Fast & Furious Contest Flash Fiction Runner-Up: Wind in the Firs by E.V. Sparrow

Beneath the twilight sky, the wind howled deep within the rugged and unexplored forest. It clawed at the ancient fir trees until they bent at awkward angles. Tall shadows loomed over the members of a search team tracking seven missing missionaries. A month had passed since the missionary’s last communication and their scheduled supply delivery.

Shouts from the front of the canvas-covered cart alerted Hayley to hold on tight to the cart rails. The leader bellowed, “Push harder!”

Hayley and Pax joined the others, who shifted their weight forward at the rear of the wooden cart. Hayley leapt sideways as a gust of wind rammed through the firs and cracked one in half. A whoosh of air from the force of the falling tree passed her.

Hayley teetered, lost her grip, and fell over with the tree’s impact.

Pax yanked Hayley’s arm and pulled her to her feet. They dashed through a wide split between two boulders, slid down a shallow bank beyond, and into a shallow creek bed. Pax pointed to a narrow opening ahead in the mountainside. “Could be a cave!”

Hayley and Pax plowed into each other and crammed through it. The twilight outside gave way to the pitch-black depths inside. Hayley cried with relief in the stagnant air. She and Pax slowed their breathing in the stillness following the chaos.

“Thank God we’re safe!” Pax squeezed Hayley’s arm.

Hayley strained her eyes in the dark. She approached the entrance, and something crunched beneath her feet. She studied the white sticks lit with fading light. “Can you see anything, Pax?”

“I don’t know—”

Scraping sounds echoed around the cave. Hayley’s heart pounded, and she slid behind Pax. “Who’s there?”

“You found our secret dwelling place,” rumbled an unfamiliar voice. “Perfect timing. We’re hungry.”