The humans seemed to close in on them, surrounding the woods. Lazarus swore as he saw a flashlight searching the ground, preceding a human hunting the beast that broke out of the prison. He looked up at the trees that provided their weak protection.
‘Only one way out. Up.’ He muttered quietly to Melissa. Her hair brushed his cheek as she turned her head too quickly to look at him, horrified.
‘There must be another way...?’ she whispered back.
‘Quit dithering and climb,’ Lazarus replied, attempting to keep his temper under control as he hauled his aching body into a tree. He had forgotten just how painful the transformation was, and rediscovering in his sober state had not put him in the best of moods. Why do trees have to drop all their leaves in the winter? It’s so inconvenient! Lazarus seethed as he climbed, the branches scratching against his tender skin, the boughs providing a flimsy cover. They’d better not look up, he gritted his teeth as he pulled himself onto a branch that looked like it was the last in the tree that would hold his weight. He just hoped it was high enough.
Across for him, Melissa stopped at his level in another tree, facing him.
‘We need to go higher!’ she whispered, her soft murmur carrying on the gentle breeze. His senses were still over sensitive from the transformation, and he heard the whisper as clearly as if she had talked normally.
‘I can’t.’ He muttered back, glancing at the bough above him, too thin to hold him. Melissa grimaced and looked down at the ground. There was a human moving into sight, their flashlight swinging around almost aimlessly. They hadn’t found him yet, but they were persistent. He was a murderer, a creature they didn’t understand. And he was loose. He had to be found. Melissa caught Lazarus’ eye and put a slender finger to her lips. As if he needed telling. He clung to the trunk of the tree as vertigo clawed at him. Crap, crap, crap, crap.
The human moved on, followed by a few more, each with a torch, a light that searched the ground, as if he were incapable of climbing a tree. The human bringing up the rear had a dog. The dog was fervently sniffing around, growling and snarling like a beast affected by the moon. Lazarus’ eyes widened and bit his lip as the dog looked up from the ground, trying to find the trail of his scent. His frightened eyes flicked to Melissa, who was glaring at the dog’s human. Adrenaline flooded his body as her gaze moved to him and she mouthed something at him.
‘Move!’ she hissed quietly. All he heard was the pounding of his blood in his ears, muffling the dg’s barks. But her gesture was clear enough. Terrified, he shook his head, wondering if she was crazier than he had first thought. Jump from tree to tree? He was a werewolf, not an ape or a character in a video game! Melissa frowned at the expression on Lazarus’ face. She could faintly hear his racing heartbeat, even from her distance. The dog’s bark seemed to grow louder and the human was dragged over to the base of his tree as the creature began to jump up, scraping the tree’s bark with its blunt claws. Lazarus felt his heart skip as the human yelled something. Fuelled by the adrenaline in his blood stream he faced the tree to his right with a petrified determination.
He threw himself from the tree, landing noisily on the other tree with a whimper. He hugged the trunk of the tree tightly, his eyes closed. He let out a breath of quiet relief that he hadn’t fallen to certain capture and broken bones. The human shouted again, flicking his torch light up into the trees, missing Lazarus by inches. He looked back over for Melissa, but she was gone. He heard the rustle of material as she landed in the tree next to him, balancing on the branch with ease, facing Lazarus.
‘Keep going,’ she urged him on, leaping into his tree. ‘Please, I can’t lose you to them.’ She kissed him gently on his unshaven cheek and placed a gentle hand on his trembling shoulder. He felt sick to the core.
‘I have never felt so terrified in my life. My first transformation has nothing on how I feel right now,’ he hissed, his pale eyes echoing his words.
‘It’s okay, we’ll be okay.’ She murmured, not believing her own words. A small idea formed in her mind and she brought her lips crashing into Lazarus’, taking him by surprise. ‘I promise.’ She tugged at the material of his shirt. ‘Give me your shirt,’ she said.
‘What?’ Lazarus asked, incredulous.
‘I’ll take your scent and lead them astray. Please get out of these woods quickly; I don’t know how long it will work.’ She pleaded with her eyes and uncertainly, Lazarus unbuttoned his shirt with shaking hands, passing it to her swiftly. She pecked his cheek one last time and noisily crashed off into another tree. Please be safe. Lazarus closed his eyes against the mixture of vertigo and tears. The humans followed the noises that Melissa made above them, stupidly falling for her trick. He swore inwardly, hating himself for putting her in that position. Got to move, or it’s a waste anyway... he looked dubiously at the tree opposite him. He had no idea where Melissa was going, or how he would find her again. He shook his head and did his best to follow her, running parallel to her path, driven by instinct. I won’t leave you. I’m not going to leave you.