Darkness swallowed her a few mere steps off the path’s edge. Near blindness crippled her gait to a stumbling run through varied shades of black. Brambles clawed at Rayanna’s face and sleeves as she plunged deeper into the forest’s matted hide. She raised her linked forearms to shield her face.
Straining her ears, she hurtled herself toward the stream’s faint whisper. The rushing sound grew to a deafening shout. She broke through a tangle of branches and stomped into frigid water. Rayanna drew in a sharp breath and retreated to the narrow bank.
Overhead clouds parted to allow a splash of moonlight to dance along the swift current’s surface. A large, flat rock stretched over the stream’s neck and bathed in the silver rays. Rayanna picked her steps across the molar-like stones lining the stream. She reached the ledge and set the keyring down just as the moon re-veiled its face.
Her cuffs scraped across the slate as she prostrated herself and peered over the rock’s edge. Organic hints of fish and tannis laced the fresh water’s scent. Reaching down from the perch, she scooped handfuls of water and splashed its chills over her face. The cool shock tingled over her cheeks and flaked away layers of grime.
And blood. She squinted through the darkness at the outline of her palms. Rivulets tickled teasingly down her gritty neck. She lifted her head, listening for another rustle or howl in the forest’s belly. But the stream’s rushing flooded her ears and beckoned her. To remove her boots. To slide her feet into its crisp grasp. To slip over the edge of her rock. And rinse away the evidence of the last few hours.
Before she knew it, Rayanna immersed her body in the stream’s brisk flow. She laid back and let it sweep through her hair. Closed her eyes as cold water brushed away ditch slime and spattered blood. Two accidents. Both printed with the marks of a killer. This comprised all her memory. The hard line of her lips relaxed as its remnants washed downstream and vanished.
*** TO BE CONTINUED ***