Title: Howl at the Moon
Disclaimers: Bleach belongs to Kubo Tite.
Warnings: AU, OOC, Smut (of course, do I write anything else?)
Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Horror, Suspense, Contemporary
Pairings: Ichigo & Rukia
Summary: Halloween fiction. AU. Ichigo left Rukia proverbially at the altar. Months later, Rukia has finally been able to track down Ichigo's whereabouts to confront him on his reasons for shattering both their future idealistic dreams. Unknowingly, the answers she seeks may lead her further into danger from the very one she least expects it from.
Setting: To avoid confusion—for the purposes of this story, both Ichigo and Rukia are older and have already graduated from college. And the time period is placed in the contemporary era.
- PRESENT TIME -
The forest lay silent, knowing that a foreign intruder was amidst its domain. The only sound beyond the falling drops of rain ricocheting among the tree leaves that could be heard was the heavy breathing from the woman as she raced bare footed through the forest in unspeakable terror. An occasional broken branch marked her passage, despite her light footed steps. Her white sun dress flaunted her form in the dark, a homing beacon for her pursuer in the moonlight night. Not that her pursuer would need the extra visual aid, as its hyper sensitive nose could scent her from miles away.
Lightning flickered, turning the shadows of the tall evergreen trees into eerie beastly figures with creeping limbs and long fingered claws. Rukia ran heedlessly along the foreign forest, looking for the best place to take cover; yet knowing instinctively that no place would be good enough to hide and disguise herself.
She was lost to civilization. There was no one to save her. She would probably die of exposure . . . or at its hands. Or rather its paws, claws, and canine jaws—a tempting midnight snack for the beast.
A stream crossed her path, and some long-buried memory of some survival reality show surfaced . . . . Perhaps it wouldn't be able to track her if she walked through water. She was already soaked to the bone by the rain, but if she could hide her presence further . . . it was worth a try.
Rukia quickly stepped into the dark flowing shallow waters. The cold water soothed her shoeless tender soles. Her impractical city sandals had long ago been lost in her mad dash to escape the horror she had left behind. She tried to hurry, but the large smooth mossy stones caused her feet to slip and slide about in purchase.
Straining, she tried to listen for the pad of a wolf's paws, but heard nothing. For a few brief moments, she allowed her fear to subside and imagined she'd bought herself some much needed time. However, the sensation on the back of her neck prickled with alert awareness.
Then she heard it. A splash downstream and the slowly escalating sound of an animal loping through the water closer to her destination.
It had found her once again.
Rukia lunged back out of the stream and made a mad dash down a path between a meager crevice in the mountain up ahead. The way narrowed, and for a horrible moment, she thought she'd boxed herself into a dead end. Regardless, she relentlessly squeezed through the fissure, almost getting stuck in the process, despite her diminutive size. After successfully bypassing the paltry space, the forest opened beyond her.
However, the ground beneath her feet shifted before she could analyze the best route to continue her trek. She toppled into a pile of loose earth and leaves, rolling over and over, before she was able to halt her rapid uncontrolled descent.
Standing back up on trembling legs, she continued her trek to escape her pursuer. This time she sped on fleet feet, running down hill at a breakneck pace and winding around the occasional obstacle of a tree or shrub.
Upon reaching an open meadow she paused to catch her breath and waited for the stitch in her side to subside. Glancing about, she was in a meadow encircled by a grove of timeless redwood trees. Each of the tree trunks were wide, and their crown touched the clouds.
When the sounds of a wolf howling echoed through the air, it shattered her hopes of any reprieve and caused her to tremble anew. Startled by the sound of a brief brush of fur along a tree trunk nearby; she slipped on a clod of earth and tree roots, fell to the ground by a tree, glanced behind her—and saw that the wolf had somehow snuck up behind her without her noticing.
Seeing it up close for the first time, Rukia's heart stilled in terror. It was an extremely large black furred wolf, almost the size of a miniature pony. It's hackles were raised as it stealthily stalked closer and closer to her.
She wasn't going to give up. She wasn't going to die. She inched backwards, her hands automatically scrambling blindly on the ground for any thing that could be used as a weapon. When her wandering hand ran across a thick branch, she immediately grasped it and swung at the slowly approaching wolf. It leaped on top of her to knock her flat to the earth. Grasping the branch between its vicious canine jaws, it ripped the offending weapon away from her hand in annoyance.
Before Rukia knew it, she found herself nose to muzzle with a snarling wolf. It straddled her body, it's body trembling with fury, white fangs bared, and its intently hungry amber orbs eyed her like a tasty morsel.
As she fought for breath, her chest heaved. Like a magnet to a lodestone, the wolf's gaze wandered downward and growled warningly. Slowly its head dipped, and it ran its tongue from the base of her throat to her chin. Again. And again.
Helpless tears dripped soundlessly from the corner of her eyes. How did it all come to this?
"Ichigo, what happened to you?" she whispered heart achingly.
Resigning herself completely to her fate, she lifted both her hands and spasmodically clenched her fingers in the soft black fur along its neck. In some ways, she was glad that she was with him in her last moments of life at least.
Any minute she expected his teeth to close over her windpipe and crush it. Then he would rip out her throat, drag her body into the forest where it would never be found . . . .
Please review and let me know what you thought of the prologue and its premise.
It's a short chapter because I've split up the one-shot it originally was written in, for easier readability. It'll be around a total of 5 chapters.
Next Chapter: "Living in Limbo." Rukia, 48 hours prior to the prologue.
For those following my on-going multi-chaptered story, "Dream of Me", expect update delays. Because my wrist and forearm pain flared up again, my off work computer time has been severely limited. Hopefully, new chapter updates will resume after Halloween. In the meantime, I will be slowly releasing my Halloween short story in its place.