She walked quietly through the woods, trying to get away from what she had seen. Each careful and precise step was an effort as her mind screamed "RUN," over and over, desperately trying to persuade her to flee to safety. But her reason knew better and remained in control, knowing that running would only give her location away and bring it straight to her. A quiet, patient, stealthy walk was the only way she would be able to escape.
The trees in this part of the woods were closely packed and the undergrowth was hiding everything around her feet. She couldn't see the ground upon which she was treading as her ankles disappeared into a thick carpet of moss, fungi, dead leaves, and small dense, shade-loving plants such as ivy. The small red berries she saw let her know that some of the ivy was of the poisonous kind. The sun was barely making its presence known as the canopy of branches and leaves blocked the sky. The perpetual, dim twilight sucked away her hope and filled her with feelings of doom and despair.
When she thought she had gone far enough, she stopped to listen, turning her head to the side so that her right ear faced the way she had come. There it was -- a very slight rustling in the leaves. It was still following her. She had not eluded it or escaped. Was it getting closer? Perhaps she should have run, that might have been better. But, the voice of reason spoke, "No, it's faster than you. Save your energy. Go slow and be cautious." She turned and started off again, unsure of the direction she was heading and not realising that she was going deeper and deeper into the woods. Though she did not know until it was too late, she was being herded and manoeuvred.
She sensed them before she heard them. How naive of her to think that there was only one. The first, though large and menacing, wasn’t the real threat. She might have been able to elude one, but now, deep in the woods and surrounded, she knew that escape was impossible. Surprisingly, she was less afraid than common sense suggested she should be. Perhaps there was a strange calmness in the complete hopelessness of the situation and the knowledge that anything but submission was pointless. Fighting the inevitable would only make things worse. The one had been a wily hunter and had successfully lead her into their trap, its intelligence and cunning superior to hers.
Now she was deep into the woods, alone, disoriented, and surrounded by them. She turned around in a slow, 360 degree circle, seeing them all staring at her with their lidless, unblinking, iridescent ochre eyes. It seemed like there were hundreds, but in reality there were less than 20. It was how they hung from the tree branches above, swaying in unison from side to side, that made them all the more menacing. As her eyes shifted from one to the next, she felt an eerie, almost unearthly presence. Her mind seemed to be losing rational thought, going blank and empty. Looking around, she tried to find something to grasp hold of – an image she could use to fill the emptiness. A single purple orchid, pale and faded, caught her eye. It would have to do. She tried to stare at the orchid, but their will was too strong to resist and in the end, all she could do was stare into the eyes of the largest and strongest.
It shouldn’t have been possible, but it was as though they could will gravity to increase. Her legs trembled with the effort of trying to remain upright, but it was impossible. There was nothing she could do to stop herself falling. Their eyes followed her to the ground, robbing her of any ability to resist. A quick flick of a single long sinuous, forked tongue was their only response. Reason tried to speak, to urge her to a course of action. It didn’t matter what action, anything would probably be better than her prone paralysis. But, reason remained silent, unable to overcome their will.
She was flat on her back, unable to move. Of course she couldn’t scream. The one that had followed her and led her here slid up beside her. It was neither the biggest, nor the smallest, but it was big enough. She saw now that all things had been inevitable and that her fate had been sealed the moment it had become interested in her. Its eyes now fixed on hers, its long muscular body contracted and expanded in locomotion as it came to rest on her chest. The weight was somehow comforting, perhaps providing a logical excuse for her inaction. She had seen moments like this before, in movies, and had always screamed at the actress with instructions on how to react or escape. How had they so easily and effortlessly ripped away her free will?
It reared up and arched forward so that its face hovered less than an inch from hers. Its penetrating, unwavering gaze locked upon her eyes and brought her to a state of almost euphoric rapture. Her eyes dilated as her breathing became deep and laboured. All she could do was stare as more of her thoughts and memories disappeared. Her body began to relax as her mind emptied of content, becoming unable to assert any form of independent action. Her consciousness began to wane and fade into nonexistence. Soon she would be under its control, her mind an empty and blank slate and her fate for it to decide. Darkness descended.