10-year-old Harry was scared.
His legs were lightly shaking from an exhaustion, and his visions were foggy. He was supposed to be with his homeroom teacher Ms. Roth's group for an annual field trip, but thanks to Dudley and his jerk of friends, he had to outrun them and ended up being lost deep in the forest. He had been trying to return to his group but only seemed to wander in circles for hours.
"I am hungry," Harry muttered. His uncle and aunt only gave him two apples and old cheese strings while Dudley got porkchops, bread pudding and lots of cookies. They even told him to not share with anyone – especially Harry – because their "Dudders needed to grow up." Harry would have laughed his head off if he hadn't known that his lovely relatives would have smacked him with a frying pan.
Harry dejectedly sat on the ground and watched the sky. The Sun was already halfway to a sunset, and it would have looked so beautiful if Harry hadn't started to fear for his life. Ms. Smith said something about wild animals occasionally appearing in this forest at night and instructed the children to not stray away for that exact reasons. What would he do if say, wolfs or coyotes pounced on and bit him? Someone as scrawny and short as Harry would die helplessly.
Not that anyone would actually come for me anyway, Harry thought bitterly. Every adult in his school treated him like an incorrigible troublemaker because of Dudley's perfect façade of a good boy and fantastic lying skills – which was one thing that he was so good at – , and the kids who knew the truth were too afraid to speak up. He once hoped that somebody, anybody would notice that Dudley was a fat, lying bully that everyone secretly hates, but the adults were too gullible…or didn't get paid well enough to care, according to Ms. Harrison whom Harry overheard talking about working too much for "piss poor pay" last week.
Harry sighed and resumed walking. It was a late summer evening, so it was probably around seven-thirty if Harry guessed right. The weather was blazing hot all day, so his clothes had already become sweaty and nasty. He wiped his sweat off the forehead with his arm and adjusted his eyeglasses so that sweats wouldn't roll off the lenses and hinder his already compromised vision.
Harry froze when he heard the sound behind his back. He wanted to look back, but the fear of facing a dangerous animal overwhelmed his will. Was it better to stay frozen? What did Ms. Smith say? He desperately tried to remember what she told his class.
"Animals can be dangerous, but humans are smarter," said Ms. Smith two weeks ago. "If you look scared, they will attack you. You have to try to calm down the animals and slowly back away. Don't run, attack, or scream. It will only make them more aggressive."
Harry slowly turned around. He hoped that it wasn't a wolf or a bulldog like Aunt Marge's ugly one. He still had apples in his backpack, so maybe he could try to lure the animal with it.
But it wasn't an animal. It was a man.
"My, my…," the man spoke with a predatory grin, "I followed this exotic scent, and look what I have. A pretty boy."
"P-pretty?" Harry stuttered.
Harry wasn't sure if he should feel relieved or even more scared. The man was half-naked with his open, hardened torso and wore ragged pants. His eyes glinted dangerously that made Harry shiver internally, and his hair was dirty grey as if he had never brushed it once in his life. He was much taller than any adult that Harry knew in his life.
"Yes, kid. I am talking about you," the man smiled widely. His teeth were sharp like those of a wolf. "Why are you here alone, boy? Are you lost?"
"I-no," Harry quickly lied. He instinctively knew that this man might not be a good person, and if he told him that he was lost, the man would definitely try to do something…bad. "I just like walking around the forest. The trees here are beautiful. The sunset is very nice, too. I forgot to bring a camera, so-"
"Have your parents not taught that you shouldn't lie to adults?" The man talked over Harry. He took two large steps, and he was already in front of Harry. He took a deep sniff at Harry's pale neck, which made the boy flinch. "You have been sweating for last three hours. I can smell how tired you are from all the walking. You are a bad boy, aren't you? What would your parents think of you?"
"My parents died," said Harry sadly. "My aunt and uncle told me that they died in a car crash. I have never met them."
"Oh, you poor thing…" the man spoke with a pretentious pity. He gently touched Harry's face, "No parents, huh? Well, at least you are very pretty, and even prettier if you ate a little more."
"I am not pretty. I am a boy," Harry started to feel irritated by the creepy compliments and momentarily forgot his fear, "and even if I want to eat more, my relatives wouldn't let me. All I got for this trip was two apples and some old cheese strings that are going to expire in three days. My relative hates me, so I never ask them for more."
"What terrible relatives you have," the man grinned even more. For some reason, he seemed disturbingly satisfied to hear it, "you see, kid, I am taking care of some children like you. They live with me because they are orphans or because their families hate them, just like your relatives hate you. We are like a big family that look out for each other no matter what."
"That-that's great and all," Harry slowly started to step back. He heard about some bad people who use sweet talks to kidnap children, and this man seemed to be one of them. Just how terrible his luck was today? "I have to go back to my relatives. Ms. Smith will be angry at me and tell my uncle and aunt, they will probably be even madder, too. I don't want them to get mad at me."
"Why don't you come with me? Why bother staying with those mean people?" The larger man took another step toward Harry, who then stepped back. "Come on, kid. Be a good boy and come with me."
"No, no thanks!"
Harry threw a backpack to the man and started to run. All the exhaustion that had been wearing him down for last three hours disappeared. He sprinted as fast as possible through the endless stream of woods that looked all the same. His heart screamed for a rest, but his brain kept telling Harry to run for his life.
"Hahaha…" the man chuckled maliciously as he effortlessly slapped the backpack away and saw Harry run away. "I don't think you understand, boy. You are coming with me."
The tall man slid out a wooden stick from his pants' back pocket and made a light tap motion in the air.
"Aeternum Volutabro Luti."
As the man whispered the words, a wave of energy propagated from the tip of the stick and spread through the forests. The trees silently shifted and formed a constantly changing maze that the man ensured that Harry couldn't escape. He deeply inhaled the boy's sweet scent and muttered, "run all you want, pretty boy. I will catch you."