Hunter and Prey
by Zoe Ambler
The dead dry leaves crunched under her feet. Sometimes giving her pause to slip only to have her scramble to regain her footing once again. She ran, unaware on where to run to. Madison was lost, and the pain she was in only heightened her anxiety and panic. It left her to run aimlessly, hoping to find a path, a person, someone to offer salvation. Blood ran in rivulets down her arm and back, dripping along the coarse she ran. She tried not to scream for all that she’d seen and that had happened to her. She couldn’t hide her breathing the panting and gulping in air though. Her lungs aching every bit as much as her legs. Any tracker could find her. She left telltale signs everywhere. Her breathing, the trail of blood, the way the earth and leaves where scattered and the broken limbs she stumbled across.
Madison thought she was at the top of her game. Nothing or no one could touch her. She knew her weapons and she was in peak physical condition.
None of that mattered tonight. She couldn’t even think clear enough to describe what had happened. It was a blur of claws, teeth, hair, blood, bone, muzzle flashes, gun smoke, screams. Everyone in her small ‘camping’ party, massacred. She would have been too, if she hadn’t been so small, agile and quick on her feet. Even that hadn’t saved her from taking a hit though. Whatever attacked the group clawed or bit her shoulder. Mauled it. It was pretty mangled. She was well aware of how much it hurt, despite her training to ‘control pain’. She dreaded the idea of patching herself up. She needed A LOT of stitches. She considered a hospital, though she hated the idea. She wasn’t much one for public places and people.
None of that really mattered at the moment, as she scrambled her way through the woods, lost.
She wondered how she had gotten to this point. This was just supposed to be some sort of training exercise, tracking or hunting bears or something. Her commander was pretty vague. But his squad, including herself, had no reason not to put their faith in him or doubt him. There was SOMETHING in these woods. People turned up dead, mauled or missing all together quite frequently. She thought about the faces of the men and women in her squad. They were all civilians of course, ex-military. She had just finished a second tour in Afghanistan and opted not to re-enlist. This little group she joined up with was privately funded. A collection of military and police personnel who longed to continue worshipping the order their weapons brought.. but without the harsh restrictions. Madison was former military police. Women couldn’t be scout snipers, but she was so spot on, she did receive the Crossed Rifles and spent a bit of time on the Marksmanship Team. It didn’t count for much in a man’s Corp, but in the private sector she was valuable.
It didn’t matter tonight. Whatever attacked them came in with such force, strength and speed that it left little time for any of them to realize what was happening until it was too late.
Madison wore her own blood, as well as the blood of her teammates. Her black hair clung in long clumps, strands sticking to her face with blood and sweat. It carried a red sheen to it. Her long sleeved thermal shirt, torn and drenched, her military style cargo pants as well. Her jacket was torn clean off. She was freezing in the cold winter night air. Each breath was like inhaling tiny bitter shards of ice.
All this running only made her bleeding worse, but Madison was too afraid to slow her pace. It could be following her, ready to finish what it started. All she had on her was a hunting knife. And while she had a great bit of stamina, she didn’t have enough to stop and fight, and continue on her coarse to get out of these blasted woods and get help before she bled to death, or froze to death.
She came upon a small stream, splashing through it, soaking her booted feet in its freezing waters. It slowed her some, but as she made it to the other side, she was able to take a pause, her ears doing a quick check. Nothing. No noises in the night seemed to be following her. But she still took off running once again. Fear gripped her so.
Her mind went back to what had happened. The faces of her colleagues. Their screams. The blood. The…thing…that had attacked them…it was quite clearly a male. And it had gone for the other males first, killing them, ripping them apart before going for the females in the unit. It…or ‘he’ rather, had shown them no mercy either. As his attention was on making a meal out of those around the campfire, Madison had slipped under him. She slid in the dry leaves like a baseball player stealing home. But the minute she rose to her feet, she was drug backward, painfully, as either teeth or claws drug through the flesh and muscle of her shoulder and upper arm. She screamed out in pain. Someone else in the group was still mobile, gun fire sounded. Whatever had hold of her growled deep in its throat and let her go as smoke filled the air. Another person’s screams replaced her own. All she could think of to do was run as this thing, this man-thing, decimated a party of well trained ‘soldiers’.
Weaving in and out of the trees in her path, her hands came up to shield her face from low hanging limbs and branches. It all left marks and scratches in their wake. Finally, after what seemed like forever, her foot falls fell on something more solid than the forest flood. Asphalt. She’d finally run into a road.
The oncoming car honked its horn as its tires screeched to avoid hitting her. All she could do was stare into the brilliance of the lights as she sunk to her knees.
Three days later Madison woke in a hospital room. There were sedatives in her system, but the overpowering sounds and scents woke her. She could hear the pulses of those around her. She could smell blood. And she could feel her own pain so exquisitely it was maddening.
She didn’t want to be in this place. Surely there were police that would want her statement on the events that led her there. She didn’t want to talk to anyone.
She slid out of the hospital bed and winced at the pain in her shoulder. She crept silently down the hall, poking into one room or another until she finally found the locker rooms. She stole a pair of scrubs, tennis shoes and a jacket. She avoided everyone as she cleared the hospital by way of a side exit. It was snowing, and blisteringly cold. But she could smell so many things on the wind. It was confusing, and yet it filled her stomach with a sort of excitement.
Madison went down the sidewalk, her feet taking her in the direction of her little one bedroom apartment. It wasn’t too far away. If she held a steady pace, she’d be there in her own comforts in no time.
He had watched over her. He followed her blood scent. He was irritated. He should finish what he started and kill her. But something held him back. Her scent for one. His bite had turned her. She was his now. She wouldn’t find out until the next full moon. She was quite beautiful. He decided to let her live. He’d situate himself, somehow, into her life before the next full moon. Then he’d show her who her Alpha male was. His new little Lycan pup.