Shawna woke to find herself shivering in the bushes. Her dress was torn and muddy. Rain pelted her exposed limbs. Slowly, she became conscious. A chill ran through her as she remembered the events that brought her here. She felt something trickle down her face and realized it was not rain water. Blood was seeping from a gash in her forehead. She couldn’t move and didn’t dare breathe. He might find her here, crouching in the night shadows like a wounded animal.
Her head was spinning. Her legs were pinned in an awkward position. Shawna remembered twisting her leg as she dived for shelter. She contemplated her situation. Experimentally, she moved and winced with the resultant pain. She wouldn’t get far on that leg. Still, the train station was less than a mile away. There would be others there. Witnesses that would prevent him from harming her further. Lights to keep him at bay. Plus, there were the trains. A way out. Perhaps she could make it, traveling from tree to tree to avoid being seen. She had to take a chance.
Shawna knew she must act quickly while she still had the cover of night for protection. Carefully she began stretching in an attempt to return circulation to her other limbs. She rubbed her arms vigorously in an attempt to warm them. Regrettably, the damp night fog had settled into her bones. Shawna’s eyes were becoming adjusted to the night. She peered out into the blackness. No sign of him, but that didn’t mean anything. He was a creature of the forest. He knew how to remain unseen. Still, there was no other choice. She slithered from her hiding place as silently as she could manage.
Keeping low to the ground, Shawna crept to the nearest shelter. A tree had fallen about ten yards away. She thought that by laying beside it, she might blend in with its spindly shape. Pain shot up her injured leg with every forward movement. She thought about the trail her dragging foot might be leaving for him, but it couldn’t be helped. The hounds would smell the blood too. Without hesitation, she tore a strip from her shredded hem. It would have to do. Shawna tied the fabric tightly around her wounded forehead. Then she heard them in the distance.
It was the hounds. At least, she reflected, it was an ironical blessing. She could hear them and that was good. Kent wasn’t afraid of her. He could make all the noise he wanted. He was the hunter and she was his prey. He was an animal now. His only thought was to silence her. She knew what he had become. This wasn’t her first encounter with the beast. Her fingers instinctively felt for the scar above her right breast. That was where his fury landed the last time. This time it was worse. She was running for her life. Shawna could feel the certainty of death upon her. Its hot steamy breath whispered tauntingly in her ear.
It hadn’t always been this way. Once there was laughter and joy. He used to hold her hand and talk of their future together. Then there were wedding bells and a honeymoon trip to Fiji. They would make love for hours, languishing in the sun. The thought of Fiji made her slight body shudder once again. She remembered the eyes of the beast as it chased them through the jungle. Then, her devoted husband sacrificing himself as a decoy so she could get away. They found him days later on the outskirts of town. He was incoherent and covered with long gashes, but alive. Then came the nightmares.
It started on the plane trip home. Kent woke in a cold sweat, fighting animalistic urges she was unaware of. Once they arrived home, it continued to worsen. The nightmares increased in frequency and intensity. Each time she became more and more afraid. Of course, everyone assumed he was traumatized from his experience in the jungle, including Shawna herself. Until he began hurting her. He had become someone else. He had become the very beast he saved her from. He still looked like himself but his eyes betrayed him. She had left her beloved Kent in the jungles of Fiji. The beast had taken his place and he wanted her dead.
The hounds were closer now. Shawna knew she would have to chance using her injured leg if she were to make it out alive. She would need a crutch. She felt around in the darkness until her hand came upon a decent sized fallen branch. She placed the end against the tree for stability. Gingerly, she lifted herself up, wincing in pain. The branch gave a little with her weight. She had no time to find another. It would have to do. One agonizing step at a time, she began her journey. She was jolted from her nightmare when something came crashing toward her through the forest. Shawna fainted and crumbled to the ground.
In her dream, Shawna was running. This time she was the predator. Her prey was alluring. She could smell it’s fear. It was young and tender. She longed for the taste of it. The smell filled her nostrils with desire. She awoke in a sweat. Someone was sponging her forehead. She lay on a bench in the train station. A young man looked into her eyes, inquiringly. Her senses were blurred. He was saying something about running from a beast in the woods and carrying her to the station. Her blood was still hot from the night terrors. The lights burned her eyes. She could still smell her prey. She glanced at the little girl seated next to her and smiled sweetly.