Leaves and Lemon Rinds (Part 1 of Wayside)

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Chapter 37

My legs almost crumbled under the weight of me. It felt like forever since I had stood on my own two legs.

“Who are you!?” I shouted at the voice.

A man came out from the tree line. He was definitely tall… whomever this person was. Everything about him put my hair on edge. He had a smell that was sour and ripe.

“Move,” he said softly, “she is not worth your life.”

He started walking toward me, and I refused to move. Instead, I looked back to make sure she was behind me, and by the time I turned ’round, he was inches away.

He struck me and caught my throat.

“You should’ve just moved,” he said, smiling at me. “Oh… are you finding it hard to breathe?”

He let loose his grip around my neck, and I fell.

I watched as he grabbed Kara by her hair.

All at once, something came over me.

I could feel something within me push me to stand. I was both in and out of my own body. He turned, and I caught him by the throat just as he had held mine.

I could see his eyes flash with intrigue. Then anger. And finally, fear.

There was something else that had taken over me, and it wasn’t Una. Whatever it was, it was not me. It did everything I wanted to do but knew that I couldn’t.

“I want you to know that I will not kill you,” the voice within me said. I looked down. I heard his scream as one leg broke and then the other. “Now that I have your scent, I will find you. I will take everything that you hold dear if you ever even think about coming anywhere near Kara.”

I let go, and he hung in the air. He was frozen solid. Unable to move. I felt a rush as whatever was in me vacate the shell of my body.

“Run,” I choked out. “RUN!”

“No!” She screamed.

“Kara, run and get help. I can’t hold him much longer,” I strained

I saw tears streaming from her eyes. I watched as she ran, then looked up at the man hanging in the air. It was like he was frozen in space and time. Unable to blink. Unable to breathe.

I couldn’t hold him much longer.

Every moment he hung in the air was fueled by every breath I took. I could feel it getting harder and harder for my lungs to inflate.

I didn’t have to think about it. I was willing to give my life for Kara’s. She needed every moment I could give her to find help.

Even though I had her to get help, I had no intention of being assisted. I could feel the air barely rasp through my lungs. I could feel the air go through to my heart, get pumped through my body, and then pushed out.

I will die here gladly, knowing that I did everything I could to save her. I attempted to retake a breath.

I looked at the man floating frozen in the air before me.

I could hear a twig break.

The man fell before me. We both gasped for breath. My lungs strained with the burning of fresh air.

I began to crawl into a run as I watched people emerge from the tree line.

Men.

They looked at me with curiosity. It was a feeling that brought a familiar sense of fear back into my bones.

Una!

I can’t, Maeve. I am tired. I can’t protect us.

Then I will, I gritted my teeth.

I ran. I could feel them running after me, but I knew these woods. I knew these woods because Una knew these woods.

I let the trees touch me.

It was almost as if they were bending to let their leaves catch my scent. I ran in a spiral; when I saw that they could see me, I would turn, then turn again, and move back in.

Then I saw it. The tree Una and I had slept in just hours ago. I ran to the roots and climbed under the hollow base of the tree. It was small enough that if they were running by, they wouldn’t have seen it.

My hands rushed to push the dirt into the opening to hide. I stilled as I heard the sounds of movement and pressed myself into the soil. I slowed my breathing and closed my eyes, praying that they wouldn’t find me.

“Fuck! Where did she go!?” One of them said.

“I have never seen anything like that,” the other said. “I-I- I’ve never fucking seen anything like that before. What was that!?”

“She was injured. She couldn’t have gotten far. Tell the headmistress to raise the alarm. I will continue the search. Come back with more men to search the grounds.”

I watched as he turned himself into his wolf.

I had to get out of here. I had more of a chance of escape with only one wolf after me than more. I was tired and afraid. I secretly willed for darkness to come, but it was bright and barely mid-day.

I waited several moments, and when I heard no sound, I began to move slowly, quietly sifting the dirt so I could get out. I pushed myself out from under the roots. I steadied myself, turning to run.

I nearly collapsed as I stood face to face with a giant brown wolf. He glared at me and growled as he snapped his teeth. I dropped to my knees in fear. I was tired and knew that I couldn’t keep running.

“Please, don’t hurt me,” I said, shaking. “I didn’t mean to hurt anyone.”

His wolf neared, and I watched him shift back into himself.

“No one is going to hurt you,” he said softly. “I need to bring you in so we can understand what happened.”

“I would just like to be able to leave, please, let me go,” I said, moving to leave.

“Where are you going to go? There is nothing out here but woods for miles. You need to be looked at,” he said, trying to be reassuring.

I tried to get up to run, but he caught me. I could feel fear grab hold of me, and all I wanted to do was run. Then, a cold breeze rustled the leaves around us, and the sky began to darken.

“You’ve got to be joking,” he said, looking at me. “You think I’ll leave you in the woods in this weather!? You’re coming with me.”

He grabbed my wrist and pulled me along. I struggled to free myself, but his grip was firm. I needed to get back to the woods. I could feel tears begin to stream down my face just as the sky started to pour.

I heard a sound above me. Something I had heard before. I strained my ears and tried to remember as I saw a large black helicopter. Wherever it was going, we were headed in the same direction.

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