Escaping in FlamesMature

How could an innocent exploration turn into a waking nightmare? If what he said was true, even though it was so incredulous, the townspeople had lied to me and sent me to my death. They’d sacrificed me, and I didn’t know how many others. Was that the deal? In exchange for money from the prosperous Ravens, and safety from him, they traded tourists and travellers?

My entrails seemed to twist sickeningly. I wouldn’t get out alive. I had to run for my life.

Without thinking first, I bolted. The room was circular, there was nowhere to dodge. He was within five metres of me whichever way I went.

I closed my eyes, not wanting to see as I heard an inhuman snarl. But I couldn’t help myself. I turned to look, fumbling for the switchblade in my pocket that I had never thought I might need. I pressed down on the handle so that the blade sprang up from it. It was all I had to protect me from the nightmarish werewolf leaning back, preparing to spring, launch itself on me and tear me to bloody pieces.

I threw myself aside as the monster leapt, using my momentum to carry me across the room towards the window. The werewolf snarled, saliva frothing from its glistening fangs, the yellow eyes even brighter with animal rage and hunger, as it brought its paws up to bound from the wall back towards me. Its hulking hairy body sent the candelabra clattering to the floor, and in an instant the heap of dry silk I had torn down was alight. I crouched again as the wolf hit the floor and snarled again, a prowling guttural sound that had my heart beating in my chest so frantically I was sure the beast could hear it. There was nowhere to hide in this tin can of a room; the flames had already spread across the floor to the next pile of dusty hangings, and in a second the doorway would be cut off, and between it and myself was the werewolf.

The window was closer.

I broke from the meagre cover of the puffy velvet armchair and darted for the shattered windows. The wolf leapt without hesitation - it would be on me before I could clamber out. I looked back over my shoulder and released the small dagger-like blade from my hand; it sailed through the air. I didn’t stop to watch the path of its flight towards the monster as I grappled with the buckling wooden window frames, ignoring the pain from the remaining glass biting into my palms as I swung myself through and out onto the roof. Tiles slipped beneath my feet, shattering on the ground which seemed much too far below me, as an agonised howl ripped through the air and the wolf smashed into the window. It was too large to fit through; it howled and snapped as I clung desperately to a drainpipe to the right of the window gap. The knife had buried itself up to the handle between the creature’s ribs. I could smell its repulsive scent of blood and sweat and rotten meat from where I balanced precariously against the tower’s wall. I could smell the fire as well; the smoke was beginning to creep out of the window in dark tendrils. There was silence for a few seconds; I was frozen to the wall, unwilling to let go. Then a hand shot out and groped the wall beside my leg.

“I’m coming, girl,” Alexander Raven hissed. I could hear the blood bubbling through his lips and nose, gargling in his throat. The knife had pierced his lung. The hand scrabbled more violently, searching for my ankles to pull me down.

I clamped my lips together to stop myself screaming, shuffling back as quietly as I could manage while retaining my grip on the drainpipe. I had to get off this roof.

I made the choice to let go just as he reached his torso out through the window, his evil eyes glinted with triumph as he snatched for me. I shoved his arms away, losing my balance. Loose tiles skittered under my feet as I fell backwards. Before I hit the roof with my head and shoulders and had the breath knocked out of me, I saw Raven fall back as a result of my shoving. I slithered head-first on my back down the slope of the roof as the flames reached the oil lamp on the table. If there had been any glass in the windows, it would have blown out as the tower exploded in fire. It billowed from the windows like jets from a dragon as I reached the edge of the roof and slipped over like a rag doll. I seemed to hang in space for an infinitesimal moment before I was falling. The glow of fire lit the sky, the moon obscured by the clouds of smoke now pouring from the tower. I lay there, winded, slashed by the brambles I had fallen into, bruised and battered and numb, repressing the swell of pain and emotions threatening to envelope me - fear, panic, relief, horror, disgust, anger. I could hear glass popping elsewhere in the house and realised the fire must have consumed the stairs and was taking over the rest of the house.

When I finally dragged myself to my feet I could barely stagger through the eerie, warped, twilit gardens. When I pushed my way out of the overgrowth into open fields, I really began to run. I forced myself on relentlessly, unable to forget the sinister yellow eyes that kept appearing in my thoughts. Every time I looked back over my shoulder, the orange tongues of flame that had destroyed the tower were lighting up the sky like fireworks.

The End

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