The Prey

By Erin Pflaumer

The valley looked grim, with blood and bodies smeared everywhere. The wandering traveler was horrified
upon reaching the entrance. The people in the last town he was in told him that the valley would be the least
of his worries; that he would see lush, green fields, multi-colored fruit trees with a juicy, flavorful variety to pick from, and the tall mountains with crisp, shimmery snow at its peak. This was not what the traveler had imagined, and he even thought of turning back. He decided to continue on, since he didn’t know another way to get to the next town. Before taking his first step, the wandering traveler had seen a black crow with strange, white tribal markings, circling the air and cawing at all who dare to approach. This scared him, but the traveler began to make his first steps into this now desolate graveyard. The traveler couldn’t help but notice the bodies underneath him; one soldier missing his arm, which looked as if it was ripped off by some untameable creature, another with his entire chest blown out and his ribs exposed. The traveler had a tendency to look back at the entrance of the valley; where he saw a beautiful sky full of stars. But the further he walked, he realized that the weather has changed from a clear, starry sky to a dark, cloudy sky. The traveler could feel his bones tensing up from the cold, and didn’t know whether he can make it through this battleground tonight. He was already halfway through, so yet again he chose to advance, hopefully making it to the exit before the sun rises. Shortly after, he began to hear strange noises, a snarling of some sort. The snarling continued on, until the traveler is so panicked he resolved to hid underneath one of the bodies until the noises stop. At this point, the traveler is shaking in fear of not only the noise, but for having to hide under the only cover available - a dismembered body. The snarling gets closer and closer, until the traveler can finally see what was making that noise. A black wolf with similar markings the crow had was seen by the traveler to be investigating the bodies. It seemed as if he was looking for something. ‘That thing is going to snack on me if I don’t think quickly,’ the traveler thought to himself. The wolf began to walk towards the traveler, who at this point decides to hid his head in his tattered and now blood smeared white blouse and began to quietly pray to the gods that this thing, whatever it was, wouldn’t kill him that night. Without the traveler noticing, the wolf finally approached the body he has been hiding under and starts growling. The traveler had only two options - to run or to fight against it. He decided that it would be best to run, and waited for the best moment to make a move. The wolf began to back away, preparing to pounce on his prey, and the traveler saw his chance - he threw the body towards the wolf as a distraction and starts to run. The traveler had never ran this fast, using his fear as fuel. The wolf only stared at the traveler, with a slightly confused look on it’s face. ‘Why didn’t my hallucinations work... they usually always work... am I losing my power? The only way he would be able to do that is if he’s a...’ the wolf thought to himself. The traveler made it to the end of the valley, where he can see the sun began to rise in all its’ glory. The traveler kneeled down, thanking the gods and kissing the ground of the exit. Before progressing on his journey, the traveler decided to look back at the valley, only to see that there were no dead bodies. He could only see the wolf standing near the entrance, its’ eyes glowing a bright yellow. He agreed with himself that he would not think about what he thought he saw, and goes about his journey. The wolf saw the traveler turn away from the valley, and decides that he should stop messing with his food’s brains.