Her feet pounded against the forest floor as she ran, but no matter how fast she moved, she could still hear the dogs as if they were right behind her. Sliding down an embankment, she ran a way up a creek, hoping it would throw them off her scent. Branches caught and tore at her clothes, tangled her hair and thick mud seeped into her canvas sneakers. She was cold and tired, but she dare not stop. Her heart pounded in her chest and her lungs burned, but no matter how far she got, she could still hear them coming. Rounding a bend, she could hear cars and somehow to managed to push herself faster, knowing if she got to the road, someone would stop. Someone had to stop.

She entered a clearing, she could see headlights when a large weight hit her square in the back, claws digging into her shoulder and tackling her to the ground. A small cry left her lips as she hit the ground hard. The canine form on her back suddenly lengthened, hands roughly turning her over. Tears leaked from her eyes as she fought against a lithely muscular form pinning her down, but he managed to her hands above her, holding her wrists in one hand while his other slid under shirt to grasp her ribs with bruising strength. He pressed his full length against her, burying his face in her hair, his teeth latching onto the bend of her neck.

Suddenly, he stopped, his body stilling. Picking his head up, he looked at her pinned helpless beneath him. Disbelief shone heavily in his clear blue eyes and he threw himself off her, scurrying backwards in the dead leaves.

"Run! Go! I'll hold them off!"

She didn't question it. Getting to her feet, she ran, heading for the road. Cars swerved and horns blared as she exited the tree line. She waved her arms, hoping someone would stop, her eyes glancing over her shoulder constantly.

Finally, one car did, slowing and stopping on the shoulder by her. Running to the passenger window, she leaned down to look through the window. It was a middle aged woman, probably close to her mom's age.

"Are you okay, sweetie?" she asked and she nodded.

"Yeah, I got lost in the woods, god it's been hours." She lied, knowing that the woman would never believe what she's been through. Taken in the parking lot of her work, brought to the woods to be hunted for sport by men in strange armor atop dark horses with burning eyes, dogs made of leaves chasing her. This bystander would never believe her and would leave her here on the side of the road if she told her the truth, thinking she was crazy.

"You look like you've been running from something." The woman said.

"Dark woods and an active imagination aren't a good combination." She said and the woman chuckled.

"Ain't that the truth? Hop in. I'll give you a ride." She opened the door after it unlocked and slid into the passenger seat. Pulling the door closed, it locked again and the woman eased herself back into the sparse traffic. "You got name, hon?"

"Sarah." She said.

"Nice to meet you, Sarah. Is there anywhere in particular you want me to drop you?"

"The nearest hotel, I think my friends said they were staying at one nearby." Sarah said and the woman made a sound.

"Is that who you were with when you got lost?"

"Yeah, we were walking when we got separated. Stupid me, forgot my phone in the car."

"No reception here anyway. I just got done with a two week company retreat, completely cut off from civilization. I don't even want to imagine the state of my inbox." She said and Sarah forced a chuckle. The darkness of the woods around the road seemed to narrow in on the car and she sank down a little in her seat. "Ugh, I hate driving through here at night. I keep expecting something to pop out or run across the road."

"Like idiots who get lost?" Sarah said and the woman laughed.

"You're the first thing to ever come out of those woods, thankfully."

"Thanks for stopping, really." Sarah said.

"No problem at all. I wasn't going to at first, but then I thought to myself 'if I don't stop, who knows what kind of person might'." She said. The lights of a town started shining in the distance, growing bright on the horizon.

A couple blocks into the town proper, a small motel appeared on the left side of the road and the woman pulled into the parking lot, sliding into a spot by the front door. Sarah undid her seat belt and got out of the car after the passenger door unlocked, turning to look back into the car.

"Thanks again." She said and the woman looked around the parking lot.

"I don't think your friends are here, honey. I don't think anyone is staying here." She said and Sarah looked around the empty parking lot lit by dingy yellow street lamps.

"Well, then maybe they'll have a phone I can use to call them. Really, thank you for stopping." Sarah said.

"Stay safe, Sarah. I hope you get in touch with your friends." She said and the passenger window rolled up. Sarah stood as the car backed out of the parking spot and went up to the check in window, clearing her throat at the man sitting in the booth watching a small TV playing some local sports game.

"How many beds?" he asked without looking at her.

"Just one."

"How long?" he asked and she dug through her pockets, unzipping the pocket zipper on her jacket and finding her wallet. Opening it, she saw her debit card and license were gone, but all of her money was still in there. Taking a hundred dollar bill out from when she cashed her recent paycheck, she put it down on the windowsill.

"How long will this get me?" she asked and he looked at the rumpled c-note.

"Four days and nights." He took the bill and stuffed it in a drawer, reaching behind him and grabbing a key off a hook. "Room 75, second floor at the end."

"Thanks." She said and he made a noise, going back to his game. Taking the key, she went up the stairs by the window and walked down the hall, stopping at the room and letting herself in. The light above the door flickered a few times but stayed lit.

When the door was closed and dead bolted, the chain lock thrown, she sank down to the floor with her back against the door. Hugging her knees to her chest, the racking sobs that had threatened to burst out all this time finally did and she sat there crying out her fear and helplessness.


Constructive criticism is welcome.