It had been three days since she had last seen another person, she realized as she sat on the stump of a tree that had fallen not far from her small camp. It was both relieving, and nerve-racking. She had only herself to protect, but at the same time no one to protect her.
It was coming, she knew it was. It always did.
Today, June 12th, she was known as Laura, but tomorrow, she would awaken in a strange bed, in a strange house, and she would be another girl, aged 15, and the entire cycle would start again. That is, unless she won tonight.
For 20 years she had run until running was not an option, and then she would fight it, although what IT was, she did not know. It had followed her for 20 years, through 20 different innocent women, hurting innocent families each time she lost, although she had no idea what it was, or why it wanted her. But it wouldn't leave her alone.
She had been Rachael, who died in her sleep, stabbed by it. She had then been Katie, who died protecting her sister. She had been Madison, who died in a bombing at her school… The list went on. Well now, this time, it would be different. She had to stop the cycle of pain, and stop this thing, whatever it was, from hurting innocent people.
She stood from the stump, checked to make sure her knives were on her belt, sheathed the short sword on her back, and went to wait in the shadows for it to arrive.
- * *
Later that night, while she was awaiting the creature's arrival she had the odd suspicion that she was being watched, but by what, she was unsure, as she knew that she was alone, and that no one would come looking for her, she made sure of that.
During school, roughly a month prior to her disappearance, her school had offered a week long outing to the local gun club, as a course to learn the basics of hunting, which she took advantage of, so that when it came, she could be on her own, and sure that no one would get hurt at her fault. On the first night of camp, she had told the instructors that she was going to use the restroom, and made her way of into the heart of the woods, where she was now lying in wait. They would notice her disappearance, but by then, she would be gone.
She heard a rustle in the bushes behind her, but when she looked, realized it was only a chipmunk. Damn¸ she thought to herself. I was hoping to have a little bit of fun. She replaced her throwing knife to her belt, and sat on the ground, watching the distance for anything that might be trying to sneak up on her.
Just as she was beginning to think that it would not come, that for some odd reason the creature that had plagued her for so many lifetimes had finally decided to let up on her, and allow her to live a normal life as a 15 year old girl was meant to, she heard a branch shatter behind the tree on which she rested her head.
There it stood… whatever the hell it was. It was formless. As she stood watching it approach, she saw its deep black figure, blacker even than the darkest night, shift between man and beast, and back again. It hurt her eyes to look directly at it, for it was no one thing for more than half a second and her mind could not process it quickly enough to fully make out what it was. It held up its arm, or what would be its arm, to swing at her.
She dodged just quickly enough, and watched as the tree behind where she was standing exploded into pieces before her eyes. She could not comprehend that raw power, but had no time to think on it. She acted on instinct, and threw one of her knives at the hellish creature. Just before the blade would have made contact, the creature's skin rent open, and the blade struck the ground behind it, before the hole reclosed itself.
The creature turned to her, and before she could act, it had appeared before her, no more than three inches away. She pulled her knife from its sheath and slashed at the monster. It moved from the way of the blade, and swung at her. She barely managed to duck out of the way, and came back up swinging. Again, she failed to make contact.
For what seemed like many hours, though she knew it to be one, perhaps less even than that, they moved through fighting forms, neither fast enough to make contact. She was beginning to tire, and knew she had to act fast, or she would not survive.
She had to kill this beast tonight. She could not deal with leaving another family to grieve at the loss of their daughter. She could not cause another family to endure pain, simply because she was too weak to manage her own problems. She would end this cycle, she had to, she could not bear to live as someone else, to replace another being, simply to die and leave her family in pain.
This began her wondering. Who was she? She knew only the lives of those who she replaced, but not her own. Who was she? What was her name? Who were her parents?
Deep in these thoughts, she had become distracted from the fight that was taking place. Just when she had drifted off, it had made another attempt to hit her, and landed its knife-like limb in her arm. Pain seared in her elbow like fire, and hot blood began to run down to her fingers, and drip to the ground.
This pain was met with her white-hot fury, and she swung with such blazing anger, and blinding speed that the creature had no time to react before her knife dug deep into its chest. It fell to the ground, and as it lay dying, it grappled to her feet. The shadow began to run up her leg, and encompass her entire body. The pain of it touching her was unbearable. The shadow began to dig into her skin, and enter her through each and every pore. She howled in pain, and her vision became dark. She could not think, for her mind was screaming with the pain. She could not hold on anymore. She had to let go, she couldn't bare the pain. But she had won… she had killed the beast… Why was she still going to die? She was sure if she had killed it, it would end.
She could no longer see. Everything was dark.
She fell to the ground with one last scream of pain. On her arm there was now a mark resembling a pitch black spider, with a glowing whit ring on its back.
- * *
She woke in an unfamiliar bed, in an unfamiliar room, in an unfamiliar home. She looked around the room as she sat up, and found the walls were very bland, cold walls of concrete, with no decorations. The door was made of heavy metals, and when she went to leave the room, she found it was locked from the outside. She went back and lay on the bed, but could not sleep for all of the questions going through her head.
Had she truly won, and if so, why then had she been resurrected into this body? Where was she? Who was she? And, as she looked down at her body and saw the spider, found herself wondering, had she been turned into…. it?