The paths are littered with boulders, rocks and large, fallen branches. Some are blocking my way and moving them is difficult. I push and pull, tug and tear, all the while; aware I’m not alone.
I make my way up and over the many big rocks, each one cutting, bruising and scraping my skin. I shimmy under branch after branch; their leaf laden twigs, poking at my torso.
I am famished.
Gales gust through the forest and whip debris up into my face. My eyes sting with the biting force and my hands fumble at the clasped satchel strapped across my chest.
Seeking shelter behind a large trunk, I lift my meager loaf as red eyes stare out from the darkness above and paralyze me. Frozen from the cold moments before, I am now crippled with terror.
I regain my composure but realize it’s coming for me. Many more red reflections materialize in the woodland’s black backdrop and I understand the brute is not alone. The group starts to emerge from the deep and their mangy fur, glistening lips and cloth-like tongues draped over razor teeth become clear to me.
They are ravenous.
I look down, knowing the food I have will distract them, but not for more than a mere wisp of time.
I decide to run.
Holding my satchel to my chest, I bolt out into the lashing rain and flee the pack. I sail up and over rough terrain and dash past gigantic trees, their low-hanging branches narrowly missing my head. Brush slices at my cheeks but the blood is washed away by torrents pelting from the sky. The creatures snarl and snap at my heels, their teeth snag and shred the fabric of my clothes.
They are relentless.
Muscles scream and my body aches. I sense I’m reaching the end and fear the battle is lost. My journey has been long and my heart close to exploding as I climb what I believe will be my last crest. Weary, I grow, as I turn to face what will be my maker, but I see their lowered heads and tattered tails drifting back down the trail.
It’s then that I know – If I had fed them at the bottom, they would not have driven me to the top.