Against all of the basic tenants of running he had drilled into himself over countless practices, Daniel took off at a dead sprint. He nearly slipped on a loose mound of pine needles, steadying himself against rough tree bark. Branches batted at him, snagged at his clothes. He scanned the ground as he ran for any rocks or roots he might stumble over, but it made little difference. The thing chasing him was larger, and much faster. It tore through the woods, loping on all fours in a wiry mass of muscled limbs. All sounds of the wolf’s pursuit were dampened by its padded paws, making it impossible to know how close it was without looking backward.
Daniel resisted the urge, pressing on until every fiber of his body burned. This was a different kind of running; there was no finish line, no cheering crowd. He didn’t even know how deep the woods went.
Soon his breathing grew ragged as black spots swam across his vision. Bile threatened to rise up in his throat just before his legs gave out. Collapsing to the ground, he whipped around for any sign of the beast, but the woods around him were still, silent save for himself and the steady hum of cicadas in the trees. Pine needles prickled his bare shins as he sucked in air like a drowning man. Nevertheless, the corners of Daniel’s mouth turned up in a faint smile. He’d survived.
The smile vanished at the dry snap of a twig somewhere to the left of him. In an instant the creature towered over him, saliva dripping from its jaws. Each breath exhaled from its snout was like a blast of air from an open oven, ruffling Daniel’s hair as he cowered in the dirt. As the wolf’s eyes moved over him, Daniel swore there was a brief spark, some human flicker of recognition beyond that primal wall. He prayed it wasn’t just wishful thinking.
The werewolf—there was no use in denying what it was any longer—made a low growling sound.
“Please,” Daniel whimpered. “I’ll do whatever you want, I promise, just don’t hurt me. I won’t tell anybody.”
The beast took another step forward, so that the silver-tipped fur of its haunches feathered Daniel’s cheek. A musky animal scent, the mixture of earth and sweat, filled his nostrils. Daniel found his eyes drawn to the dark juncture of the wolf’s thighs, where something was steadily rising up from the center of a densely-furred mound.