Lisa looked out over the valley. The sun brought out the majestic colors of the trees as they changed, readying for autumn. Tonight would be that time of the month. She needed to be prepared. The crunching of gravel diverted her attention. A man walked up the long driveway to her house. That took determination. Given the steep slope, loose rock, and the three washouts over the course of two miles, you needed to want to get to the top badly.
Handsome enough, with brushed back jet hair and in a pair of jeans and a flannel shirt that screamed, "I was on the shelves at LL Bean yesterday", it was evident that the middle aged man was in good shape. He didn't appear to have broken a sweat. He did have the sense to have a slight grimace on his face.
One last long sip emptied the coffee cup. Her shotgun, the first two rounds loaded with shot and the last two with slugs, leaned against the railing in easy reach. A fixed blade knife was sheathed horizontally at the small of her back. At five feet six inches tall, she was hardly imposing, but living on her own in the woods had given her ropey muscles. Hour long trips into town once a week to work with Master Jake on her MMA skills meant she knew how to take care of herself. It didn't happen often, but all three of those things were precautions for just this sort of situation. "Can I help you, sir? And I'd advise you to stop right there."
The man looked up and smiled. He did stop. His even white teeth were easy to see, even against pale skin. "Yes, ma'am." There was something in his accent that said 'Europe' but not any particular part of it. "Do you have a phone?"
The laugh came from deep in her belly. "No phone. No power. No plumbing."
He looked over his shoulder down the long road. The dusty state of his pants and light tan boots said he'd been walking for a while. "Damn." He turned and stood, hands on hips, looking up and down the mountain. "Do you know anything about fixing cars?"
She thought about what kind of car he probably drove. "Can't say I know my way around a Beemer. Or is it a Land Rover?"
He pointed at her and touched the tip of his nose. "Land Rover." He stomped his foot a little petulantly. "Can I get a ride into town?"
This man was asking the kinds of questions that might be innocent or might be engineered to see how remote and helpless she was. She set down her empty coffee cup on the deck railing and let her right hand drift towards the shotgun, still out of the stranger's sight. "Not tonight. The sun will be down in a few hours and I need to stay right where I am, until then."
The man didn't look much like he appreciated that answer. The scowl was all too legitimate. "What's so important? It's just an hour or so to town. You'd be back well before sundown."
"Tell you what." There was an edge in her voice. "You go back down to your car, lock up tight, and take a nap. Sun up is at six forty-eight. I'll come down and knock on your window at seven thirty with a thermos of coffee and some biscuits and drive you into town then."
He clenched his hands into fists. "That just won't do. I can pay you."
The shotgun was up and pointed at him in a blur. There was no need to rack a shell into the chamber. She flipped off the safety. "This isn't a negotiation, and I don't need your money. I'm telling you what's best for us both."
"Hey, easy there." His unballed his fists and they went up in the air. "I'm not going to hurt you."
She had to laugh at him trying to put her at ease. "I know. And what I'm telling you is for your own good. Not mine. You go back down and tuck yourself in. Don't come back up here tonight. Don't leave your car. I'll be down there in the morning. If I see your car, I'll help you. If I don't, I'll assume you're a lying sack and were just trying to get away with something. If you're not in your car... Well, I'd guess you didn't follow my suggestion and something big and nasty ate you. There are plenty of things out here that would."
He turned and started mumbling.
She could make out every word and none of them were complimentary. She didn't really care about that. All she knew was that in a few hours she'd be useless to him, and possibly dangerous. She carried her gun and coffee mug inside. Once they were put away, she checked all of the doors and windows to make sure they were locked from the inside. The double barreled deadbolts were the strongest she could find. Her little house was solidly built. No one could get in, or out, very easily.
With one eye out the window at all times, she ate a big dinner. It helped when this time rolled around. Didn't guarantee anything, but she'd been doing this for years and so far it had worked. The quality of light in the cabin changed as the sun went down. She rolled back the rug covering the floor in front of her fireplace. The solid steel trap door was small. When she levered it back, she could barely squeeze through it.
She climbed down the ladder into the little cave. Once her head was below floor level, she closed it and dialed the combination lock so that it was scrambled. The rest of her routine had to be done in pitch dark, but it wasn't her first rodeo. Soon, she was strapped into the metal throne, all four limbs restrained. At the moment she could just pulled her arms out through the slack, but in half an hour or so they would be tight. As she finished preparations, she prayed.
"Let me harm no one this night, dear Lord. I pray for the man I ran off, that he would be safe. I pray that this night I would be free from the change. I want to be released from this curse. Until that happens, let me enjoy your creation." Sharp pains at her knees and elbows were the beginning of the first stage. Her mouth ached and her prayer became increasingly difficult to understand. As always, by the time it was midway through, she was reduced to tears and screaming.
By the time the moon hung full over the cabin, only muffled howls could be heard from under the floor.