Lethean Shroud

Grassy tendrils wound around Rayanna’s limbs and snagged at the cuffs binding her wrists. She commando-crawled, staying low to clear the overturned squadcar’s hood. Her forearms and calves sank into the silty muck and rancid ditchwater sloshed at her shoulders. Weeds swatted her face. She spat a gritty, foul sploosh from her lips.

Just a few feet …

Once out of the cruiser’s shadow, she struggled to stand. Mud swallowed her feet up to her ankles. Something slithered against her leg. She recoiled with a shriek and hustled her slosh from the ditch. Slime and sour water sprayed at her chin. She threw herself into the high weeds lining the ditch and scrambled up the bank. She squished onward and crashed through a prickly line of brush. Twigs scraped at her arms and face. She stumbled free on the other side.

A strange, gastral noise sounded from the ditch. She peeled branches aside and glanced back at the vehicle’s carcass. With wheels helplessly raised, the car lay on its back and settled deeper into the earth. Stagnant ooze now seeped over the grisly spatter of blood and tissue hidden within. The ditchwater couldn’t rise enough to bury the officer’s lingering hand. Still wedged against the seat. Fingers locked around the radio. His call for help literally cut off. The rest of his body dragged into the darkness. Moonlight cast a spectral glow on the mist curling around the scene of his death.

They’ll come looking for him soon. I can’t be found in range of the patrol car.

Rayanna released the branches to obscure the view of the road. She turned and squinted into the dense forest.  Fog slinked around tree bases and licked at the edges of a narrow, mossy footpath. Occasional shafts of moonlight broke through the canopy to offer dim glints along the trail. She ventured a few steps into the woods and paused. Cast furtive glances into the wild tangles hemming her in on either side. The officer’s body could lay out there–if anything remained of him.

Whether a snake had grazed her in the ditch no longer fazed her. No, a more sinister predator might lurk in the thick shadows ahead of her.

She drew in a stuttering breath. The moments leading to the accident flashed into her mind–the inky, bristling creature bounded toward the patrol car. As if targeting us.

She swallowed hard, a bitter taste streaking through her gummed mouth. So the roadway isn’t safe from humans or… whatever skulks these parts. With shaky steps, she ventured into the eerie woodlands. Though she couldn’t remember who she was or what she’d done, she felt certain she’d have avoided such a place under any other circumstances. But now, it seemed she had no other choice.

 

***TO BE CONTINUED***

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