This was Utopia.
She lifted her face to the moonshine and the leaves blocked the light just enough to create a dappled effect across her cheeks. She breathed in the scent of forest at midnight, convinced if there were a way to bottle and sell the smell, she’d be an instant millionaire. The craggy bark tugged on the delicate skin of her palms as she ran her hands over the trunk of the aged tree as one would run his hands over a lover’s breasts. She sighed, heavily.
Here, in this peaceful place, the harassment of the “Vogue Squad” faded to silence. Here, it didn’t matter that her mother had visciously named her Polly, and there were no catty voices repeatedly asking her “if she wanted a cracker.” Polly closed her eyes and tried to hush the shame that filled her when she thought of the untrue rumors that the Squad had started about her parents- her mother was a junkie whore, her father a drunk. The stories about her father didn’t bother her so much, since she had never known him anyway, and the chance that he was a drunk was highly probable. But when they mentioned her mama- the anger inside her at the thought became a living thing, and she gritted her teeth when she realized she’d been worrying at the tree with her nails, hard enough they’d begun to bleed. She stuck her index finger in her mouth and sucked on it, trying to relieve the pain.
The only good thing about moving to this town was this place. She could wander through the underbrush blissfully, lost in her own thoughts. Mostly, these times were enjoyable; other times, she realized she thought too much, and nothing good could come of that.
Just then, she noticed there were no sounds. No owls hooting, not a nighthawk screeching, nothing. There weren’t even any fireflies around, which she thought was odd, since this town was always swarming with them. Polly thought she saw a bush moving to her right, but clouds had obstructed the moonlight, so she leaned forward and squinted, trying to get a better look. When she realized what it was she was looking at, her heart dropped to the bottom of her feet.
The two eyes staring at her were a gleaming yellow. They were set in a face of obsidian fur, complete with a doggish “grin?” Polly thought to herself, filled with razor-like teeth.
“Great. I had to deal with those bitches all day, and now I get to be eaten by a wolf. I wonder what those rumors will sound like.” She couldn’t help but roll her eyes at the ridiculousness of her situation.
The wolf snarled as she did so, and stepped forward menacingly. Polly had nowhere to go with the tree at her back, and knew she wasn’t going to outrun any wild animal anyway, so she stayed perfectly still. She looked into those feral eyes and wished just once that she could be the one behind them.
The creature was huge; bigger than any wolf Polly had seen on Discovery Channel. She wondered if she was discovering a new and unique hybrid, and then for a second mourned the fact that no one would hear about it after she was mauled and digested. Her thoughts carried on in this vein while the wolf paced around her and sniffed warily. She absurdly applauded herself for remembering deodorant this morning, and then couldn’t stifle the giggle that escaped when she did so.
The wolf stopped midstep and peered at her intently. Polly held her breath and closed her eyes, awaiting her imminent demise, but felt no fangs ripping at her throat. She opened one eye, and then the other, and looked wildly around for her exterminator, but the wolf was gone.
Justin heaved himself out of the river, gripping a fallen log for dear life. He swished and spit the water in his mouth, but he knew no amount of squalid creek water was going to get the taste of wet dog out of his mouth. His head was ready to split in two, and he was shivering violently as he lay naked partially in the water. He brushed the shaggy hair that was stuck to his face aside, and rubbed his eyes, wishing as he did so that he’d remember to put some soap somewhere out here in the woods. He finished crawling out of the river, and curled into a ball, exhausted. Just before he passed out, he thought of the pretty girl with curly hair who hadn’t been scared, but had just stood there, waiting for him to kill her.