The air is cold.
The kind of cold that feels like daggers in your lungs

Bare legs – Covered in goosebumps
Bare feet – No time for shoes

Something serpentine wraps itself around my ankle
A sharp intake of breath
And I’m colliding with the damp earth
Thorny, fallen branches puncture tiny, bleeding holes through my arms,
my stomach,
my thighs.
But no matter
I must keep running.
The hunt is on…

Despite knowing these woods
I crash clumsily through the darkness
Avoiding trees and then
Not avoiding them
Some bones
May have broken
But they haven’t gotten my spirit
Not yet, anyway…

I hear scurrying beneath my feet
-Not that of my assailant’s-
More innocent victims of the forest, I presume
A not-so-distant part of my brain is hoping
That I’m not stepping on any unsuspecting creatures
Like I was
Just moments ago…

-It’s amazing how our bodies react to fear
How I can continue my inelegant gait
Half asleep
Half broken-
…It’s amazing they haven’t caught me yet…

I hear the static sound of a radio somewhere behind me
I turn my head toward it
Still propelling my body forward, blindly, when-

I hit something
Not as unyielding as a tree
But somehow, more so…
It’s a little soft
And it has arms that hold me still
“I’ve got her!”
A deep voice calls out to no one

“Shhh” it coos in my ear
An almost paternal tone
There’s a sharp pinch on the side of my neck
And then
There is nothing.

I wake up under the harsh glow of a lonely fluorescent bulb
In an otherwise dark room

You know that hyperawareness you feel
when you’re back in your well lit house after seeing a late night scary movie
And it occurs to you
‘They can see me, but I can’t see them’…….

The metal table beneath me is frigid and bites every bit of my exposed skin
I try to push myself up, groggily
It takes me more than a moment to realize that I’m strapped down
I try to speak
But my throat is too dry
And it comes out like the pitiful hiss of a mortally wounded cat

There’s a sad silence
From the faceless bystanders
The empath in me senses….pity?

And then she’s over me
Half of her face covered with a surgical mask
‘Please,’ I cry out again
But I was wrong…
There’s no pity in her eyes

She silently slides a machine inches over my face and turns it on
There’s a dull whirring
And two metallic tentacles emerge
From its shelled underbelly

I look at her with desperation
She won’t meet my eyes

I try to lift myself again but the restraints cut into my wrists, my ankles, my hips, my shoulders
The icy arms inch closer
I start to turn my head
But her blue-gloved hands meet each side of my face
and roughly snap my neck back into position
They’re here now
Those arms
They press too hard on my top lip
Almost as if they didn’t know they’d be meeting it
Then they turn
They find my nose
And they go up
And up
And up
My eyes roll back
There’s a tearing sensation in my temporal lobe

GASP (I wake up)