Halloween

By Zachary Jennings

 

Running.  Branches snapping around as the body moves through.  Bobbing and weaving under limbs and around tree trunks.  Scampering up the steep incline.  Looking back to the underbrush, looking for anything amongst the moss and trees, and swaying branches from where he had emerged.  Sticks pop around his ankles, logs and rocks slide beneath his feet.  Cannot stop; that would diminish the gap between himself and his pursuer.  What was his pursuer?  It was some sort of beast; he had come across it during his hike among the mountains near his town.  It was like nothing he had seen before, not human, but nothing like an animal from the area.

 

Must keep running.  Get as far from that place as possible, keep moving to stay alive.  Have to escape.

A river crosses his path.  He looks back, looks at the churning waters, and then looks back into the woods.  He draws a deep breath and leaps into the foaming waters.

The current tumbles him around and holds him in the middle of the river as he rushes downstream.  He slams into rocks and kicks desperately at nothing.  Water rushes into his mouth as he tries to breath, causing him to cough.  The roar of rapids grows louder.  He flails against the bubbling water to try and guide himself through the maze of rocks.

He is dragged under the surface and his leg smashes against a rock.  The agony nearly causes him to faint.  He manages to reach the surface, letting out a cry of pain and frustration.

The current slows, and he treads over to the shore, dragging his heavy soaked body and clothes up the sandy bank.  He rolls over and seethes in pain shooting from his leg.  Looking and finding a large gash in his calf, he removes his belt and wraps it around his thigh.

Maybe the journey down the ravine threw whatever it was off his trail.  He winces and grunts as he pulls the tourniquet tighter to lessen the bleeding.  He had directed his mad dash back in the direction of the town, but had missed the bridge, and had jumped into the river to escape.  How far had he drifted?  Which set of rapids had he been thrown through?  How close to the town was he?  Might he be rescued by another hiker?  Which bank was he even on?

He gets his bearings and finds that he was still on the same side of the river, the one which he had tried to escape.  For all the effort and pain he had endured, he is now wounded, alone, isolated to the side of the river with his pursuer.

He cusses at his luck, but then is hushed as he hears some movement in the underbrush.  He rolls on his side to look up the side of the ravine, eyes darting from shadow to shadow, between the trees and bushes, to some swaying ferns.  His eyes widen, he gasps for a breath and claws at the ground around him, trying to move.

 

A scream of terror echoes across the valley, followed by a scream of agony, cut off sharply.