Kim knew she shouldn’t have left her mother, but the little puppy was so cute, and she’d never been able to resist cuteness.
She kept following the little ball of fur farther and farther into the woods. “Here, puppy,” she tried again.
The puppy would stop and look at her, but never come close. He’d cock his head to the side and then run off again. Kim was scared he’d get hurt out there all alone. She didn’t stop to think what might happen to her out there.
Suddenly, the puppy stopped and started whimpering. Kim was able to walk right up to it. She scooped the little bundle up and held him close, trying to quiet his fear. When the puppy settled down, she heard something.
“No, please!” someone begged. “Please don’t hurt me.”
Kim edged closer to the sound. When she peeked through some brush, it was her doing the whimpering and not the puppy. Not too far from where she stood, a man was standing over a woman. He had something in his hands, but Kim couldn’t tell what. She could tell the woman was scared though. Her eyes were wide and she was crying.
Kim stepped back, intent on finding her mom and getting the police. The crack of the branch she stepped on seemed to resonate through the whole forest.
The man’s head snapped toward her.
The woman screamed “No!” when she saw Kim.
The scream broke through Kim’s terror. She spun around and started running.
Behind her, she heard the man grunt and then yell for the woman to let him go. The woman said something Kim couldn’t hear and then yelled, “Run, child, run!”
Kim didn’t have to be told. She was running as fast as her legs would take her. The puppy was trying to get free, but Kim wouldn’t let him. “No,” she told him. “You have to stay with me. You can’t save her.”
She thought she’d made it. The edge of the woods were in sight. Kim raced ahead, but suddenly the breath was knocked from her.
The puppy squealed when Kim landed on him but managed to squirm his way out from under her. Then he charged at the man. Every time the man tried to get close to Kim, the puppy would snarl and bite at him. Finally, the man had enough. Kim watched in dismay as he kicked the puppy. She couldn’t tell where the puppy landed, but the sick thud and silence broke her heart.
The man reached down and picked Kim up. She fought, but was no match for his strength. After she bit his neck, he slapped her so hard she saw stars. “Do that again and I’ll break your neck,” he warned.
Kim was so scared. She didn’t want to die. She wanted her mommy. She promised God that if he got her away from the man, she’d never wander off again, no matter how cute the puppy was.
It seemed they walked forever before getting back to the woman. The man threw Kim down beside her. Kim got sick after seeing all the blood covering the woman’s face. Kim figured the man had hit the woman with the big stick lying beside her.
“Is…sh..e..dea..d?” Kim stammered.
“I sure hope not,” the man said. “I haven’t had enough fun with her yet.”
Kim didn’t understand what he meant. She didn’t think the woman had had any fun at all with the man. She hoped he was right about her not being dead, though.
The man picked up the big stick and told Kim to do as she was told or he’d beat her to death with it. He then grabbed one of the woman’s legs and started dragging her farther into the woods. “Come,” he told Kim.
When she wasn’t moving fast enough, he prodded her along with the stick.
Kim kept glancing back at the woman. She didn’t see how she could sleep while being dragged. Finally, she thought she saw the woman open her eyes. Kim started to say something, but the woman put a finger to her lips. “Get a move on!” the man yelled and swatted Kim with the stick.
They walked a little longer until they came to a tent. The man told Kim to sit on a stump and dropped the woman beside her. The woman acted like she was still sleeping whenever the man looked, but she winked at Kim when his back was turned.
Kim watched as the man rummaged in a bag. When he pulled out some rope and came toward her, she started crying. The man kicked the woman out of the way and started to tie Kim’s wrist.
He was busy with Kim and not paying attention to anything else. Kim saw movement from the corner of her eye. She couldn’t believe it when she saw the puppy. The little dog started nipping at the man’s legs. He was jumping around so fast the man couldn’t catch him.
The man finally got so mad he picked up the stick and hit the puppy.
Kim didn’t think, she just lunged at the man. She hit him hard enough to knock him off balance. The stick flew out of his hand.
Kim was trying to get up off the ground, which wasn’t easy with her hands tied, when she heard the man roar. He was coming after her when the woman stood up.
Kim watched as the woman picked up the stick and ran for the man. She struck him in the head and he went down. Then the woman kept hitting him and hitting him. Kim had to turn away.
The woman finally stopped and fell to her knees. She crawled to Kim and asked her if she was ok. Kim couldn’t stop crying, but she wasn’t hurt. The woman helped her to her feet and told her they needed to find her mother.
They were leaving the campsite when Kim heard it. A slight mewling sound and then a moan.
“The puppy!” she yelled and pulled her hand free.