A rustle. The sound of foliage wriggling in the wind that crosses it. Then nothing; no chirping of birds, no cries of animals.
Her world is absent from human voices but not from noises. She knows that silence is often synonymous with death in nature and the smell, brought again by the wind, confirms the bad news: she is no longer alone in her woods.
She can smell sweat and powder. In silence she follows the track, her bare feet scarcely touching the vegetal carpet in her course, under cover of the shadows that the trees provide. Twilight is an unfortunate choice of moment to penetrate her territory.
A few meters away, two men in military trusses slowly advance towards her position, their weapons stuck against their torsos, held by metal hands. They are tall and sluggish and therefore slow. In this half-light, the distance between them is just sufficient for the beast to have the advantage. As one of them goes beyond the tree that hides it, she throws her hand, claws out, against his throat, cutting off his breath. Before the expected groan escapes, she closes it, joining her finger behind his trachea, and pulls, tearing it out in a spongy sound.
When the second man understands that the inert body of his colleague has just collapsed on the ground, the beast is already on him. He falls to his knees, hiccupping, with eyes stunned, trying to hold back with his hands the blood that flows from his gaping neck.
A sizzle and then a voice emanates from the man:
"Team three, report"
A few seconds then he starts again, a hint of impatience in the voice:
"Team three ..."
Suddenly the leaves crack under the heavy boots of the assailants running behind her. They are still at least four and find both bodies lifeless. Without a word, they disperse, their weapons raised at the level of their faces, and inspect the surroundings, ready to shoot at any threat. But it is her territory and the insistence of these intruders to impose themselves enrages her.
One of the men approaches a tangle of branches and leaves, intrigued by a furtive golden gleam, before perceiving a slight rumbling. The noise soon became guttural and he recoils precipitately.
The shadow that gushes in front of him, growling, makes him stumble and fall heavily on the ground, arms in front of his face, just in time to hold the jaw that is planted in his forearm. The shadow clasps his neck but he has already shouted, and the others re-echo, unleashing a multitude of flashes and detonations as they shoot the silhouette that winds between the trees.
They pursue it but hardly discern it among the dense vegetation and the luminosity almost totally extinct. She can see torches light up and shake at the end of their guns as they accelerate behind her.
The fugitive prepares to fork when a gun butt hits her forehead, throwing her violently on the ground. Shaking her head to silence the pulse she feels beating inside her temples, she does not have time to stand up as metal fingers grab her neck and hold her to the ground. By reflex she tries to relax the grip by grasping the arm of her assailant with both hands but is slowed down by the playful voice of the man, the same as in the radio:
"Gently baby," he said, pointing the barrel of his pistol on her face.
She distinguishes an authoritarian blue gaze and an insolent smile decorated with a golden tooth. But she also feels that the grip is relaxed slightly. She throws her legs into the air and ties them around the arm that holds her, making a key firm enough to unbalance it and thus deviate the weapon that held her at gunpoint. The assailant tries to remove his arm but she clings tightly to it and he lifts her from the ground instead. She wraps with her arms the bionic hand which still holds her by the neck and manages to let go of a circular movement of her hands, twisting the metal of the wrist and the wires inside of it.
The man releases her, screaming with rage, not with pain. She looks for a way out, she backs off a tree, but it's too late, they're all around her, pointing their weapons and the blinding lights of their torches on her face that she tries to protect from her arms.
They pant loudly. The man who was holding her stands up and looks at his deformed metal wrist with a disgruntled air. He sighs; he struggles to master his anger, biting his lower lip, his dark eye beneath his frowning brows. Then he clears the blond locks fallen on his forehead and raises a finger of flesh in front of him, whistling breaths cease around him.
"So ... What have we here?" he says, punctuating every word.
As he advances, the lights that blind the beast subside. The man then sees in front of him a feminine silhouette dressed in dark trousers and a simple tee-shirt of the same color, surmounted by short black and messy hair. She watches him through her clawed fingers, covered with blood and pieces of flesh, which still mask her face.
It is he who commands. Even she can feel the authority that emanates from him, which from a single raised finger can stop your breath.
She lets her hands fall gently down her face. The man suddenly takes one more step faster than the previous ones and catches her again by the neck, pinning her against the tree behind her. The grip is less powerful than with his artificial hand, but it is sufficient to keep her in respect.
"It looks like we found ourselves a stray cat" he grumbles in her face.
"Fuck you", she spits.
"Oh ... and it talks!" he said cheerfully. "Since you're in the mood honey, you're gonna tell me if you're the only pretty thing that can be found here."
" F ..."
The hand tightens on her neck. He smiles, but his gaze does not express benevolence. "Oh no ... Do not say that again or I'll let my guys have a little fun with you, huh ... So?"
The captive glares at him, but cannot breathe with the hand that crushes her trachea.
"I am alone," she admitted painfully.
The man releases a little pressure and displays a victorious smile.
"That's a good girl!"
This is the moment she would choose to prove him wrong, if a little voice in her head did not dissuade her, saying that this man was somewhat special.
He nodded to one of his men who came forward and pulled out a pair of handcuffs from behind his back.
"You're in for a treat, baby," he adds, while the other is hindering her hands.
Upon contact on her arms, her lips, stained with fresh blood, turn into a fierce grimace, revealing two pairs of canines abnormally long and sharp for a human being.
"What's with the smile, baby?" The man comes closer and closes his grip on her neck.
Her face is only a few centimeters away and she can feel his breath on her cheek, close to her mouth. His scent fills her nose, loaded with pheromones. Her pulse accelerates and her jaw tightens, this proximity disturbs her and causes a shiver that runs through her spine.
"If you ever feel like biting someone again, I'll personally make you swallow your fucking teeth." His voice is nothing but a whisper and his words do not sound as threatening as they should.
He is still close to her, sliding his fingers on her throat until he grabs her chin. She can almost touch his lips, parted in a semblance of smile from which he seems never to depart. For seconds that lengthen, he scrutinizes her face and sees the fury give way to perplexity and doubt in her singularly yellow eyes.
She wanted to react, to repel him, to tear his clear eyes that pierced her. But her body no longer obeys her; her limbs are as numb and left to the goodwill of this man.
Her mind is clear and lucid though. She does not realize it yet, nor does she understand all that this entails, but she knows what this man is. She knows that it is him, the Alpha male.