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Below The Cresent Moon

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Stepping out from the bushes, its eyes never leave mine. A growl rips from between its bare teeth. Don’t run… Don’t run. I keep repeating to myself. As I slowly step back again. The wolf lifts its massive head, letting out an ear-piercing howl. Panicked, I did the one thing I shouldn’t… Run. Emily thought she was just a typical high school grad on her way to college. Little did she know that her life, as she knew it, would soon be flipped upside down. Monsters do exist and they are waiting. Ready to take a bite.

Chapter 1- Best Friends

Beep, beep, beep… The sound of my alarm cuts through my sleep. Slowly, I reach over and hit the off button. I’ve never really been a morning person, but I still force myself from bed early every day so I could get my morning run in. I love to sleep, but I love to run more. I was on the school’s track team since middle school and even though I had just graduated, I still made getting up and running a priority.

Sleepily, I make my way into the bathroom. It’s still dark, so when I turn the lights on, it almost blinds me. I cut the shower on, twisting the dial to steaming hot. It’s the only way I like it.

Shimming out of my PJs, I step under the boiling water. Letting it wash over me while I lean my head against the tiles. Twenty minutes later, I’m washed and stepping out. Yeah, weird that I shower before a run, but it’s the only thing that wakes me up in the morning.

Toweling off and wrapping it around my chest, I swipe the fog off the glass. My bright, round green eyes stare back at me as my long black hair sticks to my forehead.

Grabbing a second towel, I ruffle it through my hair. Man, I need to get a haircut. I turn in the mirror, studying the way it cascades down my back.

I shrug, heading to my closet to get out my favorite black spandex leggings, a pink sports bra, and matching black zip-up vest. Tossing my towels aside, I reach into my top drawer for a pair of boy shorts and finish dressing.

Walking to the full body mirror near my closet door, I pull my hair up in a high messy bun and add my pink sweatband to hold down any annoying little hairs that tried to escape. I continue moving about my room, adding some low-cut socks and my favorite pair of running shoes.

As I start my stretches, my phone pings. Grabbing it off the nightstand, I see I have a text from my best friend, Rena. Hey girl! I know you’re already awake at this crazy hour. Want to meet me at the coffee shop after your run? I smile. Rena wasn’t just my best friend, she’s my only friend. But, I like it that way.

My dad and I had moved to a semi-rural area of Washington State at the start of my senior year after he got a new job. I wasn’t looking to make new friends as it was my last year of high school and I would be going off to college, so I didn’t see the point.

However, Rena didn’t care. She’d decided we were going to be best friends and, well, here we are.

Smiling, I text her while heading out of my bedroom and down the stairs to the kitchen. Sure, do you want to meet at Bailey’s? I ask, turning to the right at the bottom of the stairs. I step into the kitchen.

Putting my phone on the counter, I get in the fridge for a bottle of water. As I shut the door, I notice a note stuck on the fridge. “Hey Em, I got a call from the head office. I had to take a flight out this morning to Denver. I won’t be home for a week or two. I know it’s short notice, but I promise I will call you once I land. Love, Dad.”

Frowning, I roll my eyes. I don’t understand why we moved here if he still keeps having to take off on short notice.

Walking over to where I’d dropped my phone, I reach into the drawer underneath, pulling out my AirPods and my phone’s armband. Picking up my phone, I see Rena had texted me back. Sounds like a plan. See you in an hour.

See you soon homegirl wink-face I respond. Grabbing my water bottle, I take a long drink. I won’t need it since we were meeting for coffee, but I should still make sure I’m hydrated.

Connecting my AirPods, I pop them in my ears and make my way to the door, flipping through my playlist.

Music blares in my ears as I take off down the street, cutting across the intersection at the end of the block. We didn’t live far from the park, which I like. Less traffic. So I could get lost in my thoughts and music.

Running down the gravel path, I cut across the small bridge, going to the left as normal.

Keeping a decent pace, I’m enjoying the music and the gravel crunching under my shoes. I let my mind wander over the past year and how I’d been so mad when we first moved. I smile, thinking how much I enjoy it here now.

The town isn’t small, but it isn’t huge either. Actually, I was surprised my dad had moved us to the area with the stock marketing work he does. But some big corporations had set up around this area and needed someone with superb marketing skills, and Dad was the perfect fit for the job.

I’m proud of him for all he has overcome. The smile on my face fades as my thoughts wandered back further.

