My eyes flew open at the sound of small taps on my window. My heart began to race and I froze, icy fear flowing into my blood as the tapping continued. I slowly turned my head, peering out from under my covers. Something small and dark flew against my window, and the tapping sound came again. Annoyance flashed through me and I groaned in exasperation, throwing the covers off of me. The sheets twisted in my legs and I nearly screamed in frustration. When I finally freed myself from my comfy prison, I turned and faced the window at the head of my bed. Being careful to avoid the piles of books and other small trinkets, I flicked the latch and threw my window open.
“What the—ow!” I hissed as my best friend, Nadia Belmont, threw a pebble that caught me right between the eyes. I groaned and rubbed the spot she hit, glaring down at her.
She winced, her teeth gritted as she hissed in sympathy. “Sorry!” She shout-whispered up to me, dropping the collection of rocks she held in her hand.
I shook my head, eyeballing the rocks before glaring back at her. “What the hell are you doing?” I snapped.
Nadia grinned and waved her arms wildly. “Let’s go!” she called up, gesturing to the woods behind her.
I groaned. “No!” I exclaimed. “The first day of school is tomorrow, and it’s…” I turned my head to check the clock on my bedside table, truly annoyed with her now. I snapped my head back around, glaring as I hissed out, “And it’s almost two in the morning! I’m not going on another night adventure with you. Goodnight!”
I pulled back inside and started to shut the window when Nadia called up, “But there’s a body in the woods!”
A body? I grinned, intrigued, and poked my head back out the window. “You sure?” I asked. I wanted ot be well-rested for our first day of school, but something that always captured my attention—and anyone’s attention, really—was a dead body. We lived in a small town, and nothing much happened. When something big like a dead body in the woods happened to come around in town, Nadia and I loved to snoop around.
Nadia nodded wildly, her bright blue eyes wide and manic. “Yes!” she called. “I heard it on the scanner in the Beast. Now, let’s get going!”
I grumbled and cursed as I pulled away from the window. At the moment I wanted nothing more than to sleep, but I couldn’t ignore the call for adventure. I turned and made my way to my dresser, exchanging my pajama pants for jeans, before throwing a dark gray pullover hoodie over my tank top. I tied my thick, sandy blonde hair back into a messy French braid, then grabbed my glasses and stuck them on my face. After I pulled on a pair of socks and sneakers and stuffing my inhaler into my pocket, I pushed my window farther open and climbed out onto the roof.
“Yes!” Nadia exclaimed, punching the air as I climbed out. I made my way over to the edge of the roof, over to one of the pillars at the corner. There were overgrown vines and other vegetation wrapped around the pillar, and I used these in order to climb down. When my feet touched the deck, I turned and hopped over the railing of the porch, landing heavily on the ground below.
“All right, let’s go!” Nadia turned and set off at a jog across my lawn to her faded red 2003 Jeep Wrangler, known lovingly as the Beast. I followed after her, climbed inside, and slammed the door shut in order for the latch to shut properly.
“So, where exactly is it that we’re going?” I asked. The engine of the Beast roared in the night as she turned the key. I grit my teeth, turning to look back at my house. When no lights came on as we drove away, I sighed in relief.
“Out in the woods, just west of town,” Nadia said. The police scanner between the seats shrieked static and I reached down to turn the volume dial down. Nadia had scrapped the scanner after the police tossed it out. She had fixed it up, adding her own improvements in the infamous Nadia Belmont style.
I nodded. “And you know this how again?”
She rolled her eyes. “I heard one of the deputies calling it in,” she said. “My dad and some others reported in. I think it was some kind of animal attack, but I’m not sure.”
I nodded. In Wolf Valley, Idaho, if someone was hurt or, in extremely rare cases, killed, it was usually due to an animal of some kind. Mountain lion, bear, coyote, wolf… You name it, Wolf Valley has it. There are usually more scares and minor, frightened attacks than an actual attack or killing, however.
We drove three miles out of town before Nadia pulled over to the side of the road. Up ahead in the distance, I could see flashing red and blue lights lighting up the dark woods. Nadia cut the engine, shutting off the lights before any of the cops could see us. We climbed out of the Beast, shutting the old, creaky doors as silently as possible. I winced as the door squealed loudly just before latching shut. I glanced over at the police cruisers, looking to see if any of the officers had heard us. When no one looked over, I breathed a sigh of relief.
“Come on!” Nadia shout-whispered. She stood at the head of a small trail that would eventually lead to the main, bigger trail that led deeper into the woods. I followed after her, struggling to keep up as she hurriedly raced through the woods.
We jumped and dodged around unearthed roots and low-hanging branches, racing to catch up with the police farther along the trail. My chest ached, and I had to force myself to breathe in and out slowly, controlling my breathing to try and prevent an asthma attack.
