Hide and Seek
by Tracy Lesch
Night has fallen, and soon they will come again to murder me.
Once more, I must run. Run, or die.
How did my existence become this waking nightmare? I live each second in desperation, the space between them woven in fear. If only I could rest or feel safe again, even temporarily, I would be blessed. That life disappeared with their arrival.
No one noticed their coming. Ours was a peaceful and happy community. We cared for each other, sharing all we had. More than citizens, we were a family, leading lives of love and fraternal harmony. But lurking outside our homes was a malevolent evil. It watched us jealously, hungrily, from the shadows. Waiting.
Then, the disappearances started happening. One male of our commune simply vanished. Hearing the distress of his wife, we initiated a search, but no sign of him could be found. After a time, we had to relent. Perhaps he had abandoned his family for some reason the rest of us were not privy to. Without clues, there was no point in looking anymore. We comforted those left behind as best we could. Behind our masks of silent sympathy, we wondered what really happened.
When another of our number went missing, we began to suspect foul play. Again, we combed every area we could cover, determined but sorrowful. And more than a little panicked. Fear followed us, as we looked for— what? A body? A captive? Or the murderer who could strike any one of us next? I wish I could say that our search was unfruitful once more, but that was not to be. We found blood. Too much blood. We recovered no body.
Over weeks, the attacks increased. Sometimes there were survivors, frightened witnesses who conveyed tales that seemed mythical to the rest of us. They reported glimpses of ravening creatures of fang and claw, supernaturally fast and deadly, materializing from nowhere to kill and maim. These beast-like demons moved about in total darkness like daylight. The black of night could not impede their gaze, as if they could track us by scent alone. Maybe they smelled our fear.
We became afraid to leave our homes, besieged by the hungry creatures that now stalked our members as prey. Hiding saved us, for the monsters never attempted to enter our havens. They lurked on the fringes instead, patiently watching for their opportunity to murder. And devour. I never vocalized that last part, I didn’t have to. The horrible realization shone in each of my neighbor’s eyes.
When provisions began to run low, we had to reconsider our position of safety for sustenance. Our families were slowly starving. We had to eat. I felt the gnawing pain in the pit of my stomach as I gave my food to my crying children. The males met in secret, formulating plans to provide for the survival of the others. We mapped routes to avoid the usual hunting spots of our attackers, those paths that would allow us to make foraging runs for any morsel to fill our bellies.
Sneaking out in the dead of night, keeping to what cover we could, we met with some success. Then, the wily beasts began to discern our patterns. We varied them, which would quell the carnage for a time, until the monstrous minds found us out again. This game replayed itself day after day, but it only seemed to stave off the inevitable.
They have taken us one by one. They are eating us.
So again, I stand here alone. I tread carefully lest they hear the slightest footfall. I will my body not to sweat, lest they catch scent of it. The more I attempt to quiet my breathing, the more I seem to gasp for air. My heart pounds in my chest. Oh, God, can they hear it? I try to become one with every shadow, every stick of concealment I can find. I must. There is no alternative.
Out there waits the very thing that will allow my mate, my babies to live another day. I cannot fail them. But, out there also wait the things that want my flesh, my life. I cannot let them win.
I exist to avoid, to evade, to escape. I live to run. To run from death. I hide, but they seek.
Tonight, I hope they will not find me in the dark.
Night has fallen. Once more, I must run. Run or die.
I pray I can make it back to my mouse-hole.