He could feel each breath seeming to shred his lungs as he ran, but he couldn't stop, not with knowing he had to put as much distance between the soldiers and himself as he could while daylight held. It didn't matter that he couldn't hear the sound of them anymore, it didn't matter that the blood from their bullet wound drenched his pant-leg, all that mattered was was putting as much space between himself and Vukovar and the dangers the city still held.
As he heard the sound of the stream, it was thirst that finally forced him to stop. He wouldn't stay for long, he would just quench his thirst. With a groan he eased himself to the ground, the wound in his leg sending a stab of pain as if he needed a reminder that he'd done nothing for it. Stretching his leg out he scooped a handful of water up and dribbled it over the exposed wound on the front of his thigh.
There was a part of him that was ready to give up. It was that same part that had been willing to put his life in danger so many times since his family had died, that he no longer bothered with trying to keep count. This time though there was a difference, this time he had promised someone he would survive.
"You should get out of the City while you still can..." Sitting on the banks of the stream, the Chief's words came back as clearly as if he had only just spoken them and as he stared down into the water he found the entire conversation returning to him as if he were watching a movie playing out before him.
"I can't leave them.." He sipped at the tepid liquid that had replaced the coffee they could no longer come by.
"Luka...you are alive..they are not...you are still young..go while you can." The man persisted..then turned at the sound of yelling in the halls which caused both men to hurriedly rise...
"They're coming...they're coming..the Serbs..." An orderly almost knocked them down as he made his way through the halls, alerting those still in the hospital.
"Luka..go..there is no time to waste..you are young..if they find you they will kill you." The older man pushed him.
"I can't leave you.."He protested...but the man shook his head..
"I have to stay..for the patients..I'm old..I'll be fine..now hurry..go to the basement..and out that way..go, before you are seen..go!" He practically pushed Luka down the hall towards the stairs.
"Luka..if you hear anyone..find a place and hide...be our voice, promise me?" He grasped his student's shoulder's tightly, fixing his eyes on the younger man until he nodded.
"I promise..." As he got his answer, the elderly doctor kissed Luka's cheeks then released him.
"Hurry now, and be careful." Reluctantly Luka opened the door, and moved to join the others who were already filling the halls, making their way down the stairwells to what they hoped might be their escape.
Sniffing back the tears that the memory awakened, Luka leaned forward and splashed water over his face, why had he promised to do something he knew would be so hard for him to uphold? Cupping his hands, he filled them with water, a last drink and he had to move on, he had no choice, a promise was a promise.
Pulling himself to his feet it was impossible to withhold the groan that escaped as he once again put weight on his injured leg. As he once more began to move through the woods, the enormity of the challenge ahead began eating away at his confidence, how could he possibly hope to succeed? He had no idea where he was going, no guarantee that those he might encounter could be trusted, he had no money, no provisions, and to make matters even worse he would somehow have to find what he needed to treat his injuries before infection set in. But, he had made a promise, a promise to speak for those who very likely were no longer alive to speak for themselves, he had no choice, he had to cover as much ground as he could before he lost the daylight.