Sometime within thirty minutes, we reached the main trail. We turned and jogged to catch up to the rest of the police, ensuring that we moved as silently as possible. When we finally saw their flashlights bouncing back and forth through the trees ahead of us, we slowed our pace.
My chest tightened suddenly, beginning to ache. I froze, reaching into my pocket as I began to wheeze. “Nadia!” I called, my voice raised barely above a whisper. I coughed, the pressure around my chest growing tighter and tighter until it felt like I was breathing through a pinched straw.
“Nadia!” I called again, watching her disappear around a bend. I cursed and dug my inhaler out of my pocket, panic seizing me as it fumbled out of my hands and stumbled through the dark, landing somewhere on the trail ahead of me.
“Dammit,” I groaned, falling to my hands and knees, wheezing for breath as I searched for my inhaler. Twigs and rocks scraped my hands, mud pressing in underneath my fingernails as I hunted for it. When I finally found my inhaler, I shook it vigorously for several seconds while my chest continued to tighten and my vision tunneled. I placed the inhaler to my mouth and breathed in as I pushed down on the canister button. I kept my mouth closed, allowing the medicine to work its way through my lungs and air passages. As I felt my airways open up again, I slowly released my breath and sucked in one more sweet, delicious breath of air.
I took one more puff from the inhaler, then slipped it back into my pocket. I sighed in frustration and started off down the trail again, searching for Nadia and the police.
They must have been moving faster than I thought, or my attack lasted longer than normal. Either way, I had been left far behind, which left me with only a few options. One: I could go back to the Beast and wait for Nadia to return. Two: I could stay where I was and hope she’d come back for me. Or three: I could continue down the trail and hope I caught up with them.
Because I was so smart, I decided to go with option number three. I continued down the trail, peering into the darkness to try and catch sight of Nadia. Unfortunately, she decided to wear black on this little adventure, and her hair was as dark as the woods around me. I had left my phone at home, and the only light I had came from the glowing full moon high above, but even that light wasn’t what I’d like it to be, thanks to all of the pine trees in the way.
I stumbled and tripped my way along the path, muttering and cursing as I fell to my knees more than once. I growled in frustration and pushed myself to my feet once again, pressing forward. This was getting to be extremely annoying, and not for the first time, I decided that I was going to kill Nadia.
After some time, I decided that they must have gone off the trail. I sighed and turned around, heading back to the Beast. Screw this, I thought. I’ve had enough of this late-night adventure. I was tired, hungry, cranky, and I had to be up early in the morning for the first day of school! It was my junior year, the hardest year of high school. I’d be breathing and shitting all sorts of exams and tests the entire year, not to mention the most difficult classes I’d ever have to take in high school.
I continued to mutter and curse as I stomped through the woods, plotting my best friend’s demise. As I neared the point of the trail where it broke off and led back to the beast, I heard a snap in the woods behind me. I whirled around, heart racing as I scanned the trees. My glasses began to fog up so took them off, wiped the lenses, then put them back on my face.
There was a pair of glowing yellow lights floating in the darkness of the woods. I took a step back, nervous. My heart began pounding, causing tightness to spread across my chest again. I took my inhaler out of my pocket, my body shaking violently in fear. I had a feeling I’d need my inhaler soon; it was wet and cold, and I was terrified out of my mind. All of these were signs that would eventually lead to an unavoidable asthma attack.
A low growl came to me from the trees, sending goosebumps traveling up my arms. I took another step back, and then another. As I moved, so did the glowing lights, until I realized they weren’t lights. They were eyes. A moment later I watched, horrified, as a huge, black paw stepped out of the bushes and onto the trail. There was another paw, and then a long, black snout with a running, black nose.
The wolf emerged from the darkness, lips pulled back from its teeth, which wre horrible and yellow. The wolf snarled, the fur along its back and haunches standing up on end. He was huge, his head coming up to my shoulder. He stalked towards me, pushing me farther back along the trail. I backed away, slowly at first, and then quickly as pure terror consumed me.
I turned and began to run, inhaler still in hand. I heard the wolf snarl behind me, then the ground crumbling as he tok off after me. I pumped my legs harder, my chest tightening more as panic took over.
I sobbed and coughed, wheezing for breath as I ran. Before I knew what was happening, I was being rammed into from behind. I grunted as I was thrown to the ground, the inhaler knocked from my hand. I reached for it as it disappeared into the darkness, and then pain exploded through my shoulder and all over into my body. I screamed, struggling to pull away from the wolf as it clamped down on my shoulder.
I continued to scream and sob, then all of the air fled my body as asthma took over. My body shivered and seized, every muscle burning in fiery pain. Within moments, the pain and lack of air won over, and I faded into oblivion.