Adela gripped the lower branches of the tree in both hands and hauled herself up one foothold and handhold at a time.
She ignored the voice in the back of her head telling her the last time she climbed a tree she was seven years old, got stuck, and ultimately fell part of the way down.
Instead she focused on the rough bark biting into her palms. Soon enough the branches began to thin and sway under her weight.
She edged herself out along a sturdy branch and looked down to the forest floor.
Dense copses of trees blocked her view in several areas, but more open spaces revealed scrambling squirrels and sure-footed deer.
A rustle of bushes caught her eye, but they parted to reveal a rabbit. A rabbit with antlers.
Adela blinked and leaned closer. She felt the branch creak under her shifting weight and scrambled back to the tree trunk.
I'm dehydrated and hungry - it was just my tired brain. There's no such thing as jackalopes.
Still she couldn't help but steal another look to the ground. As she looked out, a mass of feathers exploded in her face.
Adela recoiled in shock and lost her grip on the branch. She screamed as she began to plummet to the ground.
Something grasped her shoulders and slowed her descent. She heard wings flap in her ears. What she then realized were talons sunk into her skin through her shirt.
Her feet touched the forest floor and her legs gave out from under her. She dropped to her knees as the black bird hopped down from her shoulders.
He stood in front of her and rustled his long, ragged feathers. Up close, she could see just how large he really was. Much bigger than a crow. He was a raven.
"Why is a raven like a writing desk?" Adela muttered under her breath. The question fit the absurdity of her situation.
She was hopelessly lost, had seen and done impossible things, and the sky was growing darker by the minute. So, she sat facing the raven that somehow saved her life.
He tilted his head and swiveled it side to side. He stared at her with each eye for what seemed like an eternity. The intense black gaze held her locked in place. She felt like she was drowning.
The depth behind those eyes seemed otherworldly. Not that she would know. It wasn't every day a raven stared you down after rescuing you.
"Cr-craw," he let out through a half open ebony beak. Adela blinked as the trance broke.
The raven took off with a powerful flap of his wings. He hovered over her head for a few moments then flew to a nearby tree and alighted on a sturdy branch.
Adela rose to her feet and walked to the tree. The raven let out a craw of approval (at least that's what she figured it was) and flew to the next tree.
The message couldn't have been clearer: Follow me.
"Just call me Alice," she said.