Quietly emerging from behind the giant oak, she crept forward, one cautious step at a time. The sweat dripping into her eyes burned, nearly blinding her. Pausing to wipe her forehead, she sensed movement to her left. Panicked, she started running.
Her frantic dash ended when she tripped, smashing head first into a tree. Her last thought before passing out was she should have listened to her mother when she warned of picking up strangers.
Carl picked the fallen girl up, carrying her easily through the forest. She was very small, just the way he liked them. He’d been watching her all evening. There were many women at the party, but she stood out from all the rest. Her carrot red hair shone in the light, a beacon he couldn’t resist.
Laying her gently onto the cave floor, he ventured back into the forest. He had things to do before he could begin enjoying her. Everything had to be perfect. She deserved the best.
Sheila awoke, every limb shivering, with a pool of water under her cheek. Have I been drooling? She wondered, pushing herself upright. With tingles shooting from every nerve, she stood. Grabbing the cave wall for support, her head spinning, she looked around. How did I get here?
A faint light for her guide, she made her way to the mouth of the cave. Darkness cloaked the forest in a coat of black. “What am I going to do now,” she groaned to the darkness. “I’ll never find the road.”
Buck up, girl, she could hear her mom admonishing. You can do anything you put your mind to.
Gathering her courage, she pushed into the darkness. “Thanks, Mom,” she murmured.
Whistling, Carl made quick work of his task. He was in a hurry to return to the cave. Thinking about the girl lying there, hair spread out around her creamy face, was making it hard for him to concentrate. Shaking himself, he set about finishing.
He entered the cave quietly, not wanting to disturb her if she were still sleeping. Noticing she was missing, he dropped the firewood he had collected. He knew she couldn’t have gone far. The knot on her head was fresh. It would make moving painful. Cursing under his breath, he set out to find her once again.
Sheila was exhausted. Her head felt like it was going to split in two, her feet were swollen, but her worst problem was being lost. She knew the highway had to be close, but she couldn’t find it. Should have listened more when maps were taught in school, she thought, then maybe I’d know what to look for.
She’d lost track of the times she’d fallen down. Her knees were sore from the abuse. Pushing ahead was becoming harder with every passing moment. The only thing keeping her going was the knowledge he was out there. I don’t think he’s the giving up kind, she thought. Maybe that’s because the last thing you heard him yell was that he’d find you no matter what, she reminded herself.
“Why did he pick me, Lord?” she beseeched. “What did I do to deserve this?”
When no answer was forthcoming, she trudged on. The forest was even denser in this part. She could no longer see her hand in front of her face. It was early fall, so she didn’t think she’d freeze to death even though it was cold. Her biggest worry by far was the lunatic chasing her.
“What was that?” she asked the night, stopping dead still. “Cars! I hear cars!” she cried.
In her excitement, she didn’t hear Carl creep up behind her. Winded from his frantic run through the woods, Carl was quietly trying to catch his breath. Seeing the girl sprint into the distance, he cursed, “Shit,” then took off after her.
A car rounded the curve. Sheila was waving her arms trying to get the drivers attention when she felt a presence behind her. Turning, she saw Carl towering there. The look on his face terrified her into stillness, giving him the last advantage he needed.
Sheila snapped out of her stupor as Carl swung the limb above his head. Her scream reverberated through the forest, then silence filled the night once more.