I ran, leaping forward. My heart pounded too fast and my lungs felt too heavy to breathe.
I turned my head around to look behind me but I couldn’t see anything. The shadows were too thick, even the light could not penetrate it.
Dizziness had consumed my head. My ankles wobbled and my feet stumbled. I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep running for much longer. With the wind rushing in my ears and my heart pounding at my temples I could no longer hear its footsteps behind me.
The moon hung above me in sinister silence, watching the monster and me from its position safely above us. I could imagine its large, grey eyes boring into my skull.
A thick tree root juts out before me. I take a leap but miss. My foot lands on the smooth bark and slips. I pitch forward, my hands shooting out to break my fall. My mother leg tries to catch itself pushing forward to get past the obstacle.
My elbows bend upon impact and I throw my weight over my shoulder, executing a wobbly roll. I scramble to my feet and break into a somewhat slower run, wincing at the spasms of pain erupting from my ankle.
Stumbling over dry leaves and snapping twigs I almost let myself believe the monster is gone. I take a quick glance behind me and wish I hadn’t.
Sharp white fangs protrude from a wide mouth. It has no nose that I cans ee, only flakey white skin and eyes black as night and just as malevolent.
And it’s only inches away from me, slithering smoothly in my tracks.
That realization alone sent a renewed burst of speed into my aching legs. As I turned my head back around to face the invisible path before me, I could imagine its mouth opening and its fangs lunging towards my neck. A dizzying burst of adrenaline pushed through my veins.
I crashed through a tangle of small branches, barrelling through them without a moment’s hesitation. The edges of the thick black leaves scraped at the thin black leaves scraped at the thin flannel of my pajama pants. The twigs snapped too easily to do any damage.
Somewhere ahead of me, I could see a thin light in the gaps between the trees. It was only a little brighter than the moonlight above my head.
Hope. Light and airy. Soft and subtle. Like a flower blooming from within the cavity in my heart.
The monster’s breath on my neck set my heart on fire. Beating faster and faster the blood in my veins scorches my veins, setting trails blazing.
I couldn’t breathe but I didn’t need oxygen. I was so close to freedom I could almost taste it. If I could only clear the trees I would be free. I would surely find someone or perhaps something that could help me.
Invisible hands reached for me as the gaps widened and my eyes focused on the world beyond these rows of sentinel trees. Hills appeared in the distance, creating a rugged, unpolished horizon where the sun’s final rays had dissolved.
The creature’s fangs must be only inches from my skin. Heat surged through me, making it impossible to tell how far from me it was.
My mind imagined those fangs puncturing my skin, crimson blood clinging to the pure white bone.
My right foot passed the boundary first, breaking free of the oppressive forest at last.
Only that freedom is fleeting.
No more than a few feet from me lay the edge of a cliff.
And the monster behind me disappeared without a trace.
Me and the cliff. Alone. Oblivious to the sound of traffic racing against time somewhere beyond me. A thin line before the sheer drop of golden rock.
My feet progress without waiting for my thoughts to catch up. Dazed. Eyes focused on my feet.
Trained on the ground.
The edges kiss my toes, gently, softly.
A moment’s hesitation then I pitch forward, wondering if the monster that never existed pushed me.
Plunging into nothing I know this moment won’t last much longer. An instant of doubt, of regret, passes through my body.
In the second before impact, I find solace in realizing that this is not a nightmare from which I will awaken.
And the monster is truly gone.