Even though it was a warm day, the water was icy as she waded across. A few feet from the far bank, she slipped on some moss covered rocks and stumbled forward onto the muddy incline, splashing up enough water to soak her clothes. She reached out her hand to keep from falling and ended up scraping her palm on an exposed tree root.
“Stupid dog,” she muttered.
Michelle tried to stand but slipped in the slimy mud, and her foot slid back into the water, twisting her ankle and becoming lodged between two large rocks. She struggled to free her foot without sliding off the rocks and tumbling into the water. Finally, she got loose by pulling her foot out of her shoe, then she reached into the water and worked the shoe loose from between the rocks. With shoe in hand, she crawled onto the far bank and clawed her way up until she reached dry dirt beyond the mud. There, on a fallen log, she collapsed.
While she caught her breath, she cursed Billy, his dog, the creek, the rocks, and her own stupidity.
Sometime during her floundering the barking stopped and Michelle lost her sense of direction. She could no longer tell from which way the barking had been coming. She was deeper in the forest than she had ever ventured, and she’d been so intent on following the stupid barking, she had neglected to keep track of which paths she had followed.
Her throat tightened and her mind raced. Her dad had warned her about hikers who get lost in the forest; “Sometimes they aren’t found for months after they’re dead.” He had meant to make her more cautious, but now it just added to her growing fear. No one knew she was in the forest. She didn’t have a cell phone. No food. Her parents wouldn’t know where to start looking for her, neither would the police. If she couldn’t find her way out...
“Calm down!” she ordered herself. Silencing her spasmodic thoughts, she forced herself to sit quietly and listen.
Overhead, the dry intertwined tree branches creaked and moaned in a light breeze. The water in the creek murmured softly as it flowed over the rocks and debris in its path. Insects buzzed. Birds flitted from tree to tree, moving a branch here, leaves there. Something skittered through the leaves on the forest floor, a mouse maybe. But no traffic or human sounds pointed her in the direction of home.
Her ankle hurt, her hand burned, and she ached all over.
“Just stop and think,” she told herself. “What do you do when you’re lost in the woods?” She examined the unfamiliar landscape. “If you can identify some landmark, or figure out how to get your bearings, then you’ll have some idea which way to go.”
Something heavy stalked through the underbrush just beyond a small rise. It was getting closer. Michelle dared not move. She thought, Don’t be an idiot, it’s probably someone who can help. But cold fear made her cautious. It was moving unhurried through the thick underbrush, and didn’t sound like it was coming toward her.
-- Excerpt from Revelation, Book 1 in the Almost Human series