I am running for my life.
My lungs are on fire. Every breath could be my last, so my legs keep working even though they are begging for relief. I wish I could change into my wolf but my fear won’t let me. She wants to be released, I would be faster and stronger and have a better chance of surviving. I am only 10, I have only just learned to shift this year and it takes all my concentration.
But all I can concentrate on right now is staying alive, getting to safety. I feel my strength fading. The swamps of Louisiana are unforgiving and treacherous. The same swamps my brother and I would beg my father to explore, but he wouldn’t let us, afraid we would get lost or hurt in the maze of willows and moss. I dodge fallen tree limbs and stumble through the muck, but I keep running. I have never been this far from home. But I can’t stop. If I stop I die and it will all be for nothing.
The night’s events flash through my brain like a movie on a projector. My brother snarling and bloody, fighting for his life. My friends, my family, my wolf pack, dying left and right. The Harvest Moon pack being destroyed before my eyes. Homes burning, the smell of smoke and blood. My father rushing to help my mother, her terrified screams still echoing in my mind. So much blood everywhere. The rogue wolves attacking relentlessly, outnumbering us. The leader of the pack yelling loudly, “Kill them all!”
My grandmother grabbing my hand and dragging me to the edge of our property. The look on her face as if she knows she is saying goodbye. Her last words to me.
“Run, Lila! Run and don’t stop until they lose your scent. You are special Lila, in ways you don’t understand yet. You have to go on, no matter what. You are too important. You can’t let them catch you and you can’t ever let them find you.”
“Why?” I ask her, desperate for answers. Desperate to know why these rogue wolves have attacked us and why my family is being taken from me.
“There’s no time, Lila, trust me, you must survive, you must live! Run!”
Suddenly one of the rogue wolves starts running towards me, and I look right into his eyes and I know the truth. He won’t stop until I am dead. His eyes are a piercing green but they glow yellow in the dark. He has a jagged scar above his right eye and he snarls and bares his teeth, making his intention known. I am scared to death and freeze where I am standing.
My grandmother shifts into her wolf form and moves between me and him, ready to sacrifice her life for mine. She growls at me and it breaks my trance. I start to run and don’t look back, even when I hear her yelp in pain.
My heart breaks into little pieces with each step but I keep my pace. I have to keep running, I have to escape. I have to live.
More memories come, of happier times before the attack. My mother caressing my father’s cheek after coming home from a long hunt. My brother and I playing hide and seek. My father laughing at my silly knock knock jokes. The smell of my grandmother’s biscuits waking me from a deep sleep. My mother and father dancing in the kitchen when they think nobody is watching. Daydreaming without a care in the world of one day having a family of my own, and the love of an Alpha like my father, to have such a deep connection with my mate like my parents. Family dinners and pack celebrations. My father scolding me for misbehaving and then giving me a wink when my mother turns away, letting me know I could never do wrong in his eyes.
A feeling of love and family and home.
My heavy breathing is loud in my ears, my legs screaming for me to stop. I can hear leaves crunching behind me, I am still being followed. Or am I? Is it my mind playing tricks on me? I swear I can feel another presence deep in the woods, its evil purpose nipping at my heels. I feel like I have been running for hours, they had to have lost my scent by now. I can’t be sure, so I keep going. I try to look at my surroundings as I run, trying to find a small cave or a hollow tree to hide in.
I hatch a plan as I run, trying to focus on something other than fear. I will have to find a new pack, one that can help me become a fierce wolf, strong and powerful so I can track down the pack of rogue wolves and get justice for the Harvest Moon Pack. Justice for my family. Justice for my father, the Alpha of a kind and peaceful people. Especially the one with the scar above his eye. I will enjoy killing him. Revenge burns in my gut, giving me a second wind. They will pay for what they have done. In blood.
I follow the moonlight, my only guide in the darkness. The Moon Goddess will show me the way, she will protect me and lead me to safety. As if summoned by my thoughts, I hear a voice calling to me.
“Lila,” the ghostly voice whispers.
The moon somehow becomes brighter and the glowing light shows me a path ahead. I start to sprint towards the light and hope swells in my chest for the first time all night. I am so caught up in the idea that it will be my salvation that I don’t see the fallen tree in front of me. I trip and go sailing through the humid air. I throw my hands in front of me to break my fall, but they slip on the wet leaves and I hit my head on a large rock. My last thought is that I failed. My grandmother’s dying wish was for me to live and I escaped the rogue wolves only to die alone in the swamp from a clumsy mistake.
Everything goes dark.