Her life changed while she slept.
Raindrops fell hard against her face, and as she regained her consciousness, the young woman couldn’t suppress a low groan. A splitting pain shot through her head like a bright explosion and made it nearly impossible to open her eyes. The ground she was lying on was wet and muddy, and as her fingers shook off the numbness, they started to grab at their surroundings instinctively.
A blink, and then another one, and finally, her eyelids followed her brain’s command and fluttered open. The young woman did not move. Too great was her confusion about herself, her body, her existence. She realised, though, that she was lying face up, looking at an angry dark sky filled with distant thunderbolts. The dim daylight was brutal in its intensity and felt like an invasion of her sensitive eyes. Carefully she turned her head to the side, still apprehensive from painful shots running through her body. Her hand had clung to twigs and wet dirt, and eventually, her mind accepted the fact that she had just woken up in a forest. The clearing she found herself in was surrounded by giant trees towering over her like dark, ghostly creatures.
With another, louder groan, she rolled onto her side and propped herself up. The other free hand reached for her aching head, and in doing so, splashed some rainwater onto her face accidentally. At least it helped to shake off the nauseating dizziness. With her last ounce of strength, she got onto one knee and stood up with clenched teeth. Small misty clouds escaped her mouth, followed by a bitter coldness streaming into her body and right down to her bones.
For a long while, she just stood there, trying to make sense of her whereabouts. Wasn’t she supposed to be in the city, in her small rented flat? So how the heck did she end up here?
Then she began to think. Her name was Josephine, and she was a twenty-one-year-old student who had been on her way home from the university campus. So far, so good. However, from there on, she couldn’t remember one damn thing.
She reached into her pockets and pulled out her mobile phone. The black screen confirmed the disaster while she was pressing the power button repeatedly. The battery was empty. Beads of sweat formed on her forehead, and despite her perplexity, she knew she had to keep moving. If her body moved, she could think about her situation more clearly. If she stayed in the clearing, she would undoubtedly have a full-blown panic attack, and that was not an option she could afford.
Josephine looked around, and it became apparent to her that she had no clue in what direction the city lay. Thus, she opted for the most logical decision: to her right, she detected somewhat of a tiny opening to the shrub and went that way. The forest was dense with trees, and the uneven moss-covered ground offered more than once a tripping hazard. Still, she felt like she was making good progress. However, the question was whether or not she had found a way out of the woods or if she was running deep into them. What’s more, she couldn’t say how long she had been unconscious in the clearing, only that it was probably long enough for catching pneumonia if she did not find a warm place soon to get rid of her soaking wet clothes.
Dusk broke, and with the last rays of light, she conceded bitterly to the fact that she was going to spend the night here in this godforsaken place.
Maybe I manage to get a fire going, She thought, and a dark smile flashed over her face – she had, of course, no bloody idea about campfires, let alone how to start one - when suddenly, she had to think of her late mother’s saying With darkness come the demons. And within moments, Josephine’s mind brought forth its very own demons. Something was off. In a flash, the forest felt threatening, as if she weren't welcome, and with each step, that feeling gained more control over her rational thinking. She needed a place where she was safe and could have a rest until morning. Maybe a cave or some shelter. Otherwise, Josephine would be forced to walk through the night to prevent her from freezing to death, but most of all, not to lose her mind.
She had no other choice than to follow an arbitrary path through the woods. Her gaze scanned the surrounding area for the much-longed shelter, and as the shadows grew longer and the air colder, she was not aware that she had been encircled by creatures who did not want to be seen.
The noises came out of nowhere. At first, it seemed to her just a rustling in the bushes.
'Surely some nocturnal animal,' She told herself and tried to push her imagination aside when suddenly the rustling turned into a trampling and the evening wind into collective breathing coming from all directions. Josephine froze and looked into the darkness - every tree, every root transformed into a lurking monster, yet the pair of yellow eyes were anything but a hallucinatory fantasy. She was paralysed with horror. Her heartbeat felt like a drum against her chest when a long, deep growl vibrated through the trees; in a split second, everything turned deadly quiet as dark shapes emerged from their hidings. They were men, at least a dozen, and all stark naked. Their muscular bodies were covered in scars that glinted against the rising moon, and their shimmering golden eyes glared at Josephine.
She hardly had time to scream as she was brought down by a body as hard as a rock. Her head hit the ground with a thud, and unconsciousness swept over her for the second time that day.
When Josephine came awake, she floated above the ground. Something warm trickled down her face. Blood. The voices around her were muffled and belonged to the giant shadows surrounding her. She couldn’t make out their faces since her vision was still blurry from the hard hit to the ground, yet she was sure that she had found herself among the men with those terrible eyes. Of course, she was not floating but carried by one of them - strong, rough hands holding her beaten body.
‘Does anyone know who she is?’ She heard one of them asking.
‘She is certainly not one of us,’ Another answered, his voice filled with hostility.
‘We must report to him immediately.’
‘He will be furious.’
And when Josephine drifted off into unconsciousness again, she knew that these bastards were abducting her.