A twig snapped underneath her foot. One little misstep and the creature roared.
“Oh, shit.” She stumbled backward as she started to sprint. She grabbed Daniel’s arm to keep him in tow. “Go, go, go!”
“I am going!” he yelled.
“Well, go faster!”
“I’m going the same pace as you!”
“Now really isn’t the time to be—”
The monster cut between the two, effectively ending their argument. Caroline hit the ground hard and rolled a few feet away.
“Dan, please don’t do this. I know that something took her.”
“Dan!” she shouted. He didn’t respond. She looked up and spotted him on the ground, wriggling beneath the full weight of their new friend. It looked like he was gasping for air. Instincts kicked in, carrying her up off the ground and barrelling into the creature’s side. “Get off!”
It wasn’t a strong enough shove to fully knock it down, but it got the job done enough for Daniel to get free and help her push it.
“What are we doing?” he asked.
“I don’t know—holding it down!?”
“This isn’t gonna wo—”
As if he was trying to curse them, the monster reared its head back and nipped at his arm, pulling him away and causing him to scream. It seemed to get a chunk of skin, but Caroline couldn’t see much after it turned to her to shove her backward. Her back hit a nearby tree trunk with a thud.
It leapt forward, crashing down on Caroline. She groaned in pain as it forced its claws through the skin on her shoulder.
“I—Christ,” she breathed. The claws were holding her in place, she couldn’t move. She had no choice but to look up at the beast before it killed her. It stretched up its neck in an unnatural way. She noticed that it was sporting something that was faded red and a bit dirty. “Your… Your collar?”
It snarled and bared its teeth, revealing a missing incisor on the top row of its teeth—her teeth.
“Sadie! Sadie, it’s me!” She tried to chomp down, but Caroline moved her head out of the way to leave her with nothing but a mouthful of bark.
Sadie suddenly howled in pain, spitting out bits of tree. Caroline looked at her arching back, where a craggly stick was whacking her. Some quills sloughed off onto the ground. She pulled her claws out of Caroline’s shoulder.
“Fuck,” she wailed. That hurt just as bad, if she was being honest.
“Go, get out of here!” Daniel shouted, still swinging the stick around wildly. Sadie whined in fear, eyes roaming the forest as if someone would come and save her.
Ignoring her like always, he carried on. He gave her one good hit to the jaw, causing Sadie to turn away and run back through the long dark trees.
As soon as her massive stomps against the forest floor quieted, Daniel turned to Caroline.
“Did you tell me to stop?” he panted. “That… That thing tried to kill us.”
She slowly moved to see the quills left behind. Upon closer inspection, the mystery goo did seem like congealed blood.
Well damn, she thought.
Daniel snapped his fingers in front of her face. “Did you even hear me?”
“That was Sadie. It—she—had her collar on. And a missing tooth,” she said bluntly. “I know you won’t believe me, but I swear to god that was her. I know her. I know my dog.”
He was quiet. The only sounds heard were frogs and crickets.
“I believe you,” he said finally.
She looked up at him. “Really?”
“After this?” He gestured towards his bleeding arm and her shoulder. “Yeah, why not? The question is: what do you want to do about it?”
She stood up and clutched her throbbing shoulder. “First, probably go to the ER. We look like shit. But the rest of it… Sadie got taken, or turned into something, or—infected, maybe? I don’t know yet.”
“So…” he sighed. “You wanna find out?”
She nodded. “Hell yeah.”
About The Author
Amanda Mathews is a nineteen year old from Ohio who has been writing
since before double digits—she started with comic books
made out of stapled notebook paper and improved from
She loves writing fun, character driven stories that
usually highlight platonic relationships and queer
characters. In her civilian life, she’s a circulation specialist
at a library!
If you want to check out what Amanda is up to, you can follow her on her Instagram page.