What Happens in the Woods...

Submitted into Contest #211 in response to: Write a story involving a friendship with an adorable animal.... view prompt


Fiction Speculative


What do you want me to do then, tell my boss to fuck off when he tells me to stay late???


2:37 PM


You told me you were getting out of work early today. Now all of a sudden you need to stay until God knows when?!


2:37 PM


You've GOT to be shitting me right now. Seriously, Jess? Still??


2:38 PM


Damien noticed the swaying blonde hair approaching in his rearview mirror and wondered if Valentina would actually be as gorgeous as her profile pics suggested - or if Instagram's filters had catfished him once again. There was also the off chance that the hair belonged to some other blonde, but with only a handful of cars in the nature trail’s small gravel lot, how many of them could there feasibly be wandering near his Tesla?


You know what? I don’t have time for this shit. I have to work. I’m turning off my damn phone, we’ll talk about this tonight when I get done putting food on our family’s fucking table.

2:39 PM



As he tapped out the last few letters and hit send, Valentina’s shadow moved into the Sun’s path, dimming the car's interior. She leaned in, tapping on the window.

"Hey there, Damien." She'd told him that her family immigrated from Russia before she was born. He expected at least a hint of an accent, but there wasn't one. “I take it that’s your wife?”

Any other date asking him that question would send Damien into a fit of denials and practiced lies to obfuscate the obvious. Instead, he just smiled, a bit embarrassed out of habit and somewhat unsure of how to respond. Her dating profile literally stated that she wanted discrete relationships with married men, the idea of taking what wasn’t hers a turn-on to the college beauty, so her openness shouldn't have come as a surprise. She’d even specified that she wasn’t interested in single men, telling him that she'd delete connections if she realized they were single. It all seemed too good to be true, but here she was at his driver-side door, waiting for him to get out and take her.

He held his finger up, telling her to hold on a second as he shut down his phone and placed it in the glovebox. There was a reason Jess was suspicious of him, and he didn’t want to replicate it by leaving his phone on in his pocket.

Stepping out of the car, he began, “yes, that was my…” before getting cut off by the sight of a large rabbit in his face, sniffing him as if Damien was cocaine and the bunny was possessed by 80's era Ozzy Osborne. “Oh, shit… I didn’t realize it was ‘bring a friend to your date’ day, or I would’ve brought my pet turtle.” He tried to reach up to pet the rabbit’s head, but it was more intent on sniffing him than allowing him to stroke the top of its head, following the path of his hand with its snout. 

“You have a pet turtle?? I don't remember seeing that on your profile.”

“Well, I didn’t see ‘huge bunny’ on yours either, Miss Valentina.”

She shrugged and laughed before adding, "you never answered my question, by the way.”

“Answered what, exactly?”

“I asked if that was your wife... or are you still swiping, looking for that next discrete hookup?” He saw a glint of playfulness in her eyes, a stark difference to how Jess would look asking similar probing questions.

“Getting attached already, are we? You have to at least have gone on one date before you get to become a jealous lover.”

Valentina grinned. “Oh please, it’s nothing like that at all. I just prefer knowing that my date isn’t going to be interrupted by some crazy wife looking to murder me.” She sauntered, as sexily as she could muster with the rabbit in her arms, nearer to Damien before whispering in his ear, “Besides, today you’re all mine.”

One corner of Damien’s lips curled upward to match her grin. “Well, if you must know, that was her. And I was just telling her I would be ‘stuck at work’ for the next couple of hours.”

“Oh no, how unfortunate,” she responded with mock empathy. “Hopefully there’s something I can do to alleviate the stress from such a long day at work.” 

“I think we can come up with something that'll help.”

“Well, let’s get out of this parking lot then you can tell me all about it.” 

