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Stacy Mantle

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I Ran...
By Stacy Mantle
Friday, October 26, 2007

Rated "PG" by the Author.

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           >> View all 66

The preface of a new novel I'm messing around with.

There are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in your philosophies…

- Shakespeare




I ran…

The cold mountain air brutally assaulted my chest with waves of pain as I fled the creatures. The soft needles from pine boughs that I had, only hours earlier, sung praises too now slapped against my face and body, as each breath I took pierced my lungs.  Yet I pushed forward, ignoring the protests of my now weakened body, knowing that my life would be lost forever if I stumbled on the rocky ground or slowed for even a moment.  Any show of weakness, no matter how slight, would result in my death.

The blood throbbed in my veins, pounded through me, as I ran through the night; and I sensed they were tracking the way it moved through my body as I struggled to breathe, coughing air out even as my body craved it. Specs of bright red liquid fell to the unyielding forest floor leaving a trail as I moved through the wilderness – no doubt the result of a pierced lung from the broken rib.  My legs cramped, protesting the quick pace, yet I pushed through the pain.  There would be no stopping tonight, assuming I was fortunate enough to escape this seemingly endless pursuit. As miserable as I felt, those who followed were far less interested in my personal pain.  I could smell the coppery stench of my own blood as it mixed with my terror, and I knew that the scent lingered in the freezing night air for them to follow.  Yet, still I ran. Instinct drove me forward, a result of the culmination of millions of years of adaptation as the human species evolved from prey to predator, yet I knew that tonight I had somehow regressed to the role of prey, and there was no way in Hell I would escape these predators. My ten years of training in martial arts meant nothing now; the hard life of isolation that I had imposed on myself since youth did not matter, for these were no city predators that followed – they were something more. Neither fight nor flight would save me now. I was doomed…

Those that followed moved stealthily over the uneven, rocky ground in silence and while I could not hear them, I could feel them as they gained on me. Suddenly, a dank scent not of this world hit me and I slid to a stop, leaning against a tree to pant heavily.  There were more of them ahead of me. Although I could not see them, I could sense them. Suddenly the realization hit me that I was not being pursued, I was being herded…

The sudden understanding overwhelmed me, but with a shattering breath, I let the fear move through me, stifling, terrorizing me, before I refused to give it more of my attention. Thousands of thoughts filed through my head as I paused.  I couldn’t remember why I was in the woods deep in the Washington wilderness; let alone how I had come to this place.  I did remember David and his unheeded cries for mercy.  In his dying cries, he warned me against the beasts, but I already knew that those who pursued me were anything but merciful.  They had waited for me like the wolves they were. They knew I would be coming, and they anxiously awaited their next meal, unwilling to settle for just one body this night. One glance at the shredded tent and mutilated body was all it took and I ran.  No time to retrieve a weapon, no time to face my pursuers, no time to mourn the loss of the one friend I’d had since childhood.  I was being hunted and now, that was all I knew.

Catching my breath, I quickly evaluated the situation.  At least two up ahead and several more behind me.  I sensed nothing but cliff to the left and a steep incline to the right.  Making a split second decision, I willed the stabbing pain in my chest to a place deep inside my body where it could no longer be felt, and forced my racing pulse to slow, then opted for the cliff.  Perhaps wolves could not climb – I didn’t know, but I supposed we were about to find out. To move forward or back meant certain death, and I knew they would easily outpace me if I attempted to climb the steep hill.

The cliff sheered off deep below and I held as best I could, my hands burning from the effort as dirt and tiny shards of rock worked themselves deeper into my already destroyed flesh.  The smell of earth mingled with blood was everywhere around me, yet I forced myself to remain calm. To fall would send me straight to the watery depths hundreds of feet below and defeat the purpose of escape, yet I was not about to be defeated by animals.  The darkness was nearly blinding, but I found that I could see well.  Never had my vision been so acute.  I chalked it up to fear and worked my way down the mountainside. Clamoring for a foothold, I felt a large drop beneath me my feet and glanced down, hoping it was not the end.  But hope suddenly surfaced as I glanced down and spotted a shelf of rock jutted out from the mountainside, perhaps 7, maybe 8 feet below me.  I pushed off from the crevice, swinging until I had enough momentum to fall onto the ledge and not off of it.  But, then my aching hands finally reached their limits and I let go…

