Deep in the heart of the forests of Montana, Amelia Brooks breathed in the crisp, late autumn air. Her hair was tangled in muddy knots, cheeks scratched from the foliage that grabbed at every square inch of vulnerable skin, and her palms were bleeding. Hours ago she had tried to dab at the blood with a once white tissue in hopes that the wounds would scab over soon. She didn't have any more medical knowledge than a fifth grader.
"Blast." Amelia hit the earth with a grunt, mistakingly outstretching her arms to catch herself, only to remember mid-fall that it was not the brightest of ideas. She looked back at her attacker; a knobbly-looking shadow.
"You're doing great, Amelia. Strike One, you get clawed at by freaks-of-nature pine trees. Strike Two, you skin your palms on one very sharp stone. And now, Strike Three, you trip over an inanimate piece of wood. Congratulations, you've won the Klutz of the Year award!" She mocked herself. Amelia grimaced as she lifted herself off the ground.
Once standing again, she switched on her flashlight and shined it on the---
"That's not a log... What the hell?"
Old spokes stuck up in the ground from a shattered wheel, and rotting boards were scattered across the forest floor all around her. It was a broke wagon, by the looks of it, from circa 1850. She cautiously snatched a pouch stranded near the center of the wreckage.
Rummaging through the draw-string purse, she found eight silver coins, a rusty dagger, and the remnants of a scorched newspaper headline and following paragraph.
" 'Myth Becomes Reality, by Romilda Dawson,' " Amelia read aloud. " 'Bizarre attacks have been recognized on lone venturers in the forests. A rampant, unidentified animal mauls child on the afternoon of Sunday. Investigators have reason to believe in alleged sightings of massive, many-tailed foxes. Sightings have been reported near the region of Black Pine Forest...' "
She trailed off. Suddenly, the voices of the night sounded much louder. Twigs snapped somewhere in the distance. Crickets chirped a dreary midnight song. An owl hooted. Her flashlight flickered once, twice, then died.
"Is there a Strike Four?"