After my mom got sick and passed away when I was thirteen, my dad was never the same. He’d thrown himself into his work and didn’t make much time for me. I can’t say I was neglected. He always made sure I had everything I needed and most of what I wanted, but time is really what matters the most. Something mom always used to say…

Though I am proud of him. I still hold some resentment. While he buried himself in his work, I was left alone… grieving for my mother.

Stopping, I hunch over, breathing heavily. I didn’t realize I’d picked up my pace. Though I tend to when I start thinking about anything that makes me upset.

After a few minutes, I catch my breath. Adjusting my armband, I skip through a few songs. Trying to find something more upbeat to lighten my mood.

A loud snap sounds behind me. Popping one of my pods out, I scan the area. This is the path I normally run down, so I’m familiar with it.

The trees are denser to the right of me as the park is on the edge of town, and after that, it goes on for miles as a natural wildlife preserve. Nothing looks out of place. So, I shrug it off and look back at my phone, noticing the time. CRAP! I was going to be late to meet Rena. I better get moving!

Settling for “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake, I pick up my pace.

After about twenty minutes, I slow to a walk as I cross the street out of the park and up the sidewalk toward the coffee shop.

“You’re late.” Rena scolds as I reach Bailey’s.

“Well, you did say in about an hour, so technically, I’m not late.”

She smiles and gives me a big hug. “Oh, my friend, what will I do with you?” She teases, looping her arm around my shoulder, and leads me over to a sidewalk table.

Taking the seat across from me, I notice she’s already grabbed our coffees. Both were extra-large.

“Let me guess?” I say, tapping my chin and pretending to think hard. “You got a Mocha Iced Coffee with a double shot of espresso and double whipped cream with chocolate drizzle, and you got me… A Caramel Iced Coffee with a shot of espresso and double whipped cream with caramel drizzle?”

She scrunches her nose while sucking her coffee through the straw. Licking her lips, she sighs, “Well, yeah! I mean, is there any other kind of coffee to have on a nice summer morning with your best friend? Besides, I know you love the extra whipped cream.” She winks. “And you could use the extra shot of espresso. I don’t know how you get up so early and run without your coffee. I would be flipping nature off!”

I laugh. Rena loves her coffee. “I can’t start my run on a full stomach. It’ll just make me sick.” I say, swiping a finger full of whipped cream into my mouth.

“Give me coffee or give me death!” She says, raising her cup in the air.

Shaking my head, I chuckle. Yup, that’s my best friend.

“So, what’s new?” She asks, leaning back in her chair.

I shrug, stirring my drink with its straw. “Dad’s out of town again.” She frowns. She knows how much I hated it when my dad was gone. Even if it was work-related, it didn’t make it any less annoying.

“Did he at least give you a head’s up this time?” She asks, drinking more. Sipping my own, I shake my head. She sighs, “Well… Jackson has been asking about you again.”

“Why…” I groan, leaning back in my chair. “I don’t even like the guy!”

She shrugs, “Just thought I should tell you, seeing he is walking this way.”

No sooner did she finish her sentence and I could feel his eyes on me. I can’t say that I hated Jackson. He was just annoying. You would think the guy could take a hint. He’s asked me out numerous times and it’s always been a no.

Turning, I look, and sure enough. Here he comes. Strolling across the street with his two friends, Trever and Mark. I swear they were always following him. Looking back at Rena, I roll my eyes.

“Hey, Rena!” Jackson says as they make their way to our table. His eyes look me up and down.

I stiffen. The way he always looks at me makes me feel uncomfortable. It’s not as if he is a bad-looking guy. He’s maybe five foot nine. With sandy brown hair and dark brown eyes.

“Hey Em, how are you doing today?” He asks, smiling at me, revealing his perfect teeth.

“Fine,” I say, taking another sip of coffee and looking back across the street. Anywhere really, so we didn’t need to make eye contact.

Clearing his throat, he pulls up a chair. Sitting in it with the back facing the table, he leans close. “Did I ever tell you that pink is a s*xy color on you?”

My eyes snap to his. I blush as I notice he’s staring at my chest. “My EYES are up here!” I snap, lifting my chin. “And I don’t care what you find s*xy on me.”

Jackson tilts back in his seat, laughing as he turns to his friend Trever. “See man! This is why I like her!” Turning back, he smiles. “My little spitfire.”

My face is on fire, but this time it’s not from embarrassment. I’ve always had a hot temper, and right now I was trying to hold it in. Jackson’s eyes sparkled with a bit of knowing mischief. He liked to push my buttons, and he did, often. “I am not YOUR anything… Never have and never will be,” I snap, taking a sip of my coffee. “Besides… EVEN!” and that’s a big even! “If I was interested, I’m leaving for college this week and long-distance relationships really aren’t my thing.”

