“Run, little girl, run! I like them hot and sweaty!” laughed the ominous young man who was chasing after Laura, leading her deep into the autumn-stricken forest. The air echoed with the crunching sound of dry, fallen leaves and sticks being crushed under the teenagers’ sneakers, along with the her heavy, terrified panting and the man’s grunting determination to catch her. Puffs of faint, white breath flew out of her mouth into the freezing air, piercing her tight throat every time she inhaled.
Laura took a hard turn to the left between two trees determined to shake him off, careful not to slip on the dead leaves littering the ground. Next she made a drastic right and jumped over a fallen pine tree, darted between two trees again, and then off to another direction. But the man who was suppose to be her friend persisted, and his athletic build gave him the stamina and endurance he needed to continue. This lion will have his sheep.
“Leave me alone!” She screamed through the pain in her stinging throat, keeping her head focused on a finding an escape, “You are better than this!”
“I’ll be better when I get what I want!” He bark, eyes wild and focused on his target with his nostrils flared, and teeth bared.
“Somebody, please help me!” Laura screamed, warm tears now running down her frozen face because her body was falling apart. Her legs were spent and locking up, slowing her speed down. Her heart pounded against her aching chest, and the tip of her nose and ears stung from the cold weather. Hot, slimy sweat, developed from her running and panicking, made her Letterman jacket weigh heavy against her shoulders and arms, reducing her run into a jog. Her mind lost focus and she didn’t play attention to her feet until one of them connected with a rock uprooted from the ground. Pointy, thin branches and crumbling leaves scraped against the side of her face when her body crashed into the hard earth that felt like a concrete wall.
With the last remaining strength she had, Laura rolled onto her back and saw that the tall high school football player would be on her in a matter of seconds. She readied her legs and her arms, too weak to stand up but she would fight for her life. A victorious smile cracked across his face as he made him jump. Terror turned her body into stone.
“Please.” slivered out of her chapped, frowning lips as she knew she was done. This was it. She had lost. How could she win a fight against him and his size?
But out of nowhere, two long gusts of wind made of autumn leaves, rushed from behind Laura, and knocked the young man into the air like two giant fists pounding his stomach. Flying back several yards, his back collided against the hard dirt, forcing the air out of his lungs, and leaving him confused as to what had just happened.
However, the leafy winds were not finished.
The snake-like forms circled around the dazed jock, then fused together to become a wide, howling tornado of yellow, orange, and red autumn leaves. He screamed in terror, trying to conceal his face from the sharp edges of the darting leaves with his Letterman jacket. Before Laura’s eyes, the male teenager disappeared as the leaf-made tornado engulfed him. It spun faster and harder, kicking back sticks and leaves from the ground, and bending back the branches of the surrounding, nearly bare trees. She shielded her eyes from the flying debris behind her forearm, but took peeks to keep watching the bizarre event unfolding in front of her. The strong angry winds shoved her body across the ground and she had to used her other arm as resistance to keep from sliding any further backwards.
Suddenly the former friend’s scream came to a deafening halt. Then the color of the roaring tornado changed from a variety of autumn colors into a solid, dark red hue. Then the tornado stretched itself out and dissipated, letting the red leaves flutter through the icy air and trickle down to the forest floor. In the large circular space on the ground from where the tornado took place, it had cleared all of leaves, branches, and even rocks, and left behind the exposed pale dirt. Nothing of her attacker was left. He was gone. The forest took him and made an example out of him. Shock came over her. Where did he go?
An elegant golden leaf fluttered down and landed on Laura’s knee. Before she could touch it, it flew off and floated up into the air again. Then a strong force caught her by surprise when it pushed against her back and legs, lifted her up from the cold ground and back to her feet. She glanced over her shoulder to see it had been the leaf-made, snake-like wind. After she found her balance on her weak legs, it slivered past her and touched the golden leaf that had been hovering in place.
The contact made the strange wind transform into a great elegant stag made of vibrant colored leaves. The golden leaf rested on its chest. Laura stood in awe. Whatever this was had saved her life. Her heart no longer pounded out of fear, but for thankfulness that she would see another day. Of course, she didn’t know how she would be able to explain what happened to her attacker but she will think of something later. Exhausted and emotionally spent, all she wanted was to go back to her warm home.
As if it read her mind, the colorful stag bent its knee and lowered its head. As strange as all this was, Laura smiled to the magical creature as her way of accepting its offer. She ascended on to its back, feeling the smooth sides of fresh, living leaves on its hard body under her hands. After she was settled, the magical creature took her out of the forest and to the street that would return her home.