Midnight Chase

The dappled moonlight glittered along the path, the still air driven aside by the frantic panting that advanced on two, sometimes three, legs. Jiess stumbled as she leapt over a tree root, once again regaining her balance by slapping her arm into the dust and wavering back into her dash. The pale gaze of the moon raked over her as she weaved in and out of the trees. Her bone white shirt and light tan slacks had definitely not been the proper choice of apparel for that cold night, her light red hair in itself enough to attract the surrounding glow of the moon.

The dark trees opened ahead, letting the moonlight pool into the very air, the ground dropping steeply away. Skidding to a stop she sat with one foot dangling precariously over the edge and her gasping breath sending the loose gravel dust puffing out into the deep abyss. Jiess shook her head and hauled herself to her feet, the sweet scent of apple blossoms drifting into her nose as she forced her gaping mouth to close, drawing her to look sharply to her left.

"It's close," she told the scattered fireflies that were quickly winking away from the matted grass that was left of her stop. Walking swiftly back into the cover of the sleeping trees she made sure that the cliff was well behind her before bursting into another run through the forest. Her mind raced along side her, pounding with the same thought over and over again, I will not let him catch me, I will not let him catch me, I will not let him catch me, not this time, he won't catch me!

A shadow skittered through the brush to her left; she veered to the right, silently fuming that her route had been altered. Her mouth slipped open again and she gasped for air, pushing her jelly-filled legs to go faster. Warm breath caressed the back of her neck through her wind-strewn hair. She gritted her teeth and threw herself into the brush, rolling and tearing her shirt and scratching her arm on bramble thorns before bounding back to her feet. The warm breath had stayed behind, circling the hole she had created, hesitant to dive through the thorns.

Perfect, she thought, pausing just long enough to grin defiantly at the moon. Then she was off again, trying to reach the same destination as before.

The ground hummed by beneath her, the bushes murmuring a warning as they pulled apart to swallow her. Jiess slowed and looked around, her pricked ears useless from the blood and breath that reverberated through them.

A crash blasted through the bracken ahead of her. Her silver-green eyes widened and she was off in yet another direction, adrenaline pulsing in her veins, the moon's lighted screen now ineffective in its attempt to aid her hesitancy. This night was hers. The shadowed leaves brushing past her face barely registered in her mind, her ears deaf to the whistling of the wind that surrounded them. A glow appeared through the trees; softer than the moon, yet its color was a harsher yellow. Her face lit at the sight of it and she sprinted straighter than before.

Then, the light was blocked, a figure looming tall in the moon's stronger glow. A scowl overcame her lips and pressed them together in a determined line. Her green eyes reflected the moon, daring it to interfere again while the figure strode towards her.

She scoffed at its audacity and ran again, her limbs losing some of their vigor as the exhaustion of the chase sank in. It was so close, so close, yet she could not reach it. So many nights before he had won, but not tonight, she was sure of it. The figure followed close behind, his long, gold-brown scruff of hair flying wildly in the wind and his ice blue eyes glowing white in the moonlight.

Jiess turned back to watch the ground ahead of her, the scent of apple blossoms once again overwhelming her sensitive nose. So close… The yellow glow slipped out of the screen of trees off to her right. She swung into a turn, catching the trunk of a tree and tearing up a streak of grass with her bare feet. The glow solidified, forming a small house, almost a cottage. The door was closed, but not locked. She only needed to touch the handle. Just the handle… Her fingers were reaching, grasping for the small knob of brass. She was almost there, her fingers inches way from the bright metal when a hand slammed into her back, driving her breath from her lungs. Her legs gave out and she sank to the ground, panting and fighting to quell her frustration.

"You're It!" Marian laughed, stopping to pant with his hands on his knees, his loose green slacks and brown tunic just as torn and tattered as Jiess's own.

Jiess scowled at him, then laughed, "Al right, but I'm not giving you a head start!" They took of through the woods again, Jiess's green eyes gleaming sharply as her instincts of hunter overtook her instincts of prey.