It was a chilly October morning in the mountains and he felt it. The sun rose to the west and lit up the frost covered trees. He heard the snapping of branches as a baby fawn walked out into the clearing. He could see it moving cautiously, looking around for enemies. Small tendrils of mist rose up from the fawn's nose and dispersed in the cool morning air.
The fawn seemed quite timid, more so than others he had seen in the past. As it drew closer he could see that it was a girl. He continued to study her as she approached, nosing the ground for berries or anything edible. She passed through several slivers of light shining through the pines overhead.
As she passed through one of the large pillars of light that shone down, he could see that her coat had a dark brown patch near her side that had bits of dead leaves and earth stuck to it. Maybe she is hurt? he wondered. She didn't seem to struggle when she walked, and he wasn't picking up any feelings of physical pain from her; more feelings of hunger and loss.
In his time here, he'd seen many animals come and go; birds, rabbits, deer, bears. This was a quieter area of the mountain, relatively undisturbed by humans and full of wildlife. Not far from where he rested was a small brook where a local bear family used to come to drink and play, especially during the hot summer months. He had enjoyed listening to their happy grunts and throaty muted honks as they splashed and tussled with one another. He hadn't seen them for sometime and missed them.
A small flock of birds fluttered overhead suddenly, startling the little fawn. She stumbled away quickly from the berry patch she had found, almost tripping over some exposed roots. He eyed the treetops to try and understand what the birds were fussing about while the fawn cowered behind some brush, crouching low. The birds had now flown away to another part of the mountain and only silence remained. The fawn continued to crouch low, not trusting that things were safe. The birds had flown by too quickly for him to get a direct sense of what had happened. Were they startled by some noise? Maybe a sudden wind?
Minutes passed and the fawn slowly stood up and looked around again cautiously. She stood tall and eyed the berry patch where she had been grazing before. Her stomach was now growling and gnawing at her, the coals of her hunger now stoked by the initial few bites she'd managed before the birds had flown by. Slowly, she crept back to the berry patch, stepping lightly so as to be quiet.
He continued to watch her with curiosity as he sensed her mood lightening. He knew she was hungry but would only pursue quieting her stomach if she felt safe. A soft breeze blew through the treetops causing them to dance and sway in a slow, muted waltz.
Time continued to pass as the fawn ate her fill and took some time to clean herself. He watched her struggle to reach the dark brown spot on her coat to try and clean it. Her soft pink tongue reaching but not getting quite close enough. He felt wisps of longing and loss as she did this and started to wonder what had happened to her. She was obviously alone with no father or mother. Had something happened? He wondered if it was the tall-walkers again.
The last time he'd seen a tall-walker was several years ago. The family of bears had been walking though his area when they were ambushed by a group of them. Three of them had emerged from the forest with sticks that shot fire and made horribly loud noises. He remembered them all too well as he was injured in the whole ordeal, knives from the fire-sticks cutting deep into his side. He had fared better than the mother bear had however; once she had been hit by the tall-walkers, she had writhed around in agony, dying in front of her cubs. The pain that had radiated from her had joined his own pain and only aggravated it further. He watched, injured and helplessly in pain as the three tall-walkers caught the cubs and took them away.
The memories caused him to shiver. He had seen violence before amongst the forest animals before, but nothing quite like this. The feeling he had gotten from them was quite ominous as well. Most of the violence he had seen stemmed from hunger, but with the tall-walkers, he felt that they just wanted to cause death for a form of entertainment. He just didn't understand.
He was snapped from his memories quickly by the unmistakable sound of a fire-stick and then a wave of red anxiety hit him hard from the fawn. She had been hit and terror emanated from her in sharp waves. She ran around in circles, panicked, unsure of what to do. That's when he saw him emerge in the clearing.
The tall-walker emerged alone from the clearing and stood about 100 feet away from where the fawn was running around in circles. He began to walk towards them, raising the fire-stick once again. The fawn, clear of shock, regained her composure and tried to run; this time clumsily tripping on a tree root. She fell with a hard thud and slid helplessly into a dirt pile in front of her. The tall-walker approached quickly, wanting to use the moment to his advantage. He began to run.
He had been tracking her for about the last two hours, watching and waiting silently in the distance. The snapping of branches had almost given him away a little earlier, no thanks to the birds that had startled the fawn. He had killed her mother the day before, not far from where they were camping in the brush. Several kilometers away, his partner was cleaning up and packaging the kill for further processing when they got back to town. He waited for the moment to strike and then pulled the trigger once she was in scope. He immediately noticed that he didn't make a clean strike, and only grazed her across the back. Still, this was enough to set the dumb animal into a tizzy as she ran around in circles. He thought he may have lost until he saw her trip and go down. He stifled a guffaw as he seized the opportunity of the moment and began running towards her.
He stepped lightly as he ran. 100 feet. Lifting his feet high so as to not trip. 80 feet. Raising the gun to get a line of sight and shoot before she got up. 60 feet. He was getting closer and she caught wind of this while she flailed and struggled to get up. 40 feet. Almost close enough to take a shot. 20 feet. There was no escape for the fawn now as he was practically on her. She continued to flail trying to get her hooves to cut into the ground to give her the leverage she needed to get up, but it was no use.
Fueled by pure adrenaline, one eye in the scope and one watching the ground, her centered on her and began to pull the trigger. A loud crack echoed through the forrest and he flew backwards.
The force of impact threw him back several yards into the brush. Branches and rocks snarled and tore through his clothes cutting him up and he skittered helplessly across the forest floor. The gun stayed strapped to his arms, finger still in the trigger hold. It snapped and broke as the strap became entangled in the brush. He screamed, confused by what had just happened and the sudden pain. He finally came to stop against a tree stump.
The fawn had shut her eyed and cowered expecting more pain, when instead she heard a loud noise followed by screaming. She was shaking uncontrollably as she opened her eyes to the sight before her. The hunter, who had been rapidly closing in on her, was now several yards away, yelling and lying against a tree stump. All around her, she heard rustling and crackling as trees began to bend towards the hunter. Their branches enveloped him in darkness and she could see him no further, just an orgy of branches moving rapidly, accompanied by an orchestra of rustling and screaming. The screams increased in intensity as she heard tearing noises and saw body parts flying in all directions. She didn't understand what she was seeing (save the fact that it seemed unpleasant and dangerous) and ran off into the forest, still shaken by her close call.
Earl sat back at the campsite cleaning his knives and waiting for Fred to get back. He had been gone for several hours already hunting the baby fawn they had missed out on yesterday. Stupid fool, he thought - they had enough here to last them weeks, why go after more? Sure the meat would be a little more tender, but was it worth the effort? He didn't think so.
He decided that is was high time for a nap, so did some cleanup and then settled into the hammock. Dave would wake him up once he got back - hopefully that would be soon, but he knew how stubborn Dave could be. He splayed out in the hammock as much as he could, and pulled his hat over his head. A gentle breeze rocked him back and forth. The sound of the breeze going through the trees was very relaxing, and in no time he was out cold.