Dedication

Annie ran. Or rather, she tried to. Last night’s blizzard had been a surprise. The roads were blocked, the paths were clogged, drifts lay six feet deep. But Annie wouldn’t let a bit of snow stop her training. In the muffled, blinding dawn, she staggered on.

“You’re stupid to go out in this,” her husband had murmured before starting to snore again. Lazy, unsupportive pig.

Everyone said Annie was too out of shape. She ran early otherwise her children sniggered as they beheld her curves in unforgiving lycra, two support bras strapping down her chest, the bulge of her stomach unhidden. Let them call her fat: she would be fit enough to raise money at the fun-run for endangered wild-life if it killed her. At least she was doing something.

The world was silent but for the whomp whomp of her plodding feet. The trail was usually full of runners, pacing along, earphones in, competing against themselves. But today Annie was alone.

The trail started in town but was soon in the wilds. On one side meadowland sloped down to the river and on the other, stony ground clumped up to a summit hidden in trees. Annie reached the stretch where everyone ran faster. An old building was hidden by a dark forest. There were high fences and warning signs. Even the town’s older people couldn’t quite remember what it had been in the war: house, menagerie, research facility, lunatic asylum? The night runners and the early morning winter runners told of flashes of light, eyes perhaps, flickering behind the wire.

Annie was oblivious. Alone, with snow crunching under her slow feet, she hallucinated: imagining slipping back into the warm bed after thawing under a hot shower. She couldn’t have picked up pace even if she had remembered where she was. Her ankles stung, the cold air scratched her throat and dried her lips. Her heart protested with every thud thud of her throbbing feet.

Her eyes were closed, so she did not see that the fence around the forest had been brought down by snow. Creatures had emerged and stood on fallen warning signs, looking down on the trail, deserted but for one small, plump woman, red-faced, slogging along, her chest heaving.

In silent telepathy they fell into formation and streamed down the slope.

This one would be nice and juicy, once the lycra was chewed off.

Moments later, watching an inferior spit out the last support bra to expose the chest cavity, the alpha male reached in for the heart and liver.

Poor Annie, perhaps she should have listened to her husband this time.

Still, in the end, at least she could have said she’d given her all for wild-life.

Although perhaps she’d been thinking of something recognisable and maybe cute.

The pack, nourished, looked down the trail. The sun had risen. More fodder was approaching. Shoving Annie’s remains into a ditch, licking the blood from the snow, they slinked into hiding and waited…

forest

Words and photograph copyright 2017 by Paula Harmon. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission

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