free short story, story promptSylvie is tracking a wolf through the woods, worried that they may have returned to plague the village once more. However, what she finds is much more troubling…


 

Sylvie examined the animal print she’d spotted on the ground. It was a huge paw print that looked like a wolf’s, but that seemed impossible. There were no wolves in the area any more. They had been hunted to extinction over a decade ago. Had a new pack moved into the area? The villagers would not be happy to hear that.

She rose from her crouch and resettled the strung bow across her shoulder. I’d better follow the tracks a bit further. If it is a wolf, the villagers will want to know about it so they can be prepared. She thought about the flocks of sheep they tended to. It hadn’t been a good year for the villagers and many of the livestock had been sold off to make ends meet or killed to feed the hungry people. They couldn’t afford to lose any to a new pack of wolves.

Quietly making her way through the trees, she avoided as many of the fallen brown leaves as possible. She had no wish to attract the attention of any predators. Fingering the scar along her right cheek, she winced at an old memory. She had first-hand experience of how well they could hear or smell a human and how fast they could be upon you. Sylvie had no wish to repeat that particular episode.

It was another half an hour of careful tracking in the failing light until she reached the mouth of a cave. She kept well back. If it was the creature’s den, she didn’t want to alert it to her presence. From where she was, several metres away, she scanned the area, looking for any clues that would confirm this as a wolf den.

A print in the soft earth not to far from her caught her attention. She scuttled over to it and peered closely. It was no animal print. It was a man’s footprint heading directly towards the cave. Had humans been here? It seemed unlikely. This part of the forest was far from every settlement. It wouldn’t make much sense for one of the villagers to be out here. Especially without wearing any shoes in this crisp winter weather.

It didn’t add up.

The sound of leaves crunching underfoot had Sylvie scurrying for cover. She ducked behind a large tree-trunk. The sound was getting nearer. She risked a quick glance. A young man was heading through the forest, straight for the cave. Sylvie checked his feet. Oddly bare. Was he responsible for the mystery footprint? But what was he doing out here? She huddled behind the tree as he got closer to her hiding place. For some reason, she didn’t want him to know she was there.

She could hear his breathing as he passed her spot and continued to the mouth of the cave. It was heavy and laboured and she could even detect a groan of pain every now and then. Has he been injured? Why is he out in the middle of nowhere?

Sylvie peeked again, surprised to see him at the entrance of the cave, collapsed on the ground. She bit her lip. He didn’t look well. Perhaps she should get help for him? She took a half step out from behind the tree, but stopped when he groaned and twitched. A whimper escaped him as his body contorted, then continued to change and morph into something that was definitely not human.

Horrified, Sylvie couldn’t move, couldn’t make a sound. What was happening to him? Within a minute, the man she’d seen was gone. In his place was a massive silver-furred wolf.

Impossible! She’d always thought those old tales of men turning into beasts were just that – stories. But her eyes told her otherwise.

I have to get out of here!

Turning, she ran, not caring how much noise she made. She was desperate to get away, to return to the safety of the village. She had to warn them.

A howl behind her caused her to stumble, startled. She risked a look back and saw the wolf glaring at her from atop a rocky outcrop. Shrieking, she turned and continued to run, but she knew she had no hope of outrunning a wolf.

In a blur of silver, the wolf was suddenly in front of her, baring his fangs and snarling. She slid to a stop and backed up, pulling out her small hunting knife. The wolf followed her, hackles raised.

Abruptly, he pounced, knocking her forcefully to the ground. She screamed as he loomed over her, teeth still bared. He looked ready to kill.


Phew, that took some effort! I’ve been wandering around visiting London today, so I’m a bit tired now! Hope you enjoyed it.

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