By Jeff Lee
Stepping upon the top of the ridge the hunter’s eyes found that the beast’s path had fallen away through the brush. The monster’s long strides and clumsy movements up until now had given clear indication of its progression toward a small cloistered forest. Her skill as a tracker had not been tested seeming almost unneeded when she first came upon the new trail. Now looking down upon a dense cloister of trees and brush she was no longer sure of an easy day’s kill. Like the dusk now evident in sky her expectations too were darkening.
The hunter gathered her pack about her shoulders and made her way into the lower edge of the wood. She skipped from one rill to another down the slope finding caution gathering in the wind which now harbored a gathering darkness. It was heavy and wet like the smell of dead wood, but lacking any physical form much a kin to a breeze in summer, easily known but never understood. She steadied her pace as she reached the slope’s bottom suddenly feeling a tingle at the back of her ear, a sound perchance, or a chill, or just the continued emanating whispered darkness. The tingle did nothing to quicken her escape from the area, and in converse it did nothing to expunge the thrill she sought looking down upon a fresh kill. It was just an ambient aura that settled upon the place, clinging to the any physical matter it could rest upon.
She pulled her bow, preparing herself for what may lay ahead. She trusted her aim and reflex to bring down whatever had led her here. But though reflexes could be honed the advantage she had in the open field above was not impeded by low hanging branches and looming shrubs. “Be ready now or be without dinner later,” her village guide would remind her.
Silent her footfalls danced between rock, bush and trunk making her way into the increasingly dense section of forest. She gauged the foliage noting a small leaf newly covered in wet blood. She must on be the correct path for her heart was steady between the instinct to fight and the urge for flight. Her nerves caught it before her senses could, locking her muscles tight, steady in place. Her form stood frozen and beautiful in the dim light resembling a statue carved in ice; just a bright and fragile as such leaving no guard from wood hidden teeth that snapped closed around her waist. The darkness of night settled a hold at every angle of brush while the light now hidden was replaced with bright sounds of tearing flesh and screams hollow called from a ragged torn throat.
“Silly girl, she knew nothing of the hunt,” slurped a voice from the gloom filled with the sickly sweet stench of drying blood.