You awake in the black dead of night with blood under your fingernails and scratches on your chest. Your lips are swollen and throbbing, you cannot open them for the twine stitches will not allow it. Your fingers rush to your mouth, clawing until you refuse because the pain is too great. Your screams and whines are nothing.
The woods surrounding you moan, your eyes not yet adjusted, so your ears do the watching. There are great creaks and snaps and bumps and echoes—all the wild colors of midnight.
You prop yourself up on one hand, looking into the deepening black space, swirling in every direction like a dream. The moon is out, majestically so, but it makes no effort to shine through the trees for they are so dense and powerful that they have secluded you.
There is no foreseeable way out.
You begin to cry, hot air exiting your nose in rapid succession, eyes pinching together. The tears fall from your cheeks soundlessly. You become horribly aware. Aware of the cold earth beneath you, the dirt dug into your palms, the wet, matted mess at the side of your head—a spot so sensitive to touch you dare not do it. You are aware of the smell now. The smell of rot, of sick old men in sick old houses, a sweet smell that lingers in the air, clings to your skin.
You become aware that you are not alone.
There is something else, beyond the rot and the mud and the groaning trees, beyond nocturnal critters and roaming insects—a whistle. A familiar sound as if you used to know it as a child. One to signify that it is time to come home, to cease playing out in the fields, far away from Ma and Pa, to return at once, for your safety is at risk: mind, body, and soul.
Your gut seizes and trembles, tosses and turns and twists and twirls. The chill runs down your spine, the one you knew had been coming. Your head swells, and all you can hear is that whistle and your hot, pulsating breath.
IT IS TIME, your body says.
Your brain does not agree.
Your brain tells you to do nothing; it has already decided you will die.
The whistle is closer, rising high and sinking low, smooth and crisp, like a master summoning its hound. It extends far beyond you because the call is not for you, not for you at all. It is for what approaches from behind, what now gracefully trots on all four savage paws, panting, panting just like you. A beast beyond measure, one of folklore and dark fantasy; of night terrors you wish to escape. One with red thirsty eyes and fangs as long as your hand, yellow and aged, with fur as black as your night.
IT IS TIME, says your body, RUN.
The beast chases, snarling at you, jaw snapping, as the wind slams your face, dries your eyes. You must keep them open, you must keep moving. The whistle is consuming, vibrating deep into your ears. Your feet ache, bloody from the run.
The darkness pulsates, thickens around you like a fog. Nothing can help you here.
The beast gains, and gains, and gains. You are so terribly afraid, with your heart hammering and your head spinning. Perhaps it will be the fear itself that does you in, collapsing before the beast has reached you, before you discover the source of that whistle from hell.
The whistle that grows more powerful at each and every one of your strides. Growing inside you, corrupting, becoming. You feel it in your bones, rooted at the back of your neck. You are a part of it, it a part of you.
It will not cease.
And the beast gains still, picking up speed, hungry for more than your blood, hungry for the thing beating in your chest, the thing willing you to survive. It cannot remember the last moon it fed—greedy and filthy and insatiable. It has no place in this world without you.
Your legs tire, pitifully weak, muscles acidic and as heavy as a tree’s limbs. You slow, and slow, and slow, crying again, as your body kicks and sputters and begins to break. At your last stride, your foot does not land, it sinks, and you tumble into an embankment behind a half-rooted tree. The pain makes you curl and seize as the beast leaps over, hurling onward.
You wait, eyes open wide, listening, its steps farther and farther until you hear no more. Your heart gallops still, but it is slowing, and you cannot help the relief that flows through you, just like you cannot help the urine that stains your dress.
You are ALIVE, and your brain does not know what to do. It has succumbed to its primitive state —complete thoughts are far too advance. After you are certain the beast is gone you climb yourself up, back to higher ground.
There is no longer darkness ahead, but a figure, towering over you in crimson leather robes and a mask over its mouth, staring at you from tiny black sockets for eyes. The whistle has returned like a scream now, filling your head, vibrating every inch of your body. Your primitive mind thinks what is before you must be a god, with its great antlers sticking out from its bald head. But it is merely a servant.
Soundlessly the figure grabs you up in its massive hands, turning you around and pulling your back to it. Your body writhes, but your mind is with the whistle now, screaming:
SHE HAS COME. SHE HAS COME, AND SHE HAS CHOSEN ME.
The beast is on its way, eager, and you try to fight, but the figure’s grip is too strong and the whistle too loud, and there is nothing out there in the depths of the woods except black, and nightmares and children of the moon. Your mind is giddy, insane and bursting.
SHE IS HERE. PRAISE IT BE.
The beast clambers up, rearing onto its hind legs before clawing open your chest. Your mind cackles wildly, muttering praises. You fall forward in the figure’s grip as blood spurts from your mouth. The beast howls, on its hind legs still, transforming into a woman, naked, with hair the color of midnight and flesh as white as the moon. Her claws remain, enormous and black-tipped.
The woman inserts one into your chest, grasping around your heart. You look at her, as your mind screams and chants and calls, your eyelids beginning to fall. She clutches, and she rips, shoving your heart up to the sky.
The whistle ceases. You are no more.
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