The Hunter, Hunted
by Holley Cornetto
Leaves crunched beneath me as I rolled onto my side. I squinted against the sun’s harsh rays. My vision focused, revealing dense forest all around me.
Why am I outside?
I tried to remember last night, but the throbbing ache of my head left no room for thought. I felt heavy and sluggish, like my mind couldn’t process my surroundings.
In the distance, I heard feminine laughter echo through the trees.
The party. I was at a party for some sorority… Sigma something. Shit.
The laughter was joined by splashing and giggles.
There was a girl. With her mahogany hair and moss-green eyes, she stood out from the others. A real hottie, and I had a roofie in my pocket. I’d brought her a drink. Then what…? I must have left the party with her. If I can find her, maybe she can tell me where I am, or what happened last night.
I pushed off the ground and brushed the detritus from my clothes. My head spun. I wandered toward the laughter, steadying myself against the large oaks. The only sounds in the forest were those of laughter and splashing. Otherwise, the wood was unnaturally quiet.
The sound of rushing water intensified as I emerged from the copse of trees and saw her standing in a trickling pool, complete with a waterfall. Her skirt clung tightly to her waist, accentuating the curve of her hips. She was topless, wearing a necklace of feathers and bone that hung low between her breasts. There were two other women with her, no doubt the source of the giggling. My breath caught in my throat. It looked like a scene straight out of my dreams.
I slipped the pill into her drink. She smiled and took it without even blinking. I was waiting for her to feel the effects. She nursed her drink, but I could be patient. “What’s your name?” I’d asked.
She turned and smiled. “He’s awake.” She looked like a forest queen, as if she ruled this place.
The two women standing on either side of her emerged from the pool to stand beside me. Rivulets of water ran down their skin. I looked back toward the pool as Diana emerged, carrying a large antlered skull.
“You hunters are all the same.” Her voice was musical.
“Your prey of choice has changed over the years, but little else.”
“I don’t understand,” I stammered.
“Oh, but I think you do.” She nodded to the women flanking me. They grabbed my arms and held them at my side.
“Hey, look… I wasn’t going to hurt you. I just wanted to have a good time, you know?”
“A good time, indeed.” She raised the giant skull and pulled it onto my head like a grotesque helmet.
I felt their hands fall away, and I tugged at the antlers, frantically trying to free myself. My ears rang with harsh laughter.
Diana traced a finger down the side of the mask, smiling sweetly in a way that made my flesh crawl. Without warning, she drove her knee into my stomach. I doubled over, sucking wind to the sound of more laughter.
I tugged again at the stag skull, but it stuck fast. Tingling panic coursed through my nerves. Did she know what I'd done? But how?
She brought me a beer. She’d handed it to me and smiled. She hadn’t refilled my cup; she’d brought a new one. It must’ve been hers. The one with the roofie.
“Predator becomes prey,” she taunted in her sharp-edged voice. “Once the hunter, now the hunted.”
I couldn’t stop the sob that exploded from my throat. “I’m sorry, okay? I learned my lesson. Girl power and all that. You’re right. I screwed up.” I tugged at the skull again. “Can you get this off me?” I tried to breathe deeply, to calm my nerves. They wanted to scare me. A little revenge, that was all. To let me know how it felt. Then, surely, they’d let me go.
I heard the faint sound of hounds howling on the wind. I watched through those empty eye sockets as she lifted a bow from the tall grass and nocked an arrow. Her words cut through me like ice.
“You’d better run.”