but in the country, where the soybeans stayed low to the ground for fear of heights and where there wasn't a house around for miles, there wasn't much hope for those who didn't want to be seen.
It was a moonless autumn night, and Jim saw them from afar because in the country there is nowhere to hide. He knew something was wrong from the start; two people weren't out this late on a cold evening like this if they weren't doing something (Jim was walking his dog), and these two people weren't doing something.
They were under one of the few streetlights that dotted the dirt road, the streetlights that were fifty yards apart, no more, no less (there had been a big town meeting about that decision), and one was sitting up and the other was lying down, lying still, in a position that did not suggest sleep but suggested something slightly more sinister, on the opposite side of the man sitting up. All but his legs were hidden to Jim, who approached slowly.
He was under the streetlight next to theirs when the man sitting up looked at him. He was tall and overweight and wearing a heavy down jacket over his overalls. He coughed, violently, a racking cough.
Jim continued approaching.
The man sitting up gave him some sort of face, one of pain, maybe, but more importantly one that Jim was unable to decipher from where he was, and so Jim continued approaching. The man coughed again, and then he looked back at Jim and shook his head.
"Sir?" Jim asked, stepping nearer.
The man kept coughing and shaking his head. He held up a hand.
He was close now, and his dog was whining. The man sitting up just kept coughing and shaking his head and holding up a hand.
Up close, Jim could see the man was in bad shape. A tiny drip of blood leaked out of the corner of his mouth, and he was breathing hard. He struggled to say something, but Jim was unable to hear. He leaned close, allowing his dog to smell the man that was lying still.
The man's jacket fell open, exposing a bare, bloody chest. Blood pumped out from everywhere, warm and wet, drenching the inside of the man's coat. The man coughed again, and red liquid squirted anew from the wounds on his body.
Jim stared. The man stopped coughing and looked Jim straight in the eye.
"Run", he rasped.
Jim heard a whine, and suddenly the body lying next to the man was alive and hurting his dog and then reaching out to grab Jim but Jim was running and running as fast as he could, unable to breathe or think or swallow and only able to pump his legs, one after the other, and he was one hundred and seventy two yards away and seventeen seconds from the streetlight when he turned around and look back, his head swimming and hot from the effort.
He saw a long stretch of empty road.
He kept running.