He can smell your blood.
It isn’t fair. How are you supposed to hide? How are you supposed to get away? Sticks snap beneath your shoes as you race through the forest. Branches tangle in your hair and skirt. Warm afternoon light winks through the leaves. You trip over a rock and sprawl to the ground but leap to your feet again, ignoring the pain in your knee. It’s starting to get dark. Soon, you won’t be able to see a thing—and his nose will have the advantage.
It isn’t fair. Why do you have to be female? Why do you have to be fertile? The last thing you want is to be taken by the likes of him or by any male of your species; terrible and wild and out-of-control as they are. Your breath catches in your throat at his hideous roar. You turn back, see nothing, and charge on ahead. He’s still far away but it won’t be long before he catches up with you. His strength, stamina and speed easily outmatch yours. How you’ve managed to escape him so far is a miracle.
You’re doomed. You know it. He knows it.
Then why keep running?
Instinct. Fear. That dwindling pinpoint of hope.
You clutch at a stitch in your chest. The air feels thick in your lungs. Your throat seems to clamp down on itself and you start to wheeze. Between your legs, you can feel the warm, wet betrayal of your menstrual blood. The only glean of hope you have is that when he manages to catch you, you have five days to attempt escape before he takes you; before he wrestles you to the ground, pins you down and penetrates you. You release a terrified sob at the thought.
At another roar you look behind again. You scream at the sound of something crashing to the ground. It sounds like a tree. He’s knocked down a tree! You’ve never seen an adult male before, but you’ve heard tell of how big they are, how terrible and ferocious and wild they are. The other females don’t hold back with their stories. You can hear the heavy thud of his pounding footsteps now; you can almost feel them vibrating up through your feet. They make the ground shudder.
You stumble, your knees bow, but you somehow manage to keep your balance. Your energy is spent. You’re hungry and thirsty. You’ve been running all day. Then you see something up ahead that makes your heart swell. You can hear it too, in between the thrashing and smashing of your male predator close behind. Could it be?
At a sudden surge of energy, you crash through a wall of thick, green foliage, the forest suddenly opens up and you stagger as you sink into cold water. You gasp at the rush of ice up your spine but don’t slow down, clawing back to your feet as the stream rushes around you. It’s hip-deep and noisy, concealing the loud splashing of your mad dash for escape while submerging the scent of your blood.
He’s coming! He’s coming!
You manage to throw yourself behind a large pile of rocks just as your pursuer crashes into the open, and for the first time you put a face to the terrifying stories. You heart thunders and your stomach tightens into a knot as you peer between the rocks. You had always hoped that the other females exaggerated with their descriptions, or better still—downright lied. But they hadn’t. They hadn’t! Not even a little bit.
Somehow, the truth is worse.
He seems more beast than man: a great, lumbering figure of muscle and hair, hunched over, hands fisted in front of him as he searches for you, sniffing the air and emitting deep growls within his throat. He’s completely naked—he isn’t civilised at all!—and you can’t help but stare at the mass of hair between his legs. Your eyes widen. Your thighs tense. That thing between his legs is like a redwood amid the bushes. You’ve never seen one on a man before, only on little boys back at the village. Though the other women have spoken of their size, you’ve never really believed them. He wants to put that into you? Your hips ache at the thought. Surely, you don’t go that deep.
He turns away from you as he continues to search, revealing a hairy arse and the hard muscles packed in his back and shoulders. His biceps bulge to a size you can’t believe. Hard ropey muscle bunch in his thighs. He turns again, eyes swivelling everywhere, nostrils flared, and you can’t get over how hairy he is. He’s like a bear with his long, knotted mane; the field of it on his chest trails down to the thicket that’s his groin, where it then spreads darkly down his thighs. He even has hair on his face! He raises an arm to scratch his head and you see another big clump in his armpit.
He disgusts you. He’s nothing like you. How could you and he be the same species?
You shake your head. You’re safe for the moment but you start to tremble from the cold. Your teeth chatter. When will he go away? When will he give up?
Fortunately not long. After sniffing the air fruitlessly again, he gives a little whine of disappointment. He moves on, splashing through the water before disappearing into the trees on the opposite side of the bank. You release an anxious breath and look down at yourself—you’re soaked through: your shirt clings to your breasts; your skirt is plastered to your thighs.
You make your way out of the water as fast as you can without making any noise. Your shoes are ruined. Your feet squelch inside them as you hasten along the riverbank back east; back towards the women’s village. Despite the cold and your fatigue, you feel elated. You’ve escaped him! You’ve beaten him! You imagine what you might say to the other women as you return home unscathed.
Despite what they’ve told you, it can be done. They can be defeated!
You stop at the sound of a growl. The skin on the back of your neck prickles and suddenly all your elation fizzles into a deep and terrible dread.
He’s found you.