The Red Deer
The branches grabbed at Riley's torn clothes. Her breathing was heavy as she dodged the obstacles in the woods. She heard the branches being torn behind her. Dare she look back? No, the voice in her head warned. So she kept running ducking branches and leaping rocks until the sun dipped into the trees.
The sounds behind her slowly quieted. Feeling safe to stop, Riley leaned against a red spruce tree. Her lungs were tight as they burned for oxygen. Her eyes were teary as she examined her scratches and bruises. A red drop from her forehead fell into her eye. Wiping it away she realized that a branch that snapped her face halfway through the run left a reminder above her eye.
Her navy t-shirt was already torn badly, so she ripped a piece from the bottom and pressed it against her wound. Her brunette hair was frizzy and sticking to her neck from the sweat. She looked back to see if her attackers had taken advantage of her rest. Not seeing them, she took this as a sign that they had not caught up or given up.
Still she would not rest until she found safety. Riley veered left and walk straight for about a mile until turning left heading back to the highway. Hopefully her beat up blue Mustang was still waiting for her at the highway.
The hike back was slower. Her nerves were still at their high for every sound the woods made she would respond with a jump and squeak. Stay quiet and stay aware, the voice reminded her in her head. How funny that the voice makes it grand appearance when she most desperately needed it.
About an hour into the hike back to the highway, Riley started feel more calm and relaxed. She was not aware of the squirrels running up into the high Carolina Hemlock or the brown mourning doves flying frantically out of a near by Fraser Fir. Her face was caked with mud, tears, and blood and her muscles were burning from all the running and walking.
Riley admitted to herself that she was tired. Along the way, she heard the bubbling of a creek. Venturing off from her path, she found the water flowing down the mountain. Slowly kneeling down she cupped the water bringing to her face. She took a hesitant sip as the water flowed down her dry throat. She then washed her face and the ripped part of her shirt she had been using as a bandage.
She sat on a large boulder by the stream adjusting her impromptu bandage not noticing the slow silence of the local fauna and insects.
It was then that snapping branch made her jump from the rock. She scanned the tree line looking for the cause. The sun was already so far down that it provided little light to see. Riley realized that it will only be seconds until it was dark. Brushing her hands through her knotty hair, she continued her hike to the highway. It shouldn't be too far by now, the voice in her head said consoling her.
Once back in the trees was when Riley was assaulted. Two strong arms grabbed her by the waist preventing her from running away. A man in his thirties walked out from his hiding spot in the trees holding a rope. It was the same man that she refused to dance with at the bar, after all she was working. He tied the rope around both her wrists and securing it with a complicated knot. His hands slid slowly down her body never taking his eyes off her face. He tried to tie her legs together, but she kicked him straight in the nose.
Blood gushed out of the broken nose of the man. He cursed touching his nose. His bloody hand grabbed her face, "Do not do that again." She looked him square in the eye. "Or what?" she spat with a snarky smile on her face. The man gave her a knowing look at the man restraining her. For all her squirming, the arms only grew tighter. They were so tight that it was hard to take in much air.
The old man, at least to old to this twenty-three year old bartender, walked up close to her. She could smell the three bottles of Coors she served him on his breath. He was touching in her places that no one has ever touched her before. She gave a surprise gasp gaining a smile from her attacker. "Like this huh?" he said putting his hand up her ripped shirt grasping one of her breasts. Rubbing it he got closer whispering in her ear, "Imagine what it would be like with no clothes."
Suddenly she was thrown to the ground. Her head hit something hard. Most likely another rock, she internally groaned to the silent voice. Riley now got a good look at her human bondage. He was a younger man, maybe in his mid-twenties. He had dirty blonde hair and bright blue eyes. If Riley was at the bar, she would consider giving him a free drink on the house, but she wasn't even inside a building. She was in the middle of nowhere being harassed by a pervert.
Riley then knew how she could escape. "Why hello there handsome. I wouldn't mind your arms around me again," she said thrusting herself into a sitting position showing off her chest to the younger man. His eyes glinted looking at her, but they remained sad. The older man gave the younger man a warning look.
"Leave us, Amare," the older man spat. The young man gave a last look at Riley on the ground leaving to the older man's scowl.
The older man knelt down by Riley pushing her back down. "Your tricks won't work beautiful. You will be mine tonight and when I am done with you," he said trapping her legs with his. "You will be begging for more." Unbuckled his pants pulling them down to his knees. Riley then realized that he was serious and began fighting his efforts, but he was stronger.
He unbuttoned her jeans pulling them down exposing her lingerie. His hand traveling up her skin. "You, my dear, are ravishing," he said as his hands slipped under her panties. Riley closed her eyes praying for help when suddenly the weight of the old man was no longer on her. She opened her eyes to see him laying next to her in pain. Turning to her opposite side stood a red deer. Never in her life has she seen such a beautiful creature. It trodded over to the man looking down on him. He pulled his pants up running away with blood crusted to his nose and fresh blood staining in his shirt.
Riley pulled herself up struggling to pull her pants up. The deer nudged her to keep going. She turned petting the deer's head. "Thank you," she whispered giving it a small peck on the head.
She walked for another half mile stepping out of the woods near the highway. Her car was a mile to her left, but she was so full of relief that she fell to the ground in tears thanking the red deer, but most of all God who sent her savior.
When she got to the car, she used her pocketknife that she kept in the glove compartment to cut the robes. If only she remembered it before running out of the car. Riley started the car and entered the highway driving far away from her attackers never forgetting the red deer.
Inspiration and a Look into the Writing Process
This story, unlike my other stories, was inspired by the patron saint Catherine of Vadstena, the patron saint of abortion and miscarriage. So how does this relate to the story? Well reading her history, Catherine like Riley was saved by a hind (female red deer) when she was being attacked by youths trying to rape her.
I really liked the story and gave it a modern twist, as well as the unbelievable. Red deer are not indigenous in America, so how was there one in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina?
I wanted the red deer to be St. Catherine of Vadstena, as well as the guiding voice in Riley's head. These two were never present at the same time.
Riley: this name was chosen because it means 'courageous.' She did not let the old man force himself on her. She fought back accepting the consequences.
Amare: This name means 'handsome.' I was thinking about writing a spin off about his story and why he is so sad and how he ended up in the woods with 'the man.'
The Man: I purposely left him nameless in the fact that his actions spoke more than a name. The man represented evil in this world trying to dull out the shining people, like Riley.
Location: I went waterfalling with my sister today. While I was driving, I was thinking how tragic would it be if someone went into the woods alone. They would most likely never be found, so I knew I wanted someone in trouble in the woods in North Carolina.
The fauna and flora are all indigenous to the area. The names were found through research, but recognized in the pictures. I am not a biologist in anyway.