Run (A Short Story by Tyler Scott Hess)

“Stop, Mary!” Bethany shouts. “That wasn’t funny the first time.”

Bethany bends down to the ground, brushes her hair as she looks back to stick her tongue out, and huffs. She picks up her brand new cell phone, dusts it off with the hem of her dress, and places it next to her hip, where she can cinch her belt around it.

“You’re so touchy,” Mary says, mocking the awkward little dance Bethany did that caused her to drop her phone as her best friend jumped out from behind one of the few thick trees in the forest.

“Like I can help it. You know I’ve never been comfortable in the woods. Not since the time my parents took me camping and left – what was that? Did you hear something?”

“It was probably my stomach,” Mary says, holding her stomach. “I hope we didn’t miss dinner. The sun is already going down. I told you we spent too much time at the river.”

“You can never spend too much time at the river,” Bethany counters. But she was never one to worry too much about meal times. She has a very different home life than Mary, who is accustomed to having every bit of her life scheduled to the hour. “And we didn’t miss dinner. Wait. Stop.”

“I didn’t do anything,” Mary whines. All of this weekend’s nonchalance has driven Mary mad, but it has given Bethany time to overthink her surroundings.

“I know, shut up,” Bethany says, putting her finger to her lips.

“Don’t tell me to…”

“No, quiet,” Bethany repeats. “I hear something and it’s not your stomach.”

“Oh, you’ve heard one too many ghost stories this weekend. You know they’re not even…”

“Run!” Bethany shouts, kicking leaves behind her as she leads the charge.

Mary reaches out for Bethany’s hand as the two young women rush up the hill through scattered decay. But she’s not fast enough today, weakened by missing out on a meal, and out of shape after a long summer of lounging around the pool.

“Mary, no!” shouts Bethany. “Stop it! Stop it! Keep running!”

“I can’t! It’s got me!”

Bethany grabs a nearby tree branch and whacks the beast on the head, causing it to run away.

“Owwwwwwwwwwww,” Mary cries as the full moon creeps its way above them. “It got me. It got me in the ankle. It hurts.”

“We have to go before it comes back.”

“I can’t walk. It hurts.”

“You’re going to have to,” Bethany says without sympathy. “We have to get you back to camp. Take my hand and I’ll help you over the hill.”

“Why don’t you just go get the guys to help?” Mary whimpers. “It might be faster.”

“Oh, you’d like that, wouldn’t you?” Bethany snorts.

“Hey, if I’m going to turn into a werewolf tonight, I might as well make use of my injuries.”

“And you think I’m the one whose heard too many campfire stories this weekend?” Bethany snickers. “C’mon, you can get plenty of sympathy when we get back to camp.”

“Ouch,” Mary repeats off and on as they make their way over the hill. “Stupid Werewolf.”

“It wasn’t a werewolf,” Bethany says.

“Then what was it?” Mary asks. “And why do I suddenly feel like I’m about to grow hair all over my body and eat everything in sight?”

“Because you didn’t bring a razor with you to the campsite and you missed dinner,” Bethany reminds her.

“You said we didn’t miss dinner!” Mary says, grimacing as they reach the top of the hill.

“That was before you had that little pup nipping at your heel.”

“He wasn’t that little!” Mary claims. “And he’s probably bringing his big brothers to get the rest of me. They can smell blood, you know!”

“What happened to you?” Cody yells out as the two make it back to camp. “You look like you’ve seen a…”

“Nope,” Mary says, pretending to be bashful and calm. “Not a ghost. A werewolf!”

Cody laughs.

“No, really! Look!” Mary, forgetting that she was bashful a moment ago, props her leg up over a log and displays her battle scars for all to see. She twists and turns it all around as Kevin and Steve wander back toward the picnic area to see who is causing the ruckus.

“What happened?” Kevin asks as he brushes past the tents.

“You need to get that cleaned right away,” Steve says as he picks up a towel and a bottle of water from the table.

“Oh, you guys,” Mary blushes.

“You better watch out,” Bethany says as she rolls her eyes. “Mary is turning into a werewolf. Just ask her.”

“Oh, Bethany,” Mary snickers. “You’re so silly. You know I was only joking about that, right?”

“I don’t know,” says Cody. “These woods are known for some pretty strange happenings.”

“Stop it,” Mary says, pushing her hand away at the air.

“No, it’s true,” Steve confirms. “Just last year there were a bunch of kids out here, only a little younger than us, and they were never found.”

“That’s not funny, “ Bethany says, now defending her friend.

“He’s not kidding,” Kevin says while he lights a match near the campfire as the moon rises above them.

“I think I’ve had enough ghost stories for one weekend,” Mary says. “I don’t even believe in such silly things. A spiritual world, sure, but not like in the movies. It’s not the same thing.”

“Then how do you explain the fangs, Mary?” Cody says as he backs away, trembling.

“I don’t have fangs!” Mary says as she places her fingers in her mouth.

“Not yours,” Bethany says, smiling.

The End

The photo for this cover is a derivative of “Fear” by Flickr user Nathan O’Nions, used under CC BY.

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