"Oh no! I'm lost!" my inner voice squeaked. Crushing the cry that threatened to surface in my throat, I picked my way through the bus terminal, carefully avoiding the others jostling for space. Making my way to an empty bench, I sat down with a sigh. My ebony hair veiled my face as a tear coursed down my cheek. I heard the stranger's approach and looked up at him with eyes bright with tears. "What's wrong Ma'am?" he asked. His handsome face full of concern. Wiping my eyes with my hand, embarrassed by the tears, I replied "I fell asleep and missed my stop. I was supposed to meet my Grandparents an hour ago and I'm miles from their town now and there isn't another bus going there until tomorrow." My voice breaking as I said the words. His brow furrowed, "Well, where do they live? I could bring you if you'd like." He gave a charmingly disarming smile. "Oh, no, I couldn't accept" I stammered, "It's much too far. I'll just try and reach them, I'm sure they will send someone to get me." I tried to smile, but the sadness in my eyes betrayed, it I knew. "I insist!" He said, taking my small hand in his. Even in his business suit, I could tell he was heavily muscled. "I wouldn't dream of leaving a helpless young lady here in this dreadful place." He took up my bag and led me out of the terminal. Seeing the worry registering on my face, he soothed my fears "Don't worry, I'll get you there in no time at all. Everything will be fine. You'll soon be with Grandma and Grandpa and have quite a tale to tell them over supper tonight!" He smiled again and patted my hand. I sighed in relief and followed him out to his car. He ushered me inside, chatted the entire while, asking about my family, school, friends, making me feel at ease. We took off on the long ride to my Grandparent's town. "I know a short-cut," he said with a wink, "we'll be there in no time at all." And with that he turned the car off of the highway and down a dark road. I said nothing as miles of trees passed my window, not a light shone in this dark stretch of country wilderness. He went on cheerfully talking about his collage days. Seconds lengthened to minuets and glancing at my watch I saw that an hour had passed. We should have been there by now. "How much longer?" I asked, my voice shaking slightly. I tried to calm the dread that had surfaced in my mind. "Relax!" He laughed excitedly, "We're almost there." The car started to slow down. Fear gnawed at my mind now, something was wrong, "He's stopping the car!" my mind screamed. My heart quickened in my chest, my pulse pounding in my ears. I tried to slow down my breathing, "Stay calm, stay calm," I chanted in my head. "Why are we stopping?" I stammered, my eyes wide, scared. He now stopped the car and took out the keys. Unbuckling his seat-belt and calmly turning to me, he whispered "Why do you think?" I screamed as he launched himself at me. Desperately scrabbling for my door handle, finally getting it open I fell out hard onto the hard-packed gravel road. Fear and anger flitted inside my head, moths vying for a flame. Laughing, he came after me "Do you really think you can get away from me little girl? Where do you think we are?" I quickly struggled to my feet, gravel embedded in my knees, my blue jeans ruined. Blood slowly seeped from a scrape on my right leg. "No!" I begged, "Please stop, leave me alone!" Fear gripped my heart tightly, while rage and hatred tried to engulf my soul. I dashed for the trees, hearing his laughter, his heavy footfalls getting closer. The forest swallowed me, wicked branches ripping at my hair. Seemingly trying to hold me for my attacker. Sobbing now, I fought my way through the tangle of brush. He was getting closer, still laughing, enjoying his little game, his hunt. "Oh, come on, " he laughed, " stop running, I was just playing around, I won't hurt you!" Glancing back to check the distance between us, I tripped on a rotting log, falling forward into the putrid mud. "No!" My mind shrieked, but he was upon me in a flash. Grabbing a great fistful of my long hair, he cruelly yanked me upward, pressing his face against my cheek and whispered "Now, we'll see how you can scream." and he threw me back down to the ground. Tears coursed down my face, carving rivers in the mud caked to my cheek. He ripped what was left of my clothing from my battered body. Straddling my chest he slapped me hard across the face, my tears stopped flowing, my eyes wide with shock. Fear and rage fought for control, each seeming to have equal hold now, ripping at my mind and heart. "Scream," he ordered, "I want you to scream your pretty little lungs out." I remained silent, staring at him with eyes that hatred longed to fill. I tried to calm myself, "Please, " I said softly, still trying to calm my myself "just let me go. Leave me here, I'll find my way back to the highway. I won't tell anyone what happened." Another hard slap, my lip split and a trickle of blood broke free. "I said scream!!" he growled at me, "You bitch, before I'm done with you, you'll scream so loud that your lungs will burst!" Again, I just stared, blood dripping from my chin onto my naked throat, a sad smile slowly surfacing on my lips. He glared at me, a flicker of uncertainty flashing across his eyes. Grunting, he fastened his hands around my throat trying to choke the life from me. Sinking his thumbs, pressing on my airway, his face a contortion of insanity. Fear relinquished it's hold. Rage and hatred roared triumphantly. I twisted in my skin, his hands flew from me, his face revolted. I threw him off, and heard the satisfying crunch of bones breaking as he hit a tree. I slowly sloughed off the skin, sighing at the feeling of freedom, the moonlight making my scales glisten. Rage coaxing, a loving parent watching it's offspring taking tentative steps. He was watching my change, his face a mask of horror, he babbled incoherent words that didn't matter anymore. One of his legs bent at an unnatural angle. With my forked tongue, I sniffed the air. It was thick with his fear now. He was now screaming, trying to crawl away, clawing at the mud which sucked at his hands hungrily. My bones finished knitting to their natural configuration, my tail whipping impatiently. I slowly made my way after him, enjoying my true form, feeling the muscles knot and move under my tight hide. I reached him with little trouble and flipped him over with one swipe of my clawed hand. He cried nonsense into my reptilian face as I looked him over, now with my true eyes, seeing him for the weak, terrified prey that he was. His hands harmlessly thumped at my chest, his cries going unheard as I sank my claws into the tender flesh of his throat and neatly pulled it clean of his body, the blood spurted in quick jets that I eagerly lapped up. His eyes, clouded and lifeless, stared as I fed on his twitching body. The only sounds now, the ripping of muscle away from bone, the contented sighs as I savored the meat, the leaves whispering as the wind caressed them. Rage and hatred looked on, loving parents watching their child. The next morning an old man went out onto his porch and there curled up, it's head resting on a scaled and clawed hand, a look of blissful contentment on it's face, was what for all the world looked like a dragon. He stood staring in silence and his wife shuffled out after him, coffee mugs in hand. "Oh dear, look" She quipped, her voice full of love, "she made it all by herself. You see! I told you that girl was growing up!" "Yes, darling," the old man said smiling, knowing better than to disagree.
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