Rena pipes in. “Yeah, Florida State, right? I cannot wait! I will totally use you as an excuse to get out of here!” She gushes, making me laugh.

“Why Florida State?” Jackson asks, looking between us.

“Not really your business,” I say, shrugging.

“I see…” he says, frowning before he abruptly stands and storms off. Both of his friends stare at one another before they follow… What was his problem?

“I swear, sometimes I think he has mental problems,” Rena says, rolling her eyes.

“You don’t think I have ever led him on, do you?” I ask, turning my attention back to her.

She scoffs. “Yeah, right! How many times has he asked you out?”

I shrugged, “lost count by now.”

“Exactly! He just has some… I don’t know… obsession with you.” She says, waving her hand in the air.

I laugh. “You mean I have a stalker?”

She shakes her head. “More like an obsessive shadower.” Both of us burst out laughing.

“So, when are you leaving?” She asks, sucking down the last bit of her iced coffee. Man! That girl could put a drunk to shame! I still had half of mine left!

“I’m leaving Thursday,” I say.

Rena sighs, “I can’t say that I am happy to see you go… but I am happy for you if this is what you really want.”

I nod. She knew the main reason I wanted to go to Florida State was because my mother had gone there and, in a way, it made me feel like I would have part of her with me. However, I would miss my friend.

After about an hour and a half of chatting, Rena had to head out. I hung around the coffee shop a little longer, clicking on my phone while I waited for my stomach to settle. But I was getting bored so I decided to walk.

Popping my air pods back in, I stroll into the park and down the path, clicking through my playlist. But before I could pick a song, my phone rang. Dad’s name flashes on the screen.

Taking a deep breath, I answer. “Hello?”

“Hey, Em! I just got in. Are you around the house yet?” My dad’s voice echoes through the phone.

“No.” I sigh. “I just got done at Bailey’s Coffee Shop with Rena and I’m heading back now.”

“Ahh, how is Rena?”

“She’s good, a little sad that I’m leaving in a few days,” I say, kicking the gravel as I walk.

The line goes silent for a few minutes and I pull the phone back to see if my dad’s still there.

“Sh*t! Em, I’m sorry!” He finally responds. I already knew why he was apologizing. He’d forgotten I was leaving for Florida this week. A sting of irritation and sadness hits me. I was used to it, though. He was always wrapped up in his work and forgot things. Things that seemed important to me, anyway.

“It’s ok Dad, it’s already Tuesday anyway so…” I say, trailing off.

“No, no, it’s not ok. This is a big step for you and I should be home… I’m sorry sweetheart, you know how I get with work. Not that it’s an excuse…. If your mother were here, she would ring my neck…” he says, his voice cracking.

The back of my eyes sting at the mention of Mom. He hardly mentioned her and the pain in his voice when he did made me feel a little guilty for being so irritated. “Dad, it’s fine… if you want to make it up to me… You could… I don’t know… come after I get settled and I can give you a tour or something.”

I can hear the smile in his voice. “Yeah, that would be great Em.” He mumbles something, but I could tell he wasn’t talking to me. “I have to go, honey. I just got to the office but I will call you later, ok?”

“Sure Dad,” I say, hoping my voice sounds happier than I actually feel. “I’ll talk to you later.”

“Em… I’m proud of you. Your… Your mother would be too…. I love you.”

I swallow the lump in my throat. “Love you too, Dad.” and we hang up.

Leaning my back against a tree, I close my eyes and focus on my breathing. I know it’s been years, but the pain is still raw. My heart still hurts for my mother, but hurts worse when my dad speaks of her. I could feel the pain in his voice and see it in his eyes, no matter how hard he tried to hide it.

Taking another breath, I pull my playlist back up and start towards home.


The next few days passed in a blur, but I guess packing does that. Looking around my room. Everything was pulled out of my closet and the rest was packed in boxes with my name written on the sides. Most of my stuff will be moved next week. So, I’ve got a suitcase sitting on the bed, packed with enough things to last until then.

I check my phone. Flipping open my Facebook, I update my status. Well, I’ll be taking off soon for Florida State. Don’t be surprised if I go dark for a bit. Things are going to be crazy getting settled.

After posting, I check the time. I’ve still got plenty before my flight. So, I decided to go for one last run.

