By: Aaron E. Smith

He turned to flee, but another mastiff clamped its teeth into his face, driving Simeon’s head into the ground. Then the others fell upon him, tearing away at anything they could.

Simeon tried to rise, but the swarming pack held him down. He shimmied and squirmed to escape, but they held him tight. He rolled side to side and found a slight gap in the pack’s reaction. Quickly he yanked his arm in close. The dog that was clamped down on his hand came in close too. Simeon braced himself and rolled hard to the other side, forcing his hand deep into the hound’s throat. The dog gave a muffled yelp and let his hand go.

The pack eased its grip on him briefly then, long enough for him to launch himself down the hill.

At first the dogs held firm, but as Simeon’s tumbling descent gained momentum, most of them broke away and gave pursuit. Two of the mastiffs, however, bit down harder, anchoring their sharp fangs deep into his flesh. Together they fell, faster and faster, until one of the mastiffs took a large rock to the head and limply released its grip on him.

The last dog attached to him had been the one clamped onto his face. During their descent, however, the dark mastiff was forced to re-adjust its hold on him, gnashing down firmly into the meatier part of his shoulder. Simeon grabbed the dog’s throat and began crushing it. Face to face they tumbled, eyes locked upon each other as the world around spun out of control.

The two were still locked in a lethal embrace when a large rock at the bottom of the hill brought everything to a sudden halt.

Simeon crashed into the center of a large stone, sending an instant wave of numbness down the entire right side of his body. It took his breath away, leaving him stunned for a few moments. The dog was flung over the top, taking a good chunk of Simeon’s shoulder with it.

“Come deeper into the wood,” he heard.

Simeon turned his head but couldn’t see who spoke. He searched frantically for the mastiff as well, but could barely move his body. The other dogs were almost upon him again, with the men right behind. Simeon tried to move toward the wood, but could not.

With a gasp he said, “I cannot move... my legs...”

“You must crawl into the woods,” the voice lamented.

The voice was female, and sweet to the ear. He was overcome with desire, intense desire to please the beautiful voice. The voice continued speaking to him in soothing tones, but he knew not what it said. As he listened, the pain in his body subsided. His limbs regained their feeling, and his pain slowly faded away.

Something within him screamed caution, but there was no time left for it. He fell to his face and began crawling into the woods.

“Do you wish the safety of the woods?” the voice asked.

Simeon raised his head, looking for the speaker, but saw nothing save the towering trees of the dark forest. He did not reply but continued onward.

“Do you wish the safety of the woods?” it asked again.

The melodic sound came from just paces away, yet Simeon saw no one there. He was about to reply when the dark-colored mastiff fell upon him again, snapping and slobbering in his face.

Simeon rolled to his back and fended the dog off with his arms and hands. He tussled with it for only a few seconds until it managed to clamp down onto his left wrist, sending another jolt of pain through his broken body.

“Yes... bloody yes!” he screamed.

There was no reply.

Simeon wrestled frantically with the mastiff, waiting. As seconds passed... no one answered. He began to fear no reply would come at all. He stopped, stopped resisting the dog entirely. The mastiff’s eyes gleamed wildly as it thrashed Simeon’s arm to and fro, yellow teeth tearing deeper and deeper. He paused a moment then, took a full breath and did the only thing that made sense. Pulling the dog closer until it was forced to straddle his chest, he drove a powerful upper-cut between the dog’s rear legs. The dog let out a tortured yelp and staggered away awkwardly.

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