Sunlight races earthbound, navigating past naked branches and wooden skeletons. Once a tomb for the moss below, frost now retreats and releases life from the clutches of winter. The woods inhale the spring warmth, and exhale color back into the wild.

Wake up, it whispers.

Wake up.

Her eyes flicker open, her palms feel the cold earth. The woman groans as the rippling pulse of her heart spreads throughout her body, begging her to stand up. I’m alive. 

She carries herself forward, eyes squinted at the noon Sun. How long was I passed out? 

Memories return like shards of shattered glass; glimpses of scenes reflected against the pieces of her mind. They unfold around her: a man’s body crumpling like wet paper, the metallic yet inviting taste of control, the constant movement of her feet onto the thawing ground.

Who is this monster?, she wonders aloud, for she recalls nothing.

She hears it again. The screams. Her own hands strangling a lifeless corpse. Except, her hands were still – it was her mind who possessed all the strength. The voices.

“Can you hear me?”

The voices.

“Can you hear me?”

Wait. Those voices are real. They’re here.

Instinctively, the woman whirls around and faces an unfamiliar figure. Tall, sharp features, dusty brown eyes, dusty brown hair, dusty brown clothes. She’s seen their kind before. Hunters.

They’ve found me, screams some part of her mind. Her right leg begins to sprint, but her left leg was far too weak to follow. She collapsed in a solemn heap, awaiting yet another town, no another prison.

“Hey. I’m not here to hurt you,” the man speaks in a quiet, almost boyish voice. He continued, “Are you lost? How did you get here?”

A pair of dusty eyes met her golden ones. Something about them whispered to her, I know I am safe. Nevertheless, she said nothing.

“It’s alright,” said the stranger. “I understand.”

The woman looked up again, curious at his words. He offered a hand. “You’re a runaway, aren’t you?”

She only nodded. He took her hand, and for once she didn’t feel like she was falling.

“It takes one to know another.”