A Warning

Branches smacked me in the face and dug into my arms as I ran. Every time my pace slowed, I could feel hot breath on the back of my neck. At least, I thought I could feel it, and it made me run faster.

I don’t know what was chasing me, and I didn’t have a chance to look behind me. The dense woods had robbed me of any sense of direction. I had no destination in mind; I just ran.

Every muscle hurt, my lungs felt like they would burst, but I couldn’t stop. So it was at that moment that my right foot caught on a root and sent me sprawling face down onto the ground. I tensed in anticipation of fangs and claws digging into my back, but no such attack came.

After waiting for several moments, I rolled over to look around. The woods were quiet, unnaturally so. No birds sang, no insects buzzed, and even the sounds of small animals were absent. There was also no sign of whatever had been chasing me.

I didn’t know where I was, how I had gotten here, or why I was being chased. Thin shafts of sunlight cut through the few holes in the canopy overhead; the angle suggested it was late in the day. Every part of my body was screaming, so I decided to rest before moving on. I shifted to lean my back against a tree.

I must have fallen asleep immediately because when I opened my eyes again, the angle of sunlight had changed and a new day had begun. Before I had fully taken stock of where I was, deep growling came from nearby. Something large and heavy was getting closer, snapping branches as it barreled through the trees. Every inch of me complaining, I began to run again.

Part of me wanted to stop, lay down, and let myself be torn to shreds. But I couldn’t; I had to run, to get away. Despite the pain and exhaustion, I ran as fast as I could. Maybe it was hours. Or maybe only minutes.

Without warning, the ground disappeared beneath my feet. I must have stumbled into a pit. The hole seemed endless as I continued to fall. Looking up, I saw something staring at me from the the top of the hole. Before I could make it out, I was sitting, awake in my bed. The sheets were soaked with cold sweat.

My body ached as though I had really been running for a full day. It hadn’t been a dream; it was a warning. Something was coming.

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