I race through the woods as the full moon lights a silvery path ahead. A chilly wind whips the maple tree branches into a frenzy, shaking the leaves. My head throbs, my breath rasps. “Oh no, oh no, oh no!”

“Ni-co-la, Ni-co-la. Why are you running?” The demons call out to me, their voices sucking the strength from my legs. “Don’t run, Nicola. Come to us.”

“Pl…please leave me alone!” Tears stream down my face as I beg for mercy.

But the demons don’t listen. My cries entice them further. They chase after me. To hunt me. To torment me. To devour me whole.

Dead twigs crackle beneath my bare feet, scratching the tender soles. The stench of decaying leaves invades my nostrils. Beads of cold sweat slide down my spine. No matter how much I run, the demons follow. They won’t let me exist, let alone live in peace.

They did unspeakable things to my mom. Things no one should ever experience. The look on her face the day the demons captured her haunts me, night and day. I should have realized I was their next target. No, I won’t let the same happen to me. At any cost.

The chirping of crickets resounds in my ears, competing with the hot blood pulsing through my head. Brushing the leaves from my bedraggled hair, I dart further into the heart of the woods. Nocturnal critters scurry into the scrubs as I approach. I trip over a protruding root. A thorn lodges in my palm. Ouch, that bloody hurt! But I can’t stop. Not now. The pain is nothing compared to what the demons will do to me. I must go on, whatever happens. Whatever it takes.

A cloud of bats spiral and whizz into the trees above. I stand, dust my knees, and drag my aching feet forward. Determination burns in my heart. My gaze lands on a creek in the distance. I limp towards it, urging my legs to move faster. Finally, I reach a dead log in the middle of the stream. Icy water bubbles over moss-covered stones, nature’s sounds audible in the dead of the night.

“Don’t be afraid. Don’t let the demons get you. You can do this,” I assure myself as I leave the log behind and cross to the opposite creek bank. Within minutes, I’m scrambling up.

Phew! Wiping the sweat off my face, I heave a deep sigh. I rub my clammy palms together, then press them to my eyes. I don’t hear the demons now. I have fled them, at long last. Or so I think.

“Ni-co-la, Ni-co-la. You can’t get away from us. Surrender! NOW!” An eerie chill creeping up the back of my head warns me, far too late, that the demons are approaching me once again. They are so close. Closer than ever.

There’s no escaping them now.

Fuck it! I can’t run anymore. These demons have been taunting me for far too long. So far, I’ve been hiding, hoping they would leave me alone.

This can’t continue. It’s time to end this. Once and for all.

I freeze in my tracks and steel my nerves to confront them. With short, quick breaths, I pull out Mom’s revolver from my pocket. Smooth, cold metal weighs heavy in my hand. Trembling, I cock the hammer, ready for the inevitable.

“Goodbye, inner demons,” I tell them as the barrel rests on my temple.

I smile for a final time before releasing the trigger.

No more running. Peace at last.