Captured Scent of the Predator
Don’t be caught out after dark. Tara heard her Nanna’s voice as she stepped out into the chill night air. “I’m a grown ass woman Nanna,” she said, then looked around to see if anyone heard her.
Talking to her Nanna inside her mind was one thing. But when she spoke the words, she turned red from the base of her neck to the tips of her ears. She blamed it all on Nanna, the woman loved to hold rapt conversations in Tara’s mind. She’d been gone a year but hadn’t left Tara’s thoughts the entire time.
She tightened her scarf around her neck to fight off the early autumn bite in the air. A light breeze kicked up some litter and a few stray leaves. The last vestiges of the setting sun fought off the gray of winter, but for how much longer?
Though the parking lot was a couple blocks from her office, she liked the walk. At times it was the only exercise she could work in. The office kept her busy; growth with new clients, and satisfaction with old clients, she took pride in her work, another throw back to her Nanna.
Lost in thought, she missed the turn for the car lot. Not a big deal, she thought. Turn around and head back a block to the street she needed. But a sound behind her kept her moving forward.
A foot scuffed the pavement and kicked a rock. It skid and bounced toward her as her skin pinched tight into gooseflesh. It’s nothing, she thought, though the voice of Nanna screamed into her ears. Run, find safety. It was nothing; she knew that, her mind playing tricks on her in the streetlights’ shadows.
She could find a restaurant or bar, something along the way. There would be shelter, safety in numbers. Who ever followed her, they would turn back then. They wouldn’t do something with witnesses around her would they? Stay calm. Don’t let them see they spooked you. Nanna may have had her rules and ways of doing things, but she was tough. And smart, she wouldn’t have gotten into this mess to begin with.
Tara picked sped up, not too much. Couldn’t make it obvious she was on to her tail. She felt them match her pace, still quiet but the presence pressed at her back. She wanted to run, fought the urge.
She noticed the light for the cross street ahead. Blake ran to the center of lot where she parked. To call it a street though, was generous. Nestled between two sets of storefronts, Blake was more a two-way alley used for deliveries. Halfway down the street, a light flickered above a doorway.
Run! Her Nanna’s voice screamed into her mind, the sound rocked her into action. Sprint the couple blocks to her car through a dark alley, a thought beyond reason. She didn’t reason, she didn’t think, she ran. She hadn’t sprinted in years, adrenaline fueled her limbs.
Feet behind her ripped into the roads dirt and gravel with a growl. She felt them pace her, without rushing. They would wear her down and attack when she was helpless.
A snarl broke through the rhythm of her labored breathing. Animalistic and feral, it grew into a deep growl. Panic filled her as she realized that they did not follow her, they had been herding her. Her assailants guided her to be picked off away from the protection of others.
Tara stopped, beaten. Their trap worked well. Had they done this before? Their hunt felt rehearsed, planned. Her lungs screamed at her for breath, for air. “No more,” she said. She scanned ahead and behind.
Red glowing eyes reflected back at her from the darkness at waist height. As they inched toward her, claws scraped against the pavement. Wolves, larger than any she had ever seen, growled as they approached her.
Tara watched them, her eyes wide as she offered a silent prayer to her Nanna. Though she missed her she didn’t want to join her so soon. She gripped the wooden cross Nanna once gave her. “It will protect you in the darkness,” Nanna said.
She hadn’t thought of it since Nanna died. A simple wooden cross that Nanna carried with her everywhere. Tara always assumed that Nanna was strong in her faith, though she never seemed an overly religious woman. But still the cross, a simple talisman, she relinquished only in death.
Tara caressed the course wooden surface as she looked around for a way out. She wasn’t one for faith. She didn’t trust anyone else enough to give away the power she had over her own life. She had no desire to give up her choices. They were hers to make, even this wrong turn into this dark alley.
She felt a slight shift in the wood as she rubbed it with her finger. Metal glinted in the dim flickering light in the alley. Tara brought her hands together, a prayer of thanks to her Nanna. As the wolves drew closer she released the bottom of the cross, the silver blade remained hidden in her hands.
One of the beasts snarled as he drew back on its hind legs, and then lunged at her. Thank Nanna she was ready. She stepped to the side and it flew past her. She sliced out with the blade and cut into the wolf’s side before it landed behind her.
The silver cut and burned the beast, a nasty tear through its fur and flesh that dripped a grisly ichor. Fight or flight, Nanna had given her claws of her own.
The other wolf pushed forward and knocked her to the ground. She held its throat to protect herself from the snapping jaws with her free hand. With the silver blade she stabbed and jabbed into the beasts neck. After a couple stabs its strength diminished and then it collapsed on top of her. She was pinned beneath the beast.
The other approached her, sniffed at her hair and face. She held the blade between herself and the beast and it did not approach. With a final sniff into the air it turned and limped away. It left her to struggle under the weight of the dead wolf.