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I had a splitting headache as I woke up to thickly pebbled dirt stuck to the side of my face. I barely took a breath when I inhaled dust, coughing immediately. I took note of my body, feeling the breeze sweep over my back as I turned my head from side to side. Nothing broken, so far. I braced my hands against the dirt, lifting myself slowly to my knees. Everything else seemed intact. Nothing missing, nothing fractured.
I stayed kneeling, my hands in my lap as I looked around me. The sunlight was dying as the moon was creeping up and the sun was disappearing into the horizon. The line of trees against the darkening sky and tall grass swaying in the light wind as I kneeled in the dirt let me know I was far from home. My heart began to race as I felt like something was wrong, but I couldn't remember what it could be. I just felt it in my gut that something bad was happening or about to happen. I couldn't tell which.
I took several more breaths, finally deciding to try and rise to my feet. I stood without pain. I was feeling hopeful. But even with hope against hope, this nagging feeling would not disappear. Something was wrong. Very wrong.
I peered down the dirt path in both directions. The left side was already covered in darkness, the stars sprinkled against the sky while the right was nearing twilight, not yet filled with night time sheen. And on the right was a little house with a light in the window. I made my way in that direction, praying that the house belonged to someone who was able to help me figure out where I was.
I trudged along, a hole in my jeans at the knee. There was a light sting, but I barely acknowledged it. I was far too happy that I was able to move my limbs to care about a little cut or whatever it was at my knee as I continued my journey to that little house. I just knew I had to keep moving. Moving seemed to be the most important thing at that moment for me.
I felt the night creeping, getting closer and closer to true nightfall. I hurried, feeling as if I had to beat the oncoming full night, but why? I couldn't understand why. I also couldn't understand how did I get out here, and why was I hurt so badly? Who did this to me? As I moved, my steps bringing me close and closer to that possible haven, I tried to keep my wits about me. I took in the surrounding grass on either side of the dirt road... or path. It was too dark to tell which this was for me. Either one was leading me straight to where I was trying to go, needed to go. I had to get out of the open and into a closed space. I knew that much, but I couldn't remember anything else.
As I made my way to the cottage, I heard faint screeches. I stopped in my tracks to listen, to stop the crunching of my feet. I bent over to hide amongst the length of the grass, hoping my short stature would be concealed to whatever was out there. I took shallow breaths, trying to keep my racing heart from choking me. My tongue was stuck to the roof of my mouth, dry and heavy. The dark was fast approaching. If I could not escape to that house, I knew I was in big trouble. I couldn't understand why, but I knew it was important.
Then the high pitched sounds came again. This time, it was drawn out. It was a squawk more than a screech until I realized there was more than one sound out there in the dark, hidden by the grass.
I couldn't move. Even if I wanted to, I couldn't get my legs to work. They wouldn't listen to my mind telling them to move and quickly. That house was in my sight, so close and still so out of my immediate reach. My head began to ache again, but harder. The animalistic noises continued off in the distance, which meant I could make it to that house if I was swift but as silent as possible. I turned my attention back to that house, that light still aglow as I pushed myself forward.
I was lighter on my feet than I expected as I paced my footfalls. I stopped every 20 steps, then listened to see if those strange sounds were farther away. When they sounded like they were far enough away, I moved again. Every 20 steps. How I knew what to do, how I knew there was danger was another mystery I couldn't wait to get inside to solve. At that moment, all that truly mattered was escaping from the outdoors.
As I neared the home, I could hear those things... whatever they were, moving through the grass on all sides of me. I was close enough to my destination that I made the decision to run full tilt. I pushed myself to move, my feet barely touching the ground as I finally reached the door of the small place. I grabbed and twisted the knob, but it was locked. My stomach dropped to my feet as I tried it again and again. I could hear the loud bellows approaching, faster and faster as I finally beat my fists on the door, near tears in a panic.
"Please open the door!" I cried.
As the squawks grew closer, I could see in the darkness the outline of the creatures that made the noise. I screamed as my eyes caught the sight of their decaying features. They moved so fast, too fast, for dead things. That's when it came back to me why I had to get inside. It came back to me why it was so dangerous after dark to be outside, and I was looking right at them as they rushed at me. The dead were coming much too quickly. I cried out again for whoever was inside to let me in.
There was no answer. It was futile.
Only the feel of nails digging into me, dragging me away into the high grass, away from safety was left for me. My screams were all that was that filled the night. All that was.