I change into a pair of Capri gray spandex leggings and a matching gray and black sports bra and pull my hair into a ponytail. Adding a headband per the norm. I check my phone one last time as I grab my AirPods and armband, heading for the door.

Taking off on my normal route with my music blaring. I make my way across the bridge path. But as I turn left, I pause… Then go right. Normally I would keep to the same trail, but today was my last day, so I figured why not... I have a long flight and this might wear me out.

The path is overgrown and rooted, turning my run into more of a parkour but jungle-style. I make my way further down. Bouncing off the sides of the trail, rocks and even swinging from some lower branches. I laugh. This is pretty fun.

After about fifteen minutes of running, leaping, and swinging. I need to catch my breath. Skipping up the rooted trail a little further, I finally reach a somewhat level spot.

Hunching over, I rest my hands on my knees, breathing heavily.

When my song cuts off. I glance at my phone. Seeing my signal isn’t the greatest. I turn off my AirPods and place them into the zip pocket of my phone sleeve. Before I lean back down to catch my breath.

Finally, after a few minutes, I stand straight and take in my surroundings.

Looking around, I notice a level spot just off the path ahead and a dense forest to my right. I slowly walk up the trail where it’s leveled. The sound of birds and the wind rustling in the trees has me closing my eyes and taking it all in. I hope Florida has good running trails like this.

Keeping my eyes closed, I breathe deep, listening. Getting lost in thought, I suddenly realize the birds had stopped singing. Opening my eyes, I look around. It is really quiet... Maybe too quiet.

The hair on the back of my neck stands up. When I hear a loud snap from behind me, I stiffen. Ok, Em, it’s nothing…

Slowly turning around, I scan the trees, rocks, and brush, but nothing looks out of the ordinary. Another snap has me spinning back in the other direction. A few bushes on the other side of the path rustle.

My heart rate shoots through the roof. What is that!? I slowly back up as the rustling gets more intense… I scream as the creature charges from the bush. It’s a d*mn squirrel!

The tiny creature quickly scurries up a nearby tree. Covering my now-pounding heart, I laugh. Good Lord! If I am scared of a squirrel, there is no way I would survive a run in Florida’s wildlife.

Taking a deep breath, I shake my head and try to steady my heart. I think heading back down the trail would be a good idea.

Another snapping sound grabs my attention. Oh, great, another squirrel, whatever will I do… turning back around. My eyes widened.

Stepping out from the bushes, its eyes never leave mine. A growl rips from between its bare teeth. I slowly step backward. It’s not a squirrel! It’s not a squirrel! It’s not a F*CK*N squirrel!

It’s a huge brown wolf! Slowly, it advances toward me. My knees begin to shake. This thing is huge! I stand at least five-three and this wolf easily matches my height.

Blinking in disbelief, I take another step back. I try to keep my breathing calm, but I’m failing miserably.

Don’t run… Don’t run. I keep repeating to myself. As I slowly step back again.

The wolf mirrors me, stepping forward. Picking through my panicked brain, I don’t know a lot about predators or wolves in general. But I think I recall watching something that said if you run, they will chase you. So running wasn’t wise. I also remember something about smelling fear. Well, I am sure I reek because I am all but pissing my pants!

Should I play dead? Or was that a bear thing? This might not be a bear, but it sure as hell is as big as one! Slowly, I take another step back. “SH*T!” I scream, losing my footing. I topple over a mound of roots.

The wolf lifts its massive head, letting out an ear-piercing howl. As if I wasn’t already scared out of my mind! My heart drops into my stomach as I struggle to my feet. Panicked, I did the one thing I shouldn’t… Run.

Chapter 2- Run!

I have no sense of direction as I take off, past the path, and into the trees. My heart pounds as fast as my feet carry me. Dodging trees, bushes, logs, rocks, and everything in between. I hear it gaining on me!

Pushing my legs to move faster, they scream in protest. I can feel the wolf’s hot breath as it snaps, just grazing my calf. “AHHH!”, I push my legs faster, my lungs burning. RUN FASTER! RUN FASTER!

Sliding under a half-down tree like a baseball player to home base, I feel the wolf’s jaws just graze my hair. Good Lord, that could have been my neck! Without missing a beat, I’m back on my feet and running.

Making a quick jet to the left, I bounce off the side of a giant rock. Hitting a tree with my other foot. I land and keep going.

Hearing wood smash behind me. I know it’s hot on my tail, but I don’t dare look back... With another spin to the right, I leap off a fallen tree as I glide through the air. My leg stretches, ready to bounce off anoth


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