I opened my eyes. I was lying face-down on the rocky mountain path. The left side of my face and my left arm and shoulder hurt, since they had taken the worst of my fall.
"Get up", she said.
Her voice wasn't even unkind, it was just clear that she meant business.
She kicked me in the side. The dogs began to growl, but she yanked their leashes before they could turn on me.
Slowly and painfully I got up on my hands and knees. Blood from my left eyebrow was dripping on the ground. The dogs' growling got louder.
I turned to my left. In the distance I saw a farm that I had noticed earlier. I remembered thinking that after several days of traveling without meeting a single soul this didn't look too bad - several places to try and get work in exchange for any simple food and lodging they'd be able to offer me.
My mistake. At the first place I tried they simply hadn't opened the door, though I could see the curtains moving. At the next farm a girl had been outside, hanging the laundry out to dry. When I approached her, she just started screaming. A woman and a young man had come running out of the house. I tried to apologise, say something, anything. The man had hit me. And now the woman was going to set lose the dogs on me if I didn't get up and leave really quickly.
The door of the other farm opened and two men came out, looking in my direction.
I got up. I began to walk, my right ankle almost buckling under me.
The dogs began to growl again.
When I glanced over my left shoulder, I saw that the men at the other farm now had two dogs with them, and they were coming my way.
I tried to run. The pain in my ankle wasn't too bad. Maybe it wasn't broken.
The growling intensified. Then it stopped. Instead, I could feel hungry, silent shapes, gaining on me. The dogs were set lose.
I broke into a run, and the pain in my ankle made me yelp.
I was answered by a soft growl, close, too close, behind me.
I stumbled on. I could hear the dogs's paws as they hit the path. I could hear their breath. I could smell them.
There weren't any trees or buildings close by. I didn't dare to seek shelter in a building anyway.
I stumbled on. Too slowly. The dogs were spreading out, the first two trotting along on my left and right, trying to assess how much of a fight I would put up when they moved in for the kill.
Then I fell. On of the dogs had grabbed my right ankle with its jaws and though its teeth didn't penetrate the leather of my boot the pain, combined with that of the earlier injury, was excruciating.
I kicked at the dog. It danced back a few paces and stopped to watch me. All of the dogs were standing still now, and watching me intently.
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