I hit the rock ledge with more momentum than I planned and the wind was knocked out of me, but never had I felt more relieved even as I fought to catch my breath. I reveled in the feel of solid earth beneath me, rewarded even more when I recovered my breath enough to take in my new surroundings. A tall entrance to a dark cave loomed before me.  I would be able to rest a moment, knowing what was at my back, and if I were lucky could locate something with which to make a fire.  Fire stopped wild animals in their tracks, something I knew from years of camping in the remote forested wilderness of the Pacific Northwest.  Glancing up, I listened for the inevitable pursuit, but heard nothing. The night was silent, eerily so, and I knew that was a sign of something bad.

I sensed him before I saw him.  Turning slowly, a tall, dark-haired man stepped from the shadows of the cavern. His unnaturally dark eyes glared down upon me in cold hatred, yet I could not turn away.  He was terrifying and fascinating at once. This man was a contradiction in all things; unnatural and eerie, yet absolutely captivating and stunning in beauty. I felt as though I were moving towards him, despite the deep terror that warned me away. 

He never said a word to me and I knew it was over before it began.  A deep growl erupted from his strangely sensual mouth and he snarled even as he smiled. There was no place left to go.  The precipice dropped several hundred feet below me.  Jumping would be death.  To stay meant the same.

Despite the fear, his eyes held mine and I stood silently, spellbound. Neither of us had spoken a word. At any other time, I would likely have been with this man of my own volition, yet when his teeth slowly extended down, a new terror fled through me.  This was no man…

He continued to hold my gaze and I remained powerless to turn away, although the thought of retreat was foremost in my brain.  I stood paralyzed as his eyes held mine.  His long teeth, even and white, contrasted sharply against the night. I was repelled and fascinated at once, and paralyzed. He leaned over me, hesitating slightly as though he wanted to remember this moment, and then slowly sunk his long, white teeth into the flesh just over my sprained shoulder. 

Still somewhat conscious, but no longer in any pain, a deep weariness came upon me as the creature fed. The background noises that I could hear remotely suddenly sounded very near and a deep-throated growl rose in the distance. The man returned the wolves threat, and then as slowly and confidently as he had acquired me, released his hold and disappeared into the shadows as I fell to the cave floor.  Please make it a quick death, I thought.  Please let me go out with some type of honor and not pleading for my life.  Slowly, I turned my head to see two large wolves standing within a few feet of where I lie. The scent of blood must be heavy on me and my weakness was more than apparent.  Suddenly the temper that I had become known for amongst people rose up like a wild animal fighting to free itself.  I was furious, angry that the man had just left me here to die being torn limb to limb by a pack of wolves, not understanding that he had also taken my life as I knew it. I could feel my spirit leaving as the blood pumped slowly through the holes in my neck. To my left lay a large stick, some remnant from storms past, and I reached for it.  But the energy was gone, my lifeblood had been drained, perhaps not to its last, but close enough to consider me dead if I didn’t receive medical attention, and I could not grasp the stick.  Infuriated, I cried out in frustration with the last of my energy. The last thing I remember are two massive wolves, the larger of which stood over me staring down intently with its gray eyes…


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Reviewed by Charlie 10/28/2007
Riveting. (Chupa cabra--check it out!) This is a great preface to a novel--absolutely spell-binding. If the rest is like this, you've got a winner of a novel. --Charlie
Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado 10/26/2007
I really enjoyed this story, Stacy! Very well penned; brava!

(((HUGS))) and much love, your friend in Tx., Karen Lynn. :D
Reviewed by Mr. Ed 10/26/2007
I like it, Stacy! It even gave me some chilling memories of times in the deep wood when I thought I was being watched - by something. And how appropriate to read this today - The day of The Hunter's Moon, or as I call it, The Blood Moon. Write On!

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