Sometimes, though, Mayla got the idea that she was not alone. There was something out there: watching, waiting, licking its lips. She could almost feel its hot, meaty breath on her as she walked the paths around the settlement, searching for berries, fruit, herbs and those special plants the wise woman, Belonda, had taught her to recognise.
There were times when she could almost she the shape of something, there, in the shifting shadows of the forest; some shape that could break free of the concealing darkness and take her in its claws, rip her apart with strong jaws made for killing.
Mayla hurried home, glancing back over her shoulder, knowing that she would not, could not, outrun the beast that waited, that stalked her, but still she had to look back, even as she left the forest behind and strode back down the path to the village, smelling the smoke of its cooking fires, hearing the voices of the children playing and the murmur of a village going about its life.
Even then, though, she did not feel safe until she was inside the stockade, through the gates, and had seen at least one familiar face. Still she had to take one more look back, over her shoulder, to see the shadows between the trees of the forest and how they shifted and writhed, impatiently waiting for her to return to them.