the hunt

The girl moved swiftly through the forest. Dodging branches snapping back at her. She moved with alacrity. Her pace was even. She was nimble. She wove around rocks stuck in the ground. She jumped, sliding over the trunks of broken trees. She moved quickly. Hurried steps. 

She looked behind her. Then ahead. She quickened her pace. Looking forward, not behind. Gaining speed until her quick paced shuffle jog was turning into a run. 

She knew an animal followed her. A big one. A predator. With eyes fixed and moving forward as if to devour her. 

She didn’t know what it was but didn’t stop to guess as she wrapped around tree trunks. Jumped down small hills into ravines. Slipping and catching herself on small rocks. Into a pool. Into mud that threatened to suction her feet in place. Into a stream. Deeper. Deep within the forest.

Running now without looking back and she could tell the animal — was it a wolf? A leopard? A bear? Something thundered behind her as the forest became dense and just the light of the eyes of the being that chased her seemed to illuminate the footsteps in front of her. As if there was no beginning but the step she took. As if there was no end but where her foot left the ground. As if only the present, the ever present was syncing two beings — she and the one who chased her. 

In that moment, for a split second that opened up another realm of possibility, she and the being with the glowing eyes. The dark fur. The claws and the sharp teeth. They were connected. Not just in stride. They moved through the forest without looking back. Fixated on everything forward snd ahead. And in this moment, they could feel the beating of the other’s heart. The strong pulse was like an underlying beat that they harmonized to. 

Still they ran. Waiting for the other to get tired. To give up. To end it all. 

This being was hungry. She felt its hunger and wanted to give in. She felt that it needed her to survive. And she almost wept because the pang and the longing was so great. She wanted to give in to it.

The weakness in her legs had settled in and she really struggled now. This was going to be it. The eyes were on her back. They were a foot away. She could feel the animal’s breath on her skin. This being. It was beside her. It opened its jaws. Sharp teeth. She winced and imagined her warm blood cascading down the animal’s body pooling into its mouth. She flinched and the animal lunged, missing.

But they both stopped. Facing one another. It growling at her. Bristling fur. Piercing eyes. Her watching its every moment. Being patient. Watching. She could tell the animal would pounce on her at any second. She was out of breath. Her lungs were on fire. She didn’t know why she said it in that moment, but as she put her hands out, bracing herself, she uttered softly, 

“Shhhhhh…..”

The being, the animal with sharp, sharp teeth continued to growl. Again.

“Shhhhhh…..”

Something in its eyes changed. It still growled, but now she could tell it was scared and partially was calculating an escape.

“Shhhh…..”

She kept on saying it. She didn’t care if it made the animal mad. Something about it seemed to seep in. The animal licked its lips. It growled again, but this time lower. This time crouching down. Backing away. This time as if communicating with her. A half warning and a partial invitation. 

She didn’t know what to do, but she was no longer as scared of it as she had been. This being was past the point of killing her. But one never knew. One could never tell if it was a game to get her to come closer.

So she decided to sit and wait as the beast stared back.

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