Karen stood on a stone bench in the center of the hedge maze to watch the moon rise. She held her breath as it rolled slowly across the hedge tops and into the sky. The full moon is never high in summer, and in the early hours, it would make the shadows that much darker in the maze.
Below and to the left of the moon, Jupiter appeared in a flash. The game had begun. Karen dropped to the ground and hurried to the north opening. There, she stopped and listened. The sounds of insects filled the air, except to the west. From there came only silence.
She moved through the gap as far as she could. The path broke left and right, and while she knew danger lay to the left, she had no way of knowing which way led to the exit. She had never been in this maze before, and wasn’t even sure of the size of it. The traditional way to escape was to pick one direction and only turn that way. Eventually one finds the exit or returns to the starting point to try again. That assumed no limit on time. In this game, there was a limit, and that limit was in the maze with her.
She turned left, toward the silent crickets. Twice in thirty seconds she stopped to listen for the other. Twice she was denied so much as a hint. Even the crickets were no longer of use.
She continued on, only turning left, or as left as the maze would allow her. The rising moon was evident on the upper sections of the hedges and gave her some idea of the direction she faced.
The sharp crack of a breaking branch came from very near. Too near. She broke into a sprint, heedless of the sound her own feet made on the damp earth.
Behind her, the soft thud of something heavy hitting the ground caused her to let slip a small scream.
She crashed blindly around corners, through shadows too dark to be sure if there was an opening, and more often than not, bouncing off a wall of branches that tore at her clothes and leaves that created more shadows.
It drew closer. Not quickly. Not running. It was the slow, determined walk of victory.
Twice she fell but jumped back to her feet, knowing full well that the beast could track her by smell. Corners and side paths flew by as she ran in her fear, she dared not slow down to turn or plot a course.
A crash to her left forced her to take a path to the right. Another directly in front of her turned her to the left. The path ahead was long, but cloaked in shadow.
She ran. She ran faster than she had ever run before, only to crash into a dead end of twigs.
The soft thud of large feet on damp earth hit her ears and she spun. It was there, facing her, its upper body bathed in the light of the moon. The dark fur around its mouth stood out in bright contrast to the stark white teeth. At the end of its arms hung a brace of jet black claws, each the size of her thumb.
There was nowhere to go. The only opening in the hedge was on the other side of the thing, and it was moving toward her, slowly, as if it were savoring her fear.
It stopped close enough she could feel its body heat. It raised its arm and let the moonlight dance off its clawed hand, then it swiped.
She closed her eyes, but there was no impact. Instead it grabbed her by the back of the neck and held her head in place. She felt it lean in, it’s breath hot on her face. Then she felt its mouth press onto hers. It was a not the mouth of a beast, but a human mouth, and she relaxed.
She opened her eyes to see Trevor standing before her, an impossibly wide smile splitting his face.
“Tag,” he said. “You’re it.”
She cursed softly as he turned and ran around the corner. She counted to fifty, then opened her mind to the moonlight, The familiar tugging and hunger washed over her like a tide.
Then she howled.
It was her turn to hunt.
Motif: The Moon
Setting: A labrynth
Sub-genre (and source of my difficulty): Paranormal romance