Beads of sweat broke out along my hairline. I wiped them away, tightened my ponytail, and ran faster along the dirt trail, jumping over exposed roots and ducking under low-hanging branches. Pine trees, firs, and alders turned my path into more of an obstacle course than a trail.
A twig snapped behind me.
I glanced back, but didn’t see anything. Probably just a raccoon.
My sneaker hit a root and my arms flew in front of me. I landed on my hands and knees, and slid down an incline. Rocks and branches dug into my skin until I crashed into a huckleberry bush.
I stood and dusted myself off. Blood dripped from my legs. I pulled twigs, dirt, and small rocks from the cuts.
“Nice work, Victoria,” I muttered to myself.
Sasha had said I shouldn’t have gone into the forest for my first jog. But having just moved to the beautiful Olympic Peninsula, I wasn’t about to join a club when I had the great outdoors. Birds chirped all around and a stream bubbled nearby. It was like the woods were telling me I’d made the right choice.
“Who’s there?” I sounded a lot braver than I felt. My heart thundered against my ribcage and I whipped my head around. My roommates had said the woods were safe, but I was also trusting people who had been strangers only a couple days earlier.
Why had I gone into the woods alone? Wasn’t that how half of all horror movies started?
I thought of Sasha running on a treadmill, flirting with cute college guys. Maybe she was the smart one.
“Hello?” I called.
Nothing. The birds had even stopped singing.
“Is anyone there?”
The footsteps came closer.
My pulse drummed in my ears. I fought to breathe normally.
A small gray and black wolf stepped out from behind the tree. He made eye contact with me.
I didn’t move a muscle, holding its gaze.