Laughably, it started on one of those days that just makes people want to stay indoors. Ominous weather, portentous weather. Windy, rainy, with lightning crackling across the sky, I was in heaven. I love storms. Maybe it was my sensitivity to light that gave me headaches or the ease with which I suffer heat exhaustion. Maybe it's just my overall contrariness. I love doing what others don't. I like rainy days. My favorite number is thirteen. I prefer Halloween (or All Hallow's E'en if you want to get all religious or Samhain if you want to get pagan) to Christmas (wonder of all wonders, another pagan holiday). I never do the popular thing and I like it that way.
That day was no different. I stood outside in the rain and basked in the water and wind beating at my skin. The extra laundry was well worth it. I carried neither raincoat nor galoshes nor umbrella. I wasn't stupid. I didn't want to die today. But people don't always get what they want.
Fate came in the form of a man streaking across my backyard. "Run!" he yelled, grabbing up my arm and yanking me with him. Having had my eyes closed, my arms stretched up to the sky, I jerked off balance and uttered a startled squawk. He never slowed down but dragged me alone until I could get my feet under me.
Long after my legs started to stumble behind him, my heart and lungs protested the abuse. My flip flops were awkward and hurting my feet as they snagged on the uneven ground. I was certain they would break. He turned and crouched down, practically dragging me into his lap. He put a finger up to his lips and mouthed, "Quiet."
Yeah, like that was going to happen. My breath was sawing through my lungs in gasps and starts, wheezing in a way that just sounded wrong to my ears. My heart was jumping around my chest like a Jack Russell Terrier on crack and, no matter what I did, I couldn't seem to keep my movements from stirring the leaves and sticks that littered the ground.
He frowned but pulled me closer, as if he could squeeze my battered lungs into cooperation with his wishes. At least I could say that my face sucking cotton definitely muffled my distress. I didn't see what passed us, but, freak of all freak outs, I felt it. It was cold. Not standing in the rain cold but about to die of exposure cold. As he walked by, I wondered how long it took to get frost bite and marveled at how numb I felt suddenly. My brain scrambled in all directions, trying to flee some instinctual danger but my body unable to comply. I didn't know or care if it was due to exhaustion or fear. It didn't matter. All I knew was we were dead if it found us. The knowledge was like some hereditary instinctual knowledge passed down from when we still lived in trees and hunted like animals.
Long after it passed, I held still, unable to move, unable to breathe. The cold dissipated quickly, but it lingered like an after image. I wasn't really cold, but the memory of it gave me chills and I could almost feel it against my skin, dying to return and possess me. The man I was sprawled across didn't speak, he just loosened his grip and lifted me up until I was standing. He seemed to scan the woods around us, then headed off in a new direction. I was totally lost.
We started running again and my previous hell returned. I lost a flip flop. The other broke shortly after and I stumbled for a few steps before I could kick it off, the man still dragging me by the iron grip on my wrist. By the time he finally stopped, I recognized nothing and felt like I'd been transported to some faraway mythical land, the Kingdom of Back in the Boonies. "What the hell was that about?"
I forgot entirely about keeping quiet and shushed me again. Then he looked at me as if he was suddenly seeing me for the first time. My brain offered comparisons to leeches. I gave him a snide look, daring him try that again when he was the one that dragged me into the middle of the woods with the boogeyman on his tail. Then his face contorted into a look no one ever wants to see. It was a look of condolence, the look a doctor gives you when you only have a few weeks left to live.
"We're dead, aren't we?" I was proud of my calm. Not many could stay calm when confronted with that news. No denial for me.
"Yeah," he bit his lip. "It has our scent. We can't escape it."
"Then why did we run?"
Yeah, I would. Logic might tell me it was pointless, that I was going to die anyway and it would be less painful in the end if I just gave in first, but my body didn't always respond to my brain and my brain didn't always respond to logic. "What if we could disguise our scent somehow?"
"Look around you, what are we going to disguise it with?" His aggravation was slipping out.
"Deer urine?" Yeah, I knew it was a stupid idea but hunting popped into my head and hunters use deer urine to hide their scents. Yeah, dumb idea. I didn't even need to see the eyes he was giving me to know that. "Well, there has to be something!" Then I got mad, "And why the hell did you grab me! It was after you! It would have left me alone!"
"It would have killed you simply because you were in its path."
I shook my head, trying to shake out his logic. I wouldn't believe it. I couldn't. It was his fault. "No, no, no."
"Lady," he grabbed my face in one hand. "Look at me." He tilted my chin, causing my gaze to hit his against my will. "This was the only thing I could do. I'm sorry I passed by you. That was my only sin. I'm sorry."
"No." The word was anguished, filled with everything I was feeling and wishing I wasn't. The feeling of freedom as I held my hands and face to the rain was such a distant memory, I couldn't even fathom the feeling. I was left with a crushing weight that scared me and drove me into a frenzy at the same time it made me feel like giving up. "Can't we try?" The words were small, softly spoken, as if by a child meekly asking to go outside to play.
"Sure, we'll try." I didn't feel it when the killing blow sliced through me, splattering my blood across his face.