She turned, the oversized bunny still cradled in her arms looking like a toddler carrying around her favorite oversized teddy bear. She walked towards one of the many trails that departed from the parking lot. Her walk was a bit unnatural, each step carrying her foot across the path of the opposite foot before swinging the other foot around the first. He found it endearing, that this stunning woman would be going the extra mile to turn him on. Still, her gait was clumsy and uncoordinated, the extra weight of the bunny swaying her hips further than she intended with each step. 

She didn’t need to do any of that, he thought. He was more than content to stare at the hips and ass she’d somehow managed to squeeze in those jeans. He wondered how long it would take to peel them back off.

By the time they made it to the trail, nothing more than a small path created by hikers’ footsteps over the years, she’d given up on her exaggerated gait. He was glad; she looked sexier walking normal. He trailed behind her a few feet, content to let her lead down the small path. He’d hoped they could meet at her place, as she’d told him that she was living alone since she could never seem to keep a roommate for very long. Still, she insisted on meeting in public first, adamant that they meet at the nature trail. She said that it combined two of her biggest loves in life: nature and wilderness hikes.

Damien just assumed she had a voyeurism fetish she didn't want to admit to yet and enjoyed having fun where it was possible to get caught. Her lack of actual hiking gear or attire was consistent with that hypothesis. He wondered if she’d ever actually gone on a real hike before.

As they rounded the first turn that took them out of eyesight of the parking lot, Damien picked up his pace until he pulled even with Valentina. He reached over and wrapped his hand around her right hip, intending to pull her close for a kiss. When he leaned forward to bring his face to hers, he was instead met by the wet snout of the bunny. He recoiled, pulling his head back and out of reach of the rabbit and letting go of her hip.

“Sorry, Obzhora doesn’t know the ‘one date minimum before getting jealous’ rule.” For the first time, Damien picked up a hint of a Russian accent as she pronounced Obzhora.

“I can see that…”

Damien slowed his pace to allow for her to get ahead a few feet again – and allowing him some separation from Obzhora the rabbit. He knew from his college frat days that he’d need to initiate some physical contact soon if this was going to lead to anything other than a set of sweaty work clothes and more questions than he had answers to when he got home. He'd never encountered a rabbit-wingman before, though, and was having trouble figuring out a way around the massive, furry roadblock.

As he pondered his next move, her voice broke the silence. “Did you just come from work?”

“Yeah,” he said as he looked down at his now-dusty loafers on the thin trail, the dust gradually accumulating on his pressed slacks the further they went. "What gave it away?" 

“I only ask because it’s still pretty early in the day. Are you going to have to go back to work?”

“Oh, no, not at all. They think I’ve already gone home, that the kids had a recital or some shit.”

Valentina stopped in her tracks and turned, her face was a few shades paler. “You never mentioned kids; it wasn’t on your profile either.”

“Is it important? I don’t add a lot of things to my profile, it’s part of the discrete mystique you found so appealing.” Feeling like his line was a perfect setup, he leaned in again for another attempt, once again rebuffed by Obzhora’s probing snout. He sighed, considering how quickly he could - and would - ring this thing’s neck if it kept this up.

Fuck… I don’t mess around with guys who've got kids. I should’ve asked sooner.”

“Whoa, whoa… that’s where you draw the line? Fucking a married man is fine, but if he’s a father, now it's a morality issue?”

Valentina was shaking her head as her breaths came quicker. This was actually bothering her... but why, he wondered. 

“I’m sorry for not telling you sooner. It wasn’t because I was trying to hide it, I just didn’t realize it mattered.”

Her gaze was focused ahead on nothing in particular, her mind a million miles away. She didn’t respond; in fact, she barely breathed. He was just about to ask if she was ok, but then, as quickly as it came, the storm passed from her face.

“Well, what’s done is done. We can’t really go back now, can we?”

Relief flooded his senses, his opportunity not lost after all. “No, I guess we can’t…” It seemed like the perfect moment for that kiss, but the bunny still hadn't received the memo. 

