Invisible Menace

I hear it bounding in great strides behind me. I can hear it crashing through the underbrush. I’m afraid to look back. Run, run, run. Iron fingernails scrape through my lungs, and my legs begin to shake; my runner’s high collapsing into exhaustion. The adrenaline will soon be spent. Whatever it is, it’s gaining on me. I can hear its gurgling breath panting behind me. I know my next move is inevitable.

I stop in mid-stride, turning to face my pursuer, but there is nothing there. The early September breeze tosses the leaves along the path I had just run.

I lower my head, collapsing at the waist, holding the stitch in my side. Stupid, I reprimand myself. I’m stuck somewhere between crying and laughing at myself. What the hell is happening to me?

As I stand there, the footprints begin to appear: massive ones. They press the leaves into the damp soil as they approach one slow step at a time. Fear crushes my chest.

That’s it! I’ve had enough of you! The thought fills my brain and my muscles tense as I prepare for impact. “Bring it,” I growl through clenched teeth. A stench-filled blast of air hits my face as I hear the bellowing roar. I close my eyes, clench my fist, and stand my ground. I would rather be ripped apart than live in fear.

I feel a vibration building inside of me: rolling and dark. It fills my core. The intensity shuts down my mind, and my limbs start to shake. I open my mouth and scream. A wave of sound rushes out of my lungs, blasting leaves from the path like a shock wave. I scream until there is no more air in my lungs. I stand, hands still clasped, gasping for air. There is no sound, no movement.

The pain of my clenched fingers begins to register in my brain, and I finally let go. I relax and shake the tension out of my arms. The tears I had been holding back begin to stream down my face, uncontrollably.

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