Dash woke as he always did. Fast. He jumped up into a fighting stance, but he was in no danger. He was alone in a rickety shack. Dash grabbed a staff, probably left by the last traveler, and relaxed a little, maybe this time it would be different. Then he saw a claw underneath a hastily carved word on the wall. It said, “RUN!” That was sound advice for any traveler.

The sound of claws tapping on the ground got his attention. Dash looked out the window and sighed. This place had bugs. Seventy-five pound bugs moving straight for the shack he was standing in. The claw in the shack was part of a pincher on the bug’s front claws.

Easing out of the back window, Dash moved with speed and silence toward the woods, keeping low to escape detection. The bugs had antenna that resembled heat sensors. As a student, Dash hadn’t paid much attention to biology. Three years as a traveler and things he ignored in class he had learned the hard way. Failure to quickly identify and understand creatures meant death for any traveler.

Once in the woods, Dash checked plants and ate what he could as he stayed in motion. It was the only way to stay alive. Dash hoped to find water or at least a plant he could squeeze liquid out of. Thirst was always a problem.

Dash could hear the bugs closing in, so he picked up the pace. Jogging through the forest did nothing to improve his thirst, as the bugs nipped at his heels. Dash topped a hill and saw a welcome sight, a river. It looked wide enough to be a bug barrier. He crossed the river that was chest height at its deepest. Once on the other side, he took the time to quench his thirst and watch the bugs. They stabbed the ground at the bank but stopped short of the water.

When Dash was sure the bugs wouldn’t cross, he looked around. There was no safe place. He was sure something was watching him from this side of the river, but he saw nothing as he scanned the underbrush. Dash looked up in the trees and saw more than one set of eyes watching him.

They looked like ravens, large enough to eat the bugs on the other side of the river. Dash hugged the bank of the river and walked away. Running seemed like a bad idea. Hoping his clothes dried before the sunset, he hiked. The mega-ravens followed his walk into the setting sun as dusk settled over the land. The ravens flew from tree to tree, but did not approach. Perhaps they were carrion feeders, waiting for him to die. When the flock took to the sky and flew away, Dash stopped, and listened. Whatever spooked the birds was… five feet away.

Dash didn’t move. The creature roared and beat its chest. Dash had never seen a bigfoot, yeti, or whatever the heck it was. There was only one thing he knew. It was time to run. Dash ran for all he was worth. It was full on dark before he realized nothing followed him. Dash stopped at an overlook, exhausted. This was the worst place to fall asleep. Not a bit of shelter, but he was tired. Dash used the staff to carve two words into the ground before he fell asleep.

Chase woke up fast. A beautiful sunrise greeted him, on a very exposed cliff. When he grabbed the staff, he saw words carved into the dirt.

“Sorry. Run.” He didn’t know what to make of the word sorry, but run was sound advice for any traveler.

With the staff in his hand, Chase took off at a fast run. Maybe he would find water and food.

More Flash Fiction by N. R. Tucker.