The woods are dark. The moon is bathing the landscape in silver light, but that only makes it seem darker. White and black, light and shadow. Everything looks flat and two dimensional, and I am having trouble with my depth perception. If I were to fire a gun or just throw a rock I'd probably miss. I would miss anyway. I have never been good at hitting things or catching balls or...
I stand very still now with my trembling back pressed against the trunk of a big tree. I have lost both my shoes and my dress is torn. There are sounds all around me. Small sounds. The wind rustling the leaves, making the branches squeak. Birds chirping in their sleep. Far away a fox cries. It sounds almost like a child crying. Steps. Heavy steps on the ground. Running. The sound of heavy, running feet, coming closer.
For what had seemed like a very long time after I tore out of the brightly lit, warm house I could not see, running like mad for the woods. Eyes wide open, taking in the darkness, blindly, not looking back; legs pumping, arms stretched out before me... Only luck had prevented me from running straight into a tree. The shouts behind me had been insistent, but I had outrun the voices. Or rather: they had decided that they had no need to rush. My shoes were lying on the lawn, and they must have seen them. They knew I wouldn't get far fast.
And they were right. As I stand, back pressing against the coarse bark of the tree, I hear them closing in rapidly. My feet are sore and bleeding. It doesn't hurt as such - not yet, at any rate. I have more pressing matters to attend to... I hear one to my left, but not very close. One is almost right behind me. In a few seconds he will pass me, and I know he will see me. In my panicky flight I have left an easy to follow trail of disturbed leaves and broken twigs. And these men are hunters. They will find me. Soon.
I breathe through my mouth. Big, silent gulps of air. My heart is still racing after my mad dash from the house into the night; my throat is dry. My mouth is dry. I can only wait now.
He passes me. He has slowed to a walk, and I can tell from the way he scans the shadows that he knows that I am close. At first he doesn't see me. I am standing in the moonlight, fully visible, and he is concentrating on the shadows. For a couple of seconds he is staring straight at me without seeing me. Then, with a start, he seems to realize what he is actually looking at, and a slow grin spreads across his face.
He is the one who was driving the car when I was hitching the fateful ride, just this morning. The other two men, somewhere to my right and left, were at the house when we got there.
"Just need to pick up a few things..." he had said. "And then I'll take you to the next town. You can catch a bus from there."
He had offered me a bite to eat, and it had deteriorated from there. Only because they felt so superior and so sure of themselves had I been able to run away, out of the house and into the forest. The men obviously knew the woods, though, and I didn't. They had let me run, following at an almost leisurely pace, certain they would catch me soon enough.
And they have.
"Aahh...", he says, almost licking his lips. "Where are you going, girl? Tired of our attention so soon?"
He doesn't call out to the others. He wants a little action on his own first. Walking towards me he loosens his belt. He is either getting ready to drop his filthy pants, or he wants to use the belt for tying me up. I press my hands against the gnarly bark behind me, and stare at him, following his every move. He is smiling, teeth looking like the charred remains of a forest fire. Leaning down his breath on my face almost makes me gag. I turn my face away and wait...
Now his hands are on me. Now he concentrates on my body. Now... I dive deep inside myself and flip the switch.
Oh, how I revel in the rush of raw power coursing through me. The surge of heat, of hunger, of pain as old as time itself... The explosion of primal rage that would have made me scream with delight, had I not chosen to close my jaws around his face at that exact moment. The spasms are rocking my body violently back and forth, but the taste of his blood as I crush his face and silence his muffled screams makes the change go smooth and fast. Soon I drop down on all fours, spitting out splinters of skull and teeth. The disgust I felt seconds ago has turned to pleasure. His blood is warm and sweet, and I am so hungry.
I press my muzzle against his throat, and let out a long, low growl of anticipation. There is life in him yet. He is breathing with a faint bubbling sound, and even though his blood is leaving his body fairly quickly there is still enough inside. The jugular is best severed while the prey is still alive.
But I am distracted by sounds nearby. I remember the other two men who are still out here. Their scent crawls along the forest floor like greasy smoke on the slight wind. I flare my nostrils and turn my head. And then, with some effort, I change back. My dress is completely in shreds now, but I think this fact will make my hunt go even smoother. I wipe the blood off my face and smile...
For The Fear Quest