“Ok, what’s the deal with your damn bunny? Seriously... I don’t mean to be rude, but I wasn’t expecting to have a third wheel on our little nature trail date.”

Valentina kept walking, not breaking stride. “I don’t go anywhere without him; we’ve been attached at the hip since I found him dying on the side of the road. You know, I nursed this little guy back to health; well, tried to anyway.”

Fuck. This was not the direction he envisioned the date going; he'd now have to deal with some sob story about the damn rabbit unless he got them back on track. “Well, he seems fine now, and I think we should…”

“Oh yeah, he’s much better now,” she cut in. “Can you believe that, when I found him, there were cuts all over him and a steak knife sticking out of his back? Someone actually tried to kill this cutie!”

Damien rolled his eyes and wondered if it was one of its previous owner’s dates who’d finally had enough. “That’s so sad.” He was glad she was in front of him and couldn't see his expression.

“I know, right? I spent weeks trying to nurse him back to health, but he wouldn’t eat anything and was fading away. It wasn’t until my brother went missing that Mr. Obzie here started getting better. When I needed someone to lean on, he was there for me.”

“What happened?”

“Oh, with Tim? We don’t know… one day, we woke up and he was just gone. No signs of him leaving, no one saw anyone come to our house. He just… disappeared. My parents and I were devastated. But that’s when little Obzie here became my hero. He seemed to get stronger, even though he still hadn’t eaten, and he never left my side. We went out looking for Tim every day, for hours, and Obzie here kept up and gave me a shoulder to cry on.” Her head shook side-to-side. “We never found him. We looked for years, but I've come to realize he's never coming back.”

“Sounds like Obzie's a great friend to have. Hey, how about we…”

“Yeah, he’s great,” she continued. “He was there when Dad left too, right after Tim went missing. Just up and left my mom and me, we never found out why. Never heard from him again. It seemed everything was falling apart in my life, but Obzie was always there for me. The more things seemed to go wrong, the more he seemed to grow stronger, as if he knew I needed him.”

Damien’s interest began to wane as he started getting the feeling that she only wanted him to come out to the woods to chat. That she was nothing more than a cock tease, which made sense given that he couldn’t believe someone as gorgeous as her would even consider going out with a middle-aged guy with a bald spot and a dad bod. He realized he needed to make a move fast before he was permanently exiled to the friend zone.

“He sure sounds like a great pet... but doesn't he get you all the time? Surely, I can get some of your time today. He’s a big boy, he could walk on his own for a bit.”

“There’s no need to rush; we're almost there. There’s a clearing just up ahead where we’ll have some privacy and where Obzie can let loose without getting into any trouble. Come on!”

Valentine turned off onto a side trail, one much smaller than the even the main trail was - just a line where the dead leaves were crunched down more than the surrounding leaves. It seemed this path was traveled just enough for the path to not get lose to time. 

The side trail was much more difficult to traverse than the main trail. On the main trail, they could walk without having to worry about branches smacking them in the face or underbrush tripping them, but this path was basically like walking through the dense woods with only footprints in the leaves to guide you.

As Damien picked his way around a large briar patch, Valentina paused.

“Did you hear something? Up ahead?”

Damien shook his head, he hadn’t heard anything but the sound of his breathing, and his attention had been purely on her ass as she walked in front of him.

“I could’ve sworn I heard something.”

“Do you want to turn back,” he asked? 

“No, no… I want to get some time with you, babe. Can you go in front though? I’m nervous.”

Damien puffed his chest out a bit further. “Sure thing, babe, where am I going?”

“This trail doesn’t split; it’ll end up ahead in that clearing I talked about; we'll be all alone and Obzie can do some eating. That should keep him occupied.”

Damien grinned, the date not soiled by the furball after all. He picked up his step, pantomiming that he was listening for the sound that she’d mentioned earlier. His mind was too preoccupied to worry about random animals out here; he remained focused on finding the clearing as fast as possible, navigating brambles and trees with renewed vigor and purpose.

