My head jerks up. My heart beats faster. I can’t even see five feet in front of me.
The rough bark I’m leaning against feels plastered to my skin through my shirt. I feel so small with my knees folded, my weak arms clutching them to my chest.
My breathing quickens, but I can’t let the creature hear me. I hold the next gulp of air in my throat, praying the monster overlooks me.
It seems to be coming from all directions; I can’t pinpoint just one.
A single tear escapes my eyes, without a sound. It slides down my nose and catches itself in the corner of my mouth. Its saltiness is sticky and uncomfortable. It seems to make breathing much more difficult.
The leaves rustle above me; the ground shakes below me. I dig my fingers into the soil and make a fist in a pathetic attempt to hold everything still.
I bury my face between my knees again and clamp my filthy hands over my ears, indifferent to the caking dirt trapped underneath my fingernails. That splintering break wasn’t the usual twig, no. It was the trunk propping me up. My last support, the beast snapped in two like a toothpick.
“There you are,” it growls. I can hear its teeth forming a sick, twisted grin. “Miss me?”
Its monstrous claw reaches down and scoops me up like the claw machine at the arcade from when I was seven. I can imagine how terrified those innocent stuffed penguins must have been. Their big, frozen, unchanging eyes staring back at their kidnapper, oblivious to what lies ahead of them. I panic and try to escape its grasp but its strength is too much. Even if I could uncurl its rough claws from around my torso, a fall from this height would be detrimental. Not that I would mind, I’d take death over this fate any day.
“How’ve you been?” Its hot breath blows my hair behind my shoulders. I can’t make eye contact.
“How do you always find me?” I try to sound strong, but my voice cracks like thin ice.
Its hearty, sinister laugh makes me tremble. “Please, you tower over every last one of these acres.”
The monster’s jaw unhinges and it raises me to its sharp teeth. Frozen in terror, I peer past those white knives and see the darkness at the end of its throat and my path. All I can hear is my heart beating in my ears and sitting in my throat. The last thing I see is its eyes. Its bright, yet tinted, yellow eyes with black slits in the center. They seem miles deep.
Then, everything is black.
I bolt upright in bed, the sheets soaked with cold sweat. I gasp for air as my eyes dart around the room, trying to decipher why the bowels of the beast’s stomach have Taylor Swift posters hanging on the walls.
“Just a dream,” I breathe, my breathing patterns starting to settle.
But my heart sinks to my stomach when I realize the awful truth. The monster hasn’t left. My anxiety followed me into this world, too.
Sarah Allen loves to write poetry and short stories. She is in the ninth grade and lives just outside of Philadelphia, PA with her parents and two younger brothers. She also loves to bake and ski