The word slammed through his brain. Run! Run fast.
The basic instinct was a constant through all life. Survive. Self preservation.
So he ran.
His feet pounded the ground in unsteady steps, as he slipped on the leaves littering the slick, damp trail. His was breath puffs of white he shattered as he ran through them seconds after his lung expelled them. Christ, he had no idea what was chasing him, but he sure as hell knew what he'd seen. The flesh ripped from bones, limbs torn away.
The sound of branches being ripped from trees echoed from what seemed like every direction.
Blood…There'd been so much blood. Unfortunately, his blood had mixed with two victims and the other. All he'd wanted to do was take a quiet hike in the woods on his day off. Instead he'd found them, the two hapless victims probably wanting to do the same. He'd had his handgun. He'd tried stopping that thing, He'd emptied an entire clip into it. It'd barely flinched and still tore those people apart. Then came at him, ripping and slashing. How he got away, he had no clue. He hadn't stopped long enough to figure it out either.
He'd seen some awful things in his life, but this…? Nothing prepared him for this.
The other was still chasing him. He could hear it coming through the underbrush and trees.
Hurdling a fallen tree, lungs heaving, his legs gave out when he hit the ground on the opposite side. Sprawled face first in the dirt and leaves, he struggled to rise. Semi-frozen mud bit and stung the palms of his hands. His leg muscles burnt and ached. Electric jolts of pain shot from his wrists to his shoulders from the impact. Shoving arms under chest, he pushed, but too much damage had been done, too much blood flowed. His lungs burned from his efforts and sheer exertion.
He heard it, coming through the woods. Coming for him.
Run. Run, run, run! His brain screamed the words, but his body was too spent to follow the command.
It crashed through the woods behind him, no finesse, no attempt at covering itself. It had no need.
His vision darkened along the sides. Fighting unconsciousness, fighting to live, he tried to get up again, but only succeeded in rolling onto his back. It bore down on him, fangs dripping, claws reaching to rip more flesh and blood from his bones. He shoved backwards, feet pushing through the mud, trying to get away. It kept coming, claws grabbing at him. The encroaching darkness along the periphery of his vision clouded in until what he saw narrowed down to a small, pinpoint tunnel.
Then the tunnel closed.
Images flashed behind his eyes of the girl and boy he'd seen earlier. The first time he'd seen them they'd been holding hands, sharing a soda fountain drink while they walked the trail.
The second time…
The last time they'd been in shreds.
His hearing followed his vision, but not before he became aware of other voices and the pounding of other feet.
His voice wouldn't work well but he tried to tell them. "Don't…the blood…stay away." Desperately, he wanted to warn them not to touch the blood but he couldn't. His body shut down, sinking away from him, sight, hearing, feeling, it was all going away…