Mar. 3, 2014

"The Hunted"

Here is one of my short stories that lost a Writers Digest competition:


She awoke in the midst of a vast forest. The mist so thick with night and greenery that it actually seemed to glow in the moonlight. She had no idea how she had gotten there or why she was so battered and bruised but she knew she had to run or she would die…


As soon as she stood, she fell back down again and almost sobbed as she did so. This was no time for her legs to give out, she needed them. So she closed her eyes and, leaning against a dilapidated tree, pushed herself up. The pain that rushed through her was almost unbearable, and as she looked down, she finally saw that her ankle was twisted and clearly broken. She winced when she tried to put weight on it, but this was no time to be squeamish or give into the pain because she could hear the rustle of the leaves behind her, and could sense something was out to kill her. Taking a deep breath, she propelled herself forward, limping as fast as she could into the forest.


Dismal thoughts crossed her mind. What if I’m running deeper into the woods? What if I’m going in circles? What if I never find my way out? No. She could not think like that. She just had to move forward and hope for the best. Hope that this thing or things chasing her would never find her in time and that she would lose it.


Her mind wondered back to earlier that night when she had met a man that her friend set her up with. She remembered him being sweet and kind, and knew that he was something special. Something she had never seen before…a true gentleman. He even held the door open for her when she left the restaurant with him. “You wanna do something else?” she remembered him asking, and that she replied that she would.


They walked for while, talking of their pasts and even their futures. He bought them ice cream, and as they sat on a bench in the park, she realized she was beginning to like him. A lot more than she ever thought she would. But as they sat there on the bench, things began to get heavy.


He started asking her all of these very serious questions, his dark brown eyes becoming even darker when he finally asked if she wanted to go back to his place. When she told him that she hardly knew him, and that it was too soon and she wished to take it slow, he pushed himself off the bench violently, his eyes blazing in the street lamp. “Fine,” he almost screamed at her. “Be that way!” And with that, he left her alone in the park.


She did not understand the changefulness of his nature. One minute they were having a normal conversation, and the next he was leaving her alone in the park to fend for herself. This is just great! she thought. Now what am I supposed to do? She got up off the bench and began walking back to her car, which was almost all the way on the other side of town. It was funny to her that when she was with him, she did not notice how far they had come, but now…now she just could not believe she had to walk almost ten blocks in the dark.


As she began to move toward the street, she heard something behind her. At first, she thought it may have been a squirrel moving its way up a tree, but as she turned around to look, she saw that everything was still. In fact, it was quiet. Too quiet.


She moved more quickly, trying to make her way out of the park as fast as her legs would carry her. That is when she heard it again. Without hesitation, she started to run, almost tripping over herself a few times. The footfall—for she could tell that was what it was—came faster and faster behind her. It sounded almost animal, and yet still human. The scraps and scratches against the pavement were moving in time with the frantic beating of her heart.


Her downfall was looking over her shoulder to see what was chasing her. That one look sent her tumbling onto the ground where she hit her head. The last thing she remembered before passing out was a pair of dark red lips curled up over sharp pointed teeth in a snarl.


Frightened, she limped through the woods, adrenaline rushing through her veins making the pain from her ankle almost tolerable. The bright, full moonlight that was guiding her way, faded behind a cloud and suddenly she was plunged into sheer darkness. Her eyes never had time to adjust, and before she knew it, she was flat on her face. The sound of something large bounding through the woods was getting closer. Scrabbling to her feet again, she ran through the woods blind.


Then, as if by some kind of miracle, she saw a small light ahead of her. She began to scream for help as she heard the large thing behind her pick up its pace, until it seemed as if it was right on top of her. “Help,” she screamed again, but as she got nearer to the light, she realized she had made her way into a small clearing. The illumination that she saw was from a car. Someone had left it there with the doors open, the interior overhead light the glow she had seen.


Sprinting up to the car, she prayed that the keys were inside, but no such luck. It was empty. A low rustle came from the tree line, and she did the only thing she could do…shut and lock the doors. She sat breathless in the darkness, until she saw what looked like a large animal move swiftly through the clearing. And, even though she did not get a good look at it, she knew that if it caught her, she would be dead.


Silence fell.


Suddenly, the beast slammed itself against the hood, breaking the windshield in the process. The woman screamed as she was dragged from the wreckage, the broken glass scrapping her skin and making her bleed.


The beast turned her around in its arms, crushing her so she could no longer catch her breath. He placed his snout next to her ear, and she could feel his hot breath on her neck, the smell of rotted flesh lingering as he snarled at her. And when he placed his claw around her throat, she looked at his beastly face, seeing his lipless mouth open. “It’s been really fun,” his voice was low and vibrated through her body. “I had a great time. You know, first dates can be awkward, but I definitely think we connected, don’t you?”


When she opened her mouth to scream again, his razor sharp nails dug into her neck, slicing it open. Blood spattered all around them, and as he watched the life go out of her eyes, he placed her lifeless body on the grass and devoured her.


He always enjoyed the hunt, especially the death of the hunted.     


The End


(Short story by: Laura Del)