Author: Tina Ruiz

The beast screamed as she pushed her way through the dark underbrush. It had been chasing her for what seemed like an eternity, but tonight it was closer than usual. She stumbled but caught herself on a branch just above her head. Scrapes from the dense forest growth covered her skin. Damp tendrils of hair fell in her face. Impatiently, she pushed them out of her eyes as she paused to get her bearings. The thrashing was getting closer.

Up ahead, a light shimmered between the trees; she ran towards it. At the edge of the brush, there was a clearing with a small cottage. The walls were cream-colored with red trim around the door and windows. A small herb garden grew to the left of the building; colorful irises flourished near the door. Lights cheerfully flickered in the windows, and she heard music playing from within. Smoke rose from the small chimney, and she imagined it was warm and comforting inside.

Once again, she heard the monster thrashing through the foliage. She wished it would give up. She couldn’t decide if she should approach the cottage or keep running. She was so weary of being chased by this demon. A low howl to the left sent her lurching into the clearing. As she drew closer to the cottage, the friendly tinkling of music became louder. She hoped whoever was inside was welcoming as well.

She took a deep breath and hesitantly lifted her hand to knock on the door. A rustling sound came from inside as footsteps approached the entry. Suddenly the door opened wide; the warmth from the fire enveloped her. The light momentarily blinded her as she had spent hours running through the dark forest. She heard a sharp intake of breath and looked up at the man standing in front of her.

He didn’t say a word as he took in her disheveled state. She hadn’t seen him in months. What was he doing in this cottage, in this clearing, in her forest? The creature howled in frustration, the thundering cry shaking the trees and sending small animals scampering for safety. She looked at him, her eyes begging for help. He shook his head; she could see the sadness in the depth of his eyes as he silently closed the door.

She blinked, stunned by the silent rebuke of the closed door. Leaning forward, she placed her forehead and shaking hands on the door. Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath, finally allowing the tears to fall. He hadn’t wanted to sit with her darkness when they were together; what made her think he would now? Nevertheless, the unexpected rejection tore at her heart.

More thrashing came from the trees. The monster was close. She should have known better than to stop. The friendly atmosphere of the cabin had drawn her; it had fostered hope that perhaps she might escape her demons this night after all. The music within went silent; the lights dark. Another sign that it was time to move on.

Slowly trailing a hand across the closed door, she looked at the cabin one last time. The beast broke into the clearing. With the lights out, she was now shrouded in darkness. As quietly as possible, she covertly shifted herself back into the forest and the shelter the trees provided. The monster, unsure of her whereabouts, growled again and lunged in the opposite direction. With a sigh of relief, she once again ran from the demons chasing her. She hoped someday she would be able to outrun them for good.