Kaia Faultt had always loved the forest, especially under a full moon. She adored the way silver pinpricks of moonlight drifted between trees so tall she was sure they were solely responsible for painting clouds in the sky. She used to sneak out every full moon just to chase the silver and blue crested butterflies around the forest, to sing along with the frogs and chirp with the cicadas. She used to count the dew glittering on spider webs. She was always vaguely aware of the danger, she knew some creatures preferred to hunt at night, she knew she couldn’t face off against a feral threat and win, but she didn’t care. The moonlit forest was just too beautiful, she had to explore it. She had to uncover its secrets. She wouldn’t learn until later that some secrets are better left buried. Some dangers are better left as ghost stories told to frighten children. But Kaia wasn’t frightened, not in this forest, not in her forest. She was never frightened, not until now.
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Kaia whipped her head around violently at the sound of another break. This time she caught a flash of white in the shadows, something was there. She took a sharp, shaky breath, and pushed onwards. She was so deep in the forest that she couldn’t run out. She wouldn’t even get two steps before the monster found her. That’s all it was, a monster. The shadows snarled at her and she saw its eyes, glowing like steel in the night. That’s when she ran. She ran for the old oak tree in the center of the forest. It stood proud and tall above all the other trees, stretching its branches out as if offering life to the evergreens and aspens growing around it. If she could climb it and get herself up in its protective branches, she might just be safe. She didn’t get three steps before the monster caught up to her, teeth sinking into her leg. A high pitched, agonizing scream ripped its way past her lips as fire shot through her leg and up her body in fast, almost electric, jolts. Her head slammed into the forest floor as her body caved in on itself, unable to function with the tremors of lightning tearing through her body.
She stayed, curled in a ball, on the forest floor both an eternity and less than a second when she suddenly leaped up with a yelp, her veins were black. She glanced around frantically, trying to find the shadow monster that had attacked her. What was so different about tonight? She always knew there were shadow monsters. She always knew they were watching her. So why did they choose tonight to attack? I have to make it home. She thought as her brain began to kick itself back into gear. Looking down, she realized that all the veins on the lower half of her body were black, and it was slowly moving up. With a start, she discovered that the veins in her fingertips were beginning to turn black. I have to get home. The thought came again, but with more urgency this time. She took a deep breath and stood, testing the weight on her injured leg that was now bleeding black blood. I have to get home. Electric jolts surged to her heart as she stepped on her bad leg, but she took a deep breath, set her jaw, and started her journey home. Every moment weight was placed on her wounded leg, fiery tremors ricocheted up her body, shocking her system.
She was nearly to the edge of the woods when her vision began to blur and her body began to lose strength. She could see the lights of the houses and hear the rumble of car engines, but it didn’t matter. Her body was done. There was nothing she could do. With tears streaming down her cheeks, she collapsed to the ground in an exhausted heap. Relief spread through her body the second she hit the ground, expelling all the tension, tremors, and jolts she had been subjected to for who knows how long. Her eyes closed and she breathed in the scent of damp soil. Her body relaxed and she gave in to the darkness without hesitation. The last thing she thought before surrendering completely was: who knew rocks and roots could be so comfortable.
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