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Chance the woods

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She decided to chance the woods. No way in hell would she stick around that crazy village. The people there warned her not to wander far away from the light and stay away from the trees. She grabbed a flashlight and did the exact opposite at the nearest moment. Sneaking away from the town’s gentle glow and into the night bound labyrinth of bark and leaf was no challenge. However, little time passed before she grew anxious as greedy branches tugged her skirt, heavy fog coiled around her shoulders, and cold mist tickled her bare legs.

Smoky fog pushed back against her flashlight and its soft beam struggled to the milky air from the shadowed forms of things she kept telling herself were only trees and brush. Low wind crept between tree trunks and leaves that cackled at the lost girl growing more lost with each step.

Fear, she figured, wouldn’t help her out here.

Instead of panicking, she took a slow breath. “This thing called love,” she half-sang, half-whispered. “just can’t handle it...must get ‘round to it...crazy little thing called love.”

Shapes, unseen but felt, moved across the dampened grass, leaving whispered footsteps across the ground’s leafy blanket. She heard breathing, but told herself it was simply her own quickening breaths.

Cold needles pricked her back. She told herself not to panic, keep a level head, put one foot in front of the other and she’d get out of this place sooner or later. As long as she didn’t run into bears or wolves, she stood a chance, and even then, she’d rather be out here than back in that town.

Perspiration ran across down her forehead. Her legs cramped. The sharp beads inside the mist itched her skin. Cutting cross country was not her style.

Her small voice hummed to herself and whatever tree cared to listen. “This thing called love,” she let herself take another breath. “Cries like a baby in a cradle all night...dah dah, it swings, it jives. Crazy little thing called love.”

The air cracked and she felt a rush against her backside, not wind, but something fierce. She froze, holding the flashlight tight against her chest.

With a held breath, she turned her head, expecting to see a cougar with a piece of her skirt in its mouth. Instead she saw something sticking out from under her skirt. The light’s trembling beam touched on a quivering tail, long and coated in tangled hair.

She caught herself in a half-smile. At least it wasn’t a cougar.

Things rushed around the boundaries of the trees, shaking their limbs and almost, almost laughing. She yelped and braced against her self once more. The clamor of the forest retreated, but the air grew heavy in her lungs. Strange flecks of ember lurked in the corner of her vision.

“There goes my baby,” she sang in a rush, “She knows how to rock ‘n roll! She drives me crazy!” Her eyelid twitched. “Then leaves me in a cool, cool sweat.”

She breathed heavy, fighting against the blood pumping through her veins. She wiped her forehead with a heavy hand, but pulled it back when her nails scraped her skin. Her flashlight swung onto her hand. Attached to her wrist was a gnarly mass of thick, quivering skin and fur tipped with blackened claws. She almost jumped away from her arm.

“I gotta be cool,” she muttered and this time felt a smile crack across her lips. “Relax, get hip,” she crooned, or tried to. Her tail twitched and her monstrous hand snapped its joints, spreading messy dark hair further down her arm.

Her foot bulged against her shoe and her thigh pulsed inside her white stockings. Heat built up inside her chest and she half wondered if the cold mist touching her skin would give off steam. The bones in her arch cracked and broke through her buckled shoe, almost throwing her off balance.

She covered her mouth, not from the pain, but to stifle a laugh. What a night, she thought as spindly, clawed fingers brushed the black tip of her nose. What a piece of shit evening. “This thing,” she sang in a voice that turned coarse and rough with each word she worked out of her jaws. “I just can’t handle it.”

Briefly, she considered going back to town as muscles and scratchy fur tore through her stockings. No, that’s absurd, she was lost as hell.

Breath shuddered through her chest and came out as a mangled sob and laugh. The flashlight, that stupid, useless flashlight fell from her shaking hand, to drain the rest of its batteries while staring at nothing on the forest ground.

“I must get ‘round to it,” whispered her shaking voice. “I ain’t ready.”

She fell to all fours, but the bones in her arms cracked and stretched outwards, keeping her fall a short one. Standing on gangly limbs and gangly fingers, she looked up and really tried not to laugh. Her gnarled hand clutched the dirt.

“Crazy little” her voice caught in her throat, “-thing called love.”

Her eyes watered. Pressure inside made them press against the inside of her head. Her skull cracked forward and twisted black hair overtook her formerly straight orange locks.

Maybe she should’ve asked for a map.

“Crazy little thing...c-c-”

Teeth twisted into fangs and a wild tongue lolled across dark, salivating lips.

What was she thinking?

The girl’s body, now a tangle of fur and rattling limbs stood naked in the dark. Shapes, cloudy and shadowed, moved behind the trees.

“Crazy little thing,” she managed, one last time.

Something collapsed inside her head but she didn't care. Her maw opened, fanged and cavernous, howling cackles whipped from her throat and through the endless forest and its long, long night.


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