It was a strange and scary ritual that the women of our pack had to take part in.
By the age of eighteen you are to find a mate, every pack does it differently, for us we have something called 'The Hunt.'
The women must run into the forest and try to outrun the men of the pack, which was a near impossible task. Few people every managed to beat the ritual.
The men on the other hand would chase the women, finding one they liked and catch them. Then they would be marked and they would be mates, bound together, forever.
The thought of being forcefully pushed into a relationship scared me, I was afraid of empty love and abandonment.
But in the end I didn't have a choice so I sat next to my twin sister, Shyla, getting ready for what could possibly be my last day of freedom.
"Hey, Saff?" Shyla looked at me with her sparkling blue eyes that reminded me of an angel.
"Yes?" Before I knew it her arms were wrapped around my shoulders, her shoulder-length black hair brushing against my cheek.
"I love you." Her voice was barely above a whisper and I felt one of her warm tears spill onto my shoulder.
"I love you too..." I held her in my arms forcing tears back, a sudden knock at the door broke up our moment and I nodded.
A woman in her late thirties walked in, her raven hair was tousled a bit but in a cute way, her make up was on point and her outfit matched perfectly as she stared at us with her navy hued eyes.
This was my mother, Sarah.
She looked at us and sighed, "You two could have dressed a bit nicer for this..."
I wore a red and black plaid hoodie with a gray hood and strings, ripped jeans, and combat boots while Shyla wore a white v-neck with a neon red jacket over it, maroon jeans, and regular black athletic shoes.
"What's the point if we get dirty again anyways?" Shyla asked tilting her head to the side in a childlike manner.
Another sigh and my mom had run a hand through her thick mane of hair and walked over to us. "Because I want you to meet someone nice."
She placed her warm hands on our shoulders and smiled a weak smile. " I know you two don't want to do this but..." she paused looking down unsure, "I'm sure everything will be okay."
It may have been a lie but it was enough to make Shyla nod and get up. "Let's go, then." She said somberly, already knowing she would be caught.
The drive to the clearing felt much longer than it actually was, in the passing cars I could see other girls, some were crying others sat with furrowed brows, but all of us had one thing in common.
We were all petrified of this day.
I willed myself not to cry for the third time today as my mother pecked my cheek, tears streaming downing her face like rain against the glass.
"Be brave, my darlings." She whispered to us, "I love you."
A large and tall man approached us eyes flashing in annoyance. "Ma'am, it's time for you to go." He said to my mother in a gruff tone.
She squeezed our hands one last and walked away, I could still hear her faint sobs as she joined the other parents. Some were also crying for the loss of their children.
Shyla and I looked at each other and nodded, we were both ready to go.
As we arrived at the clearing I noticed my sister shuffle closer towards me and then I noticed why; many of the males were staring at was with hungry eyes, I walked in front shielding her from their disgusting stare.
"Welcome to the clearing!!!" The announcer yelled suddenly, he was short and stubby with a large round belly and pudgy cheeks, his face was full of joy as though this was a merry occasion, "I'm sure you all know the rules by now but I will repeat them one last time!"
A brief silence followed and he cleared his throat to continue.
"The females will get a two minute head start into the forest before the males are released, by then everything is fair game. If you get caught you are now mated to your captor if by some miraculous event you are able to make it to the end, you shall make it another year without being mated." The announcer chuckled at the 'if' part.
"Now, with that....LET THE GAMES BEGIN!!!!"
The sound of a gun being fired could be heard and instantly I took into sprint along with the other girls including my sister who no longer showed a look of fear but instead looked determined.
We soon reached the entrance to the forest and as my sister ran past she whispered a faint 'Good luck, sis.' And dashed off out of sight.
I followed her example and ran further, making sure to quicken my pace at the sound of the first scream.
Someone had been caught already, that wasn't good. Several more screams followed and I took a rugged breath.
'Please be okay, Shyla...'
An hour or two had to have past and I had escaped several times unwilling to be tied down.
My clothes were dirty and torn, some blood could be seen through the denim of my jeans.
This place was like a maze, every time you thought you had made it somewhere else you were stuck and lost without hope, this forest was a cheap trick and it was no wonder why no females could make it to the end of this green hell.
But I was almost there, the forest seemed to have parted just a little more and light poured through the gap, but just as I was about to cross I heard the final scream.
A scream that sounded so familiar...almost like...
"Shyla!" I cried out to her.
And then suddenly I was on the ground, pressed under a weight that had pinned my wrists.
My blood ran cold, I couldn't escape.
It was over.
He knew too, because my captor leaned down slowly and whispered in my ear.