“I really wish you’d mentioned that you had kids, Damien.” Her voice sound somber, sorrowful even.

“Yeah, I’m sorry,” Damien responded, panting slightly as he prepared to jump over another briar patch.

“I really hate doing this to guys who have kids; well, I hate it for the kids.”

“What… what difference does it…”

Damien’s voice was cut short as his body began free-falling through the bottom of the trail, the bed of leaves giving way to a chasm underneath. He fell for a few seconds that felt like an eternity until his left foot found the ground before the rest of his body did. The totality of his weight pushed on the outside of his ankle until his tibia reached its maximum load capacity. The bone gave off a distinct crack sound as it snapped in half, with the upper half puncturing the muscles and skin of his lower leg, leaving Damien’s leg a mangled mess at the bottom of the ten-foot pit.

Damien screamed, surprise giving way to terror from both the sight of, and pain from, his new compound tibial fracture. 

“Shit! Ow, fuck! What the… ahh! Help me, please! Oh my God!”

Valentina peaked over the edge of the deep shaft. “I’m sorry, I truly am; I wish it didn’t have to be this way.”

“Wait, what? What the fuck are you talking about?! Help me get the fuck out of here!”

“I wish I could. You have no idea how much I wish I could. I’m so sorry, Damien.”

“Why? Wait, why are you sorry?!”

Her eyes red, lips quivering, Valentina responded, “that you have to be alive for this." She turned to Obzhora, her voice cracking. “He's trapped, no one knows he's here, and he doesn’t have his phone; please wait until I’m far enough away this time.”  

Valentina was talking about him being alive as if the alternative was not only an option but preferred, Damien realized. The pain radiated from his leg, clouding his thoughts; surely she couldn't be insinuating...

As the sound of leaves crunching under Valentina's steps grew fainter and fainter and his shouts continued to go unanswered, the pain in his leg intensified until he could no longer spare the mental energy necessary to consider what she'd just said. He knew he needed to get out, to get help. He slid until his back was pressed to the wall of soil, his mangled leg dragged the agonizing foot and a half to the edge as he wailed. He expected to hear Valentina rush back at the sound of his cries of anguish; his heart soared for a moment when he heard the leaves crunching just over the edge of the pit.

"Thank God, please, please, you've got to..."

Damien's words would forever remain in his throat, held there by the sight of Obzhora peering down at him. His face, cute as a normal rabbit just moments earlier, was now a contorted collage of horrors. His eyes were sunken in deeper, darkened by the shadows formed, but Damien could still make out the faint red glow emanating Obzhora's sockets. His ears, floppy and playful just minutes earlier, now stood erect and seemed to be closer to horns than ears. His head appeared to be at least three times its original size.

But it was the mouth that stole Damien's breath. Obzhora's mouth appeared pulled back, as if someone attached hooks at the corners, revealing an mouth full of jagged teeth in a mouth that seemed impossibly large for the rabbit he'd just been face-to-face with. The interlocked teeth grew in size as they approached the front of his mouth until reaching the two incisors, each resembling a serrated knife. Drool dripped from his lower lip, and the terrifying rabbit actually smiled at Damien.

When Obzhora finally lunged into the pit, Damien didn't have time to scream. Even if he managed to get one out, no one would have been able to save him from the gaping maw of the hell-beast that engulfed his head.

August 19, 2023 03:43

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Karen Corr
22:14 Aug 21, 2023

Wow is right. I can’t believe I didn’t see that coming! Thanks Michael.


Michael Martin
22:06 Aug 22, 2023

Great! I was hoping for that effect. I'm glad you enjoyed it, thank you so much for reading!


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Bruce Friedman
12:32 Aug 19, 2023

Wow. Just wow. Highly engaging and truly frightening.


Michael Martin
17:19 Aug 19, 2023

Thanks! I almost didn't finish this one this week, barely limped over the finish line lol. I'm glad you enjoyed it :)


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