For a long time she heard only the rushing of water over the rocks as she ran along the side of the swift-flowing creek. She’d lost one shoe when she’d escaped from the trunk of his car; the second was tucked into her coat pocket.
Deeper into the woods she ran, until her bruised and bleeding feet gave out beneath her, and she pitched forward grabbing onto an ancient tree for support and sinking to her knees. When she looked back a pinprick of light followed her.
He was behind her. He was growing closer. He was hunting her, and she was feeble prey indeed.
“I cannot do this.” She ran her hands up the gnarled surface of the tree and breathed in the smell of lichen and damp earth. The moon sent forth a pale glow from behind a veil of light purple clouds in the deep blue sky. Small creatures twitched in the undergrowth, watching.
“Help me,” she said, her voice scratching against her throat. Leaning her head against the tree, she fought back her tears. She had to be strong. Her daughter depended on her.
When the first drops of rain began to fall, she struggled to her feet. The rain came, soft at first, then in heavy sheets. The trees began to sway and murmur.
But the pinprick of light had become a dime.
A branch slapped against her face, and she looked up. Half-way up the tree was a deep split. If she could climb, she might be able to hide among the branches. She might be able to wait out the storm. She grabbed her shoe from her pocket and flung it as far as she could.
The dime of light had become a quarter.
She fitted her foot into a notch and hefted herself up. Her feet were slippery and unsure, but she grasped another notch and pulled herself higher. The wind whistled, as she wiggled and squirmed until she reached the deep crease.
The quarter of light had become a half dollar.
She settled in, pulling her coat over her head. Shutting out the horror creeping ever closer. Damp and chilled as she was, an odd warmth crept over her as she lay tucked inside the hollow of the tree, and lulled by the sweet smell of old wood and leaves, and the sound of steady rain, she found herself drifting off to sleep.
When she opened her eyes, she could hear the sound of water, but it was just the creek flowing. Birds chattered close by, and she could tell by the heat on her back that the sun was shining. She risked peeking out of her hiding place.
The sun shone down from an intensely blue sky on the quiet woods.
She saw it then. Protruding from the next tree was a hand grasping her shoe. As she watched, the hand disappeared.