Glancing back the way I’d come, I could make out some lights in the distance. A house sat on a hill, maybe a half mile away. I needed to get help. I stepped into the shadows of the trees, opposite the area where I’d heard the noise. The most direct route to the house would take me straight through the forest. I hoped whatever I’d heard wasn’t interested in following me.
Sprinting this fast should have been difficult without shoes, but I wove quickly between the trees. A few night creatures roamed as I sped by. A possum rummaged in some bushes and a family of raccoons scurried towards a bubbling stream. They took no notice of me.
Dodging a particularly large tree, I slowed to gauge my distance from the house. It sat just above the tree line. Almost there. The tree branches creaked and something much larger than a raccoon dropped to the ground in front of me.
I shrieked and skidded to a stop.
“There you are. You move pretty fast, you know.” He chuckled. His black leather jacket shined in the moonlight.
A shiver slithered down my spine.
“Who are you?” I whispered.
He moved forward much faster than anyone I’d ever seen before and grabbed my arm. “Why so rude? You could at least thank me for digging you up.”
I wrenched away, darting back into the woods. His feet trampled right behind me, gaining. I skidded, sliding around a large oak and going in yet another direction. I had no idea where the house was now, but I didn’t care. I just had to get away from him. I couldn’t hear his footsteps any longer and dove behind the thick trunk of the nearest tree.
I was breathing hard now, more out of fear than from running. I peeked out from behind the tree, taking in the shadows of the trees around me. It was quiet. Too quiet.
From nowhere, I felt arms slide around me. I smelled leather.
On reflex I threw my arms wide and tossed the man off of me. I spun around. He flailed and flew backward across the small clearing. A loud crunch echoed through the air, bouncing off the dark trees. A large tree branch erupted from his chest, bursting through the leather jacket. Blood poured from the wound and pooled at his feet. He gulped air, his eyes wild as they locked on mine. A faint scent of rotting garbage floated from his open chest.
His face, hands, and feet crumpled before me, collapsing into a pile of dust underneath the clothing. I tiptoed over to the pile. The branch stuck through the leather coat right where the man’s heart should’ve been.
I tripped over a tree branch as I backed away and landed hard on the ground. A sob escaped my lips. This wasn’t right. People just didn’t turn into piles of dust. I had to get away from here before anyone noticed what I’d done. I pulled myself up, straining to see above the tree line to the house on the hill. I’d run a bit out of the way, but because of either the adrenaline or the weirdness of the night, I closed the space quickly.
What was that guy?
I climbed the hill, nearing the house, still glancing behind occasionally. Nothing moved. I breathed a sigh of relief as I hit the driveway. House, driveway, garage. No imploding rapists here. The light was on in the garage, spilling onto the driveway through one of the open doors in a giant yellow square.
I padded on bare feet across the concrete drive towards the open door. Something smelled delicious, like all my favorite meals rolled into one. Pizza, cake, mashed potatoes. My stomach growled and my mouth watered. I spotted a man working at a bench along the back wall of the garage. I crept closer, trying not to make a sound, the smell still driving me crazy. The pieces of a small engine were spread out on the workbench. The man cleaned a metal cylinder with a rag. The scent of oil and grease mingled with the pizza and mashed potatoes smell. I tripped over something metal, which clanged and rang through the still air.
“Damn.” I grabbed my toe.
The man jumped and turned around, clutching his chest. He wore blue jean overalls and a white tee shirt. Wisps of gray hair stuck out from under a dirty baseball cap on his head.
“Man, you scared me.” His look changed from surprise to concern as his eyes took me in. He wiped his hands on the rag and walked towards me. “Are you okay, darlin’? You have some kinda accident or something?”
“No, I’m okay,” I whispered, my brain clouding over. It was hard to hear him over the smell of pizza. It was like he had bathed in it.
“Well, you’re all muddy and bloody. Did somebody hurt you?” he asked, taking a step closer.
I felt a sharp pain in my mouth and howled. My teeth were extending, pushing through the gums. This wasn’t possible. I threw my hands over my mouth and whimpered.
He rushed over, dropped his rag, and grabbed my arms.
“Hang on, honey, let’s get you to the house. We need to call you an ambulance.” He caught me around the waist as my knees gave out and caught me before I sank to the floor. My arms snaked around his neck and I laid my head on his shoulder. The smell of food was so strong now I couldn’t take it any longer. It was the man. It had to be the man. I just wanted a little taste. I was so hungry.
“Come on, I guess I’ll have to carry you.” He half-dragged me towards the open garage door.
I took one last whiff of his intoxicating scent and I lurched forward, latching onto his neck. My teeth sunk into his skin, like it was nothing more than a slice of bread. He gasped, caught off-guard by the bite, and attempted to pull away.
“What...what are you doing?” he asked. My arms were locked around his neck of their own volition.
“I’m just really hungry.” I pulled my head back from his neck and looked deep into his eyes. “Don’t move.”
His eyes glazed over.
“Okay,” he said, staring off into space.
I sunk my teeth back into his neck, and all of the flavors I had smelled spilled down my throat in one glorious smorgasbord. Every meal my mother had ever made filled my stomach, the warmth of it spread throughout my body. And then it stopped.
The man slumped over in my arms, empty.
Startled, I gently laid him down on the garage floor. What the hell? This was so not good.
Join me tomorrow for the final portion of Chapter 1 from the upcoming YA novel Bloody Little Secrets, due out next week!