She gasped, wheezing, panting; she couldn’t catch her breath, she had to keep running, she had to keep fleeing, no matter how the branches clawed at her face or how the brambles tore at her dress, she had to keep racing, she had to keep moving. Even as the darkness blinded her, even as the wind whipped at her skin, even as the cold blackened her fingers and her toes, she had to keep going, she just had to, for nothing that harmed her out here could ever match the horror chasing her, in hot pursuit, so close behind that she could feel its breath from a rot-coated throat.
She had to keep running, she couldn’t stop for even an instant; she felt as if she were trying to force herself through water, as if any slip, any slackening in pace, would mean death; and worse than death.
She didn’t want this. She had to run. There was nowhere to run to, but she had to keep running. She could feel her feet crumbling even as the forest stretched further ahead. She could feel it lapping at her ankles, taking bites, chunks, with every lick the skin peeling away as burnt paper even as she ran. She could feel her legs flaking away, replaced by teeth, brilliant teeth, chewing, gnashing, an endless maw of fangs within throats within bubbling stomachs that could eat and eat and eat forever. She didn’t want this. She had to get away. She didn’t want to look at where she was being swallowed.
She could feel its bristling hairs piercing into her skin, its momentum, its claws digging into her shoulders as her spine evaporated, as her lungs were tossed and braised, as her intestines were fried and masticated until they were gum in its mouth. She screamed, and screamed, and screamed as she clawed, as the earth melted away, the grass ripping through her, chewing her, as she sunk into the dirt, into the dirt so white, covered with millions of teeth, that ate the entire world; sinking into the pit with the whole forest as if it were a blanket tumbling after her, a safety blanket, the real world, trying to protect her against this horrid thing.
But there was no protection from this. There was nothing protecting her from sliding down its silky throat and being carved and battered by stones and rocks and glass and fangs. Nothing protecting her and her blanket from being melted away in the acid, as her consciousness remained whilst there was nothing left of her, her blood and bile and bones dripping and fusing and bubbling away as she saw the gnawed faces of those before her.
There was no protection from this slippery descent past the acid, past the bile, further and further past her own skin that had so long ago sloughed off, past everything until she was digested, assimilated, integrated, until her eyes were the eyes of the thing and her teeth ground up her own body as it lapped at her ankles watched herself crumble away.
She was gone, eaten, devoured, until there was nothing left, as she was forced to watch, to feel, to see the whole world stripped away down that silk-maggot throat, until there was nothing left but the void. Until the void itself was swallowed by the maw. And the maw curled back inside the hunger. And the hunger was snapped shut, and lapped up, and swallowed whole, skull and all, until nothing was left but the Wolf.
She gasped. Awake in the dark, with only the full moon illuminating the interior of her bedroom. It was unfamiliar at first; quiet and cold in her massive bed. She pulled the blankets up around her meager frame and clutched at anything soft. Anything real. Like her blanket.
But it was all real. This was her house, these were her wooden floorboards, this quiet was her quiet, the moonlight cascading through the glass belonged to her; and this cold, oversized bed was hers too. Hers and her husband’s. They shared it. This house belonged to him too. This quiet, this moonlight, this ache of the floorboards as she got out of bed. The dim light of the candle she lit. The darkness it repelled. All of it belonged to him too.
She paced over the floor, toward the large dresser and opened it, rifling through the many, many, too many oversized coats and trousers and hats and buttons and shirts all the way back to retrieve her small nightgown. Lace and frilly and feminine; it was soft, and she needed soft more than she needed to breathe.
She put it on and picked up the small candle once more, and turned toward the door; but never quickly, for fear of the candle flame sputtering out (and being lost once more in the dark, with the trees scratching her face and-) “Stop that” she thought, and lightly tapped her own face. To slap herself free of such thoughts and NOT to check for scratches, she lied. It was just a dream, after-all. Just a horrible nightmare.