The sharp crack of branches underfoot jolted Eliana from her fitful sleep. Her eyes flew open, still filled with the images from her nightmare - the screaming, the fire, her mother's unmoving form. Her heart was pounding as reality came flooding back.
She pushed herself up with a groan, every bone and muscle aching from where the Beast had tossed her aside the night before. But the physical pain was nothing compared to the anguish in her soul. As the memories washed over her, hot tears threatened to fall once more. She brushed them away angrily - crying would not change what happened or ease her sorrow.
Taking a deep breath of the cool forest air, she focused on the sounds around her. Birds were singing cheerfully unaware of the tragedy that had unfolded. Somewhere in the distance, water flowed steadily over rocks. Slowly, her racing heartbeat calmed. This forest, so different from the organized fields and homes of her village, was now her reality whether she wanted it or not.
Her stomach growled loudly in protest. She needed to find food, and shelter, if she was going to survive alone. Though just a child of 8 years, Eliana had already learned much from her parents in their short time together. She remembered her father teaching her basic survival skills, and her mother's cooking. If she thought of them, she thought of their love for her rather than their brutal end.
Rising unsteadily to her feet, Eliana took stock of her situation. The sun shone dappled through the leaves above, giving her an idea of direction. Clenching her mother's bracelet tightly in her fist for courage, she began to walk. Her steps were slow at first over the uneven forest floor, but grew steadier as she went. Though grief weighed heavy in her heart, survival was the only thing pushing her forward now.
Eliana walked for what felt like hours, attentive to any sounds or sights that could help her find sustenance. Her feet were sore and her stomach ached with emptiness, yet she stubbornly pushed on.
Coming to a small clearing, movement in her periphery caught her eye. She froze, scanning the treeline. There, scarcely ten feet away, stood a whitetail deer - a young buck with small antlers just starting to grow. It hadn't noticed her yet as it browsed on foliage.
Eliana's hunter instincts, sharpened from watching her father, took over. Slowly, silently, she crept forwards on light feet, pausing whenever the buck shifted nervously. Soon she was close, within arm's reach. With lightning speed, she launched herself at the animal.
A startled bleat was cut off as Eliana wrestled the buck to the ground, nimble hands wrapping its snout to muffle further cries. Though scrawny, fear and determination fueled her strength. The buck thrashed under her for agonizing moments before finally tiring.
Wasting no time, Eliana took her mother's bracelet and used the sharpened charm to cut the deer's throat in one swift motion, just as she had seen done before. Blood poured out onto the grass and her hands but she felt no disgust, only relief. Her first kill was made through pure survival instinct alone.
As the light faded from its eyes, Eliana said a silent prayer of thanks for this gift. She now had food, and with the skin and antlers, potentially more materials for surviving the wilds. Where others saw only death, she saw hope for another day alive.
In a dystopian future, the world has fallen into chaos and corruption. Powerful leaders, known only as "The Beasts," rule with an iron fist, oppressing the people and plunging cities into despair. Yet one girl dares to fight back. Eliana is orphaned as a child after The Beasts destroy her village. Now a teenager, she has survived on her own by learning to fight. Filled with rage at the injustice in the world, Eliana decides to take action and begins a lone crusade to topple The Beasts from power.