Red stared up at the ceiling, her face wearing an expression akin to frustration and exhaustion. She couldn't close her eyes without experiencing it all over again. A flash of fur. A deep growl. Hands flying upward to protect her face. Pain radiating from her hand and lower arm. The metallic smell of her own blood intermingled with the wolf's.
Sighing, she reached over to her bedside table and turned on the light with her left hand. The covers crinkled around her as she sat up. Red looked down at her right hand. Tired eyes traced over the scarred nubs where three of her five fingers should have been. Puckered scars dappled her lower arm, vaguely in the shape of bite marks. The doctor said they were fading. Sometimes, Red could swear that they were still bleeding.
The window on the other side of the room was a reminder of how much things had changed. Before the attack, it had always been open. It opened to a view of the forest, and the start of the path that led to her grandmother's cottage. Red had liked to lean against the window sill and stare down into the trees. Letting the sounds of nature circle around her used to be calming.
Back then she had wanted to be a park ranger. She had wanted people to appreciate the great outdoors, just as she had during her childhood of exploring forests. The attack happened after her graduation with a degree in forestry, only a week before she was supposed to start working as a seasonal ranger.
When she got back from the hospital, she'd locked the window and closed the blinds up tight. It hadn't been enough. The wolf was still too close. Every time she was in her room, a glance at the closed and covered window would make her nauseous. Her mind went into overdrive, supplying images of the beast jumping toward her through broken glass. She had to fix it.
There was now cardboard taped over it all, and a chair sitting in front of it. If the wolf got in, she told herself, it would knock over the chair. Red would know, and she would never be caught unaware again. Not like the day of the attack.
She shook her head, as if trying to shake the thoughts out of her head. Her nightmares were bad enough, she didn't need her everyday thoughts to paralyze her as well.
Not wanting to stay in bed any longer with the possibility of sleep so far away, Red slipped out of bed. The cold floor made her wince, but she didn't want to sacrifice traction for the warmth that came with slippers. She'd slipped that day, and - Red pinched herself. There was no need to relive the attack every moment of every day. Frustrated with herself once more, she trudged out of her room and went down the stairs.
Her kitchen was cluttered, but the covered window stuck out among the mess. Red tried not to look at it. Even though she couldn't see outside, she still couldn't shake the feeling that the forest was too close. It was just outside the window, and the wolf wasn't too far behind.
Turning away from the trigger, she opened her fridge. A grimace cut across her features. It was practically empty. It had been a couple of weeks since she'd gone shopping. Well, it might have been longer. She hadn't been keeping track.
Shutting the fridge with an annoyed sigh, Red shuffled into the living room, then gingerly sat down on the sofa. She wrapped a blanket around her, and looked over the room. Here too, the windows were covered and had various objects in front of them that would make noise if knocked over. Her eyes ran over the perimeter of the room again, checking for cracks in the armor she'd constructed. Red slowly slid from sitting to laying down, falling asleep in the process.
She woke up with a muffled scream and a pounding heart. Trickles of sunlight wormed their way through the edges of her window coverings. The sound of frenzied knocking coming from the door rattled around her head before she realized that the noise wasn't the beating of her own heart. The scratch of a key in the lock had her scrambling backward until she fell off the couch. She peered over the piece of furniture as the door opened. Maura, a fellow forestry graduate, stepped through the door.
"Red?" The newcomer looked around the room, her eyes eventually falling on what she was looking for. "Where have you been?"
"Here." Red blinked. "I can't go out there."
Maura snorted. "You're kidding, right?" A quick glance around the room made her smile droop. "When was the last time you showered? And what are these..." She rapped a knuckle against a window's covering. "Things on your windows?"
"Don't touch those!" She stood up. The blankets pooled around her feet.
Choosing to ignore the outburst, Maura's expression changed to one of worry and concern. "Red, no one has seen you for over a month. You've been skipping your therapy appointments. I'm not the only one that's worried about you." Her mouth hardened. "Now, why don't you go take a shower, and I'll drive you to your appointment."
"It'll get me." Red said, her voice quiet. "It'll get me if I go outside."
"The wolf is dead. The guy that found you nearly blew its head off."
The memories flashed before Red's eyes. Snapping yellow teeth inches from her face. The heat of the wolf's breath on her arms. Her screams ringing in her ears. A deafening gun shot. The wolf's blood dripping on her- "Stop!" Her hands flew to her ears, as if trying to stop the sounds running through them.
She looked up at Maura, her eyes cold with anger. "I don't want to talk about it." The edge of her voice was sharp and dangerous. "I don't want to go anywhere, and I don't want you here either."
Maura took a step backward. "I didn't mean it that- I'm sorry if-" She closed her eyes for a moment. "You can't just stay here, Red. You have to get over your PTSD. It's not healthy to just pretend that everything is fine. Whatever happened to your goals? One wolf attack and you're suddenly done with everything you've worked for?" She turned around and took one step out of the door. "Think about that."
Red watched her leave, her face blank. "But, you don't understand." She whispered. "It isn't dead for me."