I woke up abruptly. The dream about Max coming to my rescue, fading. I laughed. I didn’t plan on waiting for him. I surveyed the inside of the cave and shivered. I’d forgotten to put wood on the fire.
Not sensing my friend I stood up and added a couple of logs to the sputtering embers. I needed to get out of here quick, but wasn’t going to get far if I didn’t stretch out my aching limbs first. My movement was stiffer than I wanted it to be. Besides it was cold outside, I wanted a little warmth before I left. I did a few yoga stretches to limber up, warmed my hands, and then looked around again to make sure I was alone.
I blew out a breath, it was now or never. I pulled my knife out of my boot and slid it up my sleeve. I had a plan, as soon as I stepped out of the cave entrance I’d run like the devil was chasing me. I took in the darkness of the tunnel, still night, didn’t matter, I was out of here.
I relied on my senses as I placed my hand on the cave wall, and took small steps towards the exit. The nearer I got to my escape route the lighter it became. I’d be able to see the terrain once I left the cover of the bush. A sigh of relief passed through my lips. I made it to the bush unscathed, glimpsed out. Smoke still rose in the distance. I didn’t sense my friend. Taking a deep breath to steady my nerves I focused on the direction of the rising smoke, stepped out from behind the bush, and took off down the steep incline, leading away from the cave.
I ran as fast as my still stiff body would allow, tripping over rocks and logs buried under the snow every few feet. My pace slowed a touch, to avoid breaking my neck. I was heading down the hill at a good pace when my foot slid and flew out from under me. My arms flapped in the wind, trying to catch my balance. I failed miserably, landed hard on my hip, and slid the rest of the way downhill. There was nothing to grab hold of and I must have hit every single sharp rock on the way down. I felt so badly bruised by the time I came to a stop that I had a hard time standing back up.
Wiping snow from my clothes, I ran, gimped, and walked in the direction I thought I should go in. The plume of smoke was no longer visible through the forest of trees, so I had to rely on my “ha-ha” excellent sense of direction. I’d made it a good distance from the cave and almost to the tree line when my alarm rang. He closed in on me.
Shit! I couldn’t let him corner me again.
Before my thoughts could process an escape route he flew up behind me, grabbed my hair, and yanked it hard enough to bring me to a full stop. My legs flew out from underneath me; I was flat on my ass again with my loving, psycho, snow clown, pulling me back up the steep slope I’d just come down. I let my body go limp as he dragged me by my hair and jacket through the bush, into the cave, and to the fire.
The bump on the back of my head shot pain through my skull. A tickle of sticky, wet, blood, oozed down the back of my neck.
He dumped me in the same spot I’d first found myself, facing the wall. His eyes burned a whole in my back, with a mixture of anger and amusement. I grasped a hold of his anger, making it my own, as I laid there waiting to see what he would do next. Once again we were having staring contest. The only difference, this time he was the only one staring. I played possum, again.
I hoped he stared at me for the next hour. I would give me time for the pain in my head to abate, and the nausea in my stomach to go away. The longer he gazed at me the more his anger grew. My head calmed to a hateful throb, my stomach had settled on just being queasy when I sensed and barely heard him turn on his heel. I slid the knife out my sleeve into my hand, flipped over onto my feet, and lunged onto his back, holding on tight.
Pain laced through my chest and stomach from the small razor sharp horns on his back. I hadn’t noticed them before. I began to bleed almost immediately. The sharp edges stung like hell, but I held on tight as he tried to throw me off. He swung around, backing up towards the cave wall as I swung the blade under, and up, attempting to get a stab into his chest. He blocked me, grabbed hold of my wrist, and shook it hard a couple of times. I held fast to the knife. While his attention was diverted I dug my knees into his sides hard, wrapped my arm around his neck, getting a choke hold, and squeezed. He dropped my wrist and dug his claws through my jacket, into my arm, pulling it away from his neck.
Shocked, and in pain I jumped off him, cringing at the sucking noise my skin made as it ripped free of his horns. Amazingly I landed on my feet. I backed up, looking at the gashes on my arm quickly, blood seeped out, the marks inflamed and burning. I glanced back up at my captor and swore he was smiling.