Her scrabbling ascent sent small bits of hillside tumbling back the way she’d come. They would not come for her until morning, but she pushed her trembling legs all the same. She had the night and only the night before they’d brave the hills. Below the foothills and down the unlit road the town buzzed like her father’s hives.
The thick hill grass blended into the black sky, like the ground leaked upward into the open. She wrapped the night air around her like a cloak, taking comfort in the cold numb that spread over her bare skin. They wouldn’t be able to find her, tucked away deep in the dark.
Now far below her and down the unlit road, the town was alight. Its windows were yellow and awake. Bright torches milled about the street like panicked insects. Their light cast warm shadows between the narrow spaces, and the dark shapes climbed the walls.
Something soft and quick brushed her bare foot. Perhaps it was one of the monsters that were said to wait beneath the pitch and behind the tall grass, she thought but did not recoil. She had no fear left for the hills.
A smile spasmed her mouth. The quick motion tore her chapped lips, and she tasted blood on them. Safe, she felt safe. Amidst the slithering creatures and pitch bogs of the hills and the blood on in her mouth, she was safe. She broke the sound of her breathing with a small manic laugh.
There were monsters, but not in the hills.
Below her, the yellow torches searched the narrow streets and high walls. They would not find her tonight, kept away by the pressing night and their fear of the wild grass.