“There’s one now. You ready boy?”
“I-I think so.”
“One shot, take all the time you need. Exhale as you squeeze the trigger. Is your finger on the wall?”
“Okay so-… What the…”
The deer the young boy had in his sights slammed its head into the rock next to the rushing river. It had no idea the two were there, it had obvious injuries, no clear reason to do so, but there it was. The boy lowered the rifle, took his finger off the trigger, switched the rifle to safety as had been ingrained into his mind.
“What is it doing Dad?”
“I ain’t never seen anything do that before.”
It slammed its head again, as hard as it could, as if it were trying to kill the rock. The rock as winning, an antler broke off, spewing blood onto the grass. It did it again, the unbalanced forced quickly shredding the other antler down to a jagged hump on its skull.
“Close your eyes boy. Look away.”
The boy listened, he could stomach shooting an animal, even helping Dad carry the dead back to the truck, but this was something else entirely.
The deer slammed its head again, slowly crushing its skull as it began to bleed heavily staining the rock further. It broke itself open like an egg, its yolk running onto the ground in chunks. It began trying to lick up the blood and brains it had spilled, but its injuries had lost it the use of its jaw and tongue. Then, in one motion, it rose onto its hind legs, took a couple of steps backward, and fell into the river – dead.
“Boy, take your rifle and head back to the truck.” They weren’t far, he could trust the young lad to make it that far.
“What about you Dad?”
“I’m going to investigate, then join you. No more hunting today.”
His son ran back into the forest, his rifle at the ready.
The Father took up his own rifle, checked it was loaded, took the safety off, and approached the rock that the Deer had committed suicide upon. From all his years he knew it was possible for animals to inflict harm upon themselves. Dogs that don’t eat food after the death of their owners, swans that down themselves after the death of a mate, but never like this. Never with such a fervour and conscious desire to be dead, that one would go against the pain and instinct to get away from the rock. Especially from a polygamous creature.
There were shards of skull, antler bone and brain on the ground along with a sickening puddle of blood.
He swung around with his rifle shouldered, there was nothing there. Had he imagined his name called through the forest?
“Hello? Who are you?” Caution had his hair standing on end, and he had half a mind to run away there and then. Perhaps the voice had something to do with the deer, and that was not something he wanted to tangle with.
The other half, like any horror protagonist, was curious. He stood his ground, stayed where he was, his rifle pointed at nothing but trees.
A hare leapt from behind a bush, and David immediately pointed his rifle at the creature. It hopped past him, seemingly running from something that was now charging through the underbrush. The hare immediately hopped into the river, swept away to drown somewhere in the distance. That was enough of a warning for him.
David slung his rifle over his shoulder and broke out into a full sprint back to the truck. The thing that was chasing the hare was not hot on his tail, he could hear it scratching into the bark as it leveraged itself on trees. It definitely had more than two legs, as he could hear each stomp out of rhythm. He could count eight… Maybe ten legs as the stomps ebbed and flowed. It was tall, he could hear it brushing against the canopy.
“Start the truck son!” He called out as he neared the edge of the forest.
He rounded the car and jumped in, the engine purring and his son in the passenger seat gripping the rifle tightly to his chest.
David looked up as he put the car into reverse, and saw it. A lumbering beast with blackened, oily limbs. Its head reached the canopy of the trees, and from its head to its torso it was covered in… Screens. Screens that showed screaming, agony, death. Screens that dug and burrowed into the back of David’s mind, shocked his son into wide-eyed terror. The thought was immediate, as the plague of what he had seen dug into his stomach, disturbed his very core. His body begged him to put the car into first gear and drive them both into a tree. He looked at his son, who had begun to take the rifle off of safe and place under his chin.
David snapped out of it, the protection of his son overriding the need to be rid of those images that made life unliveable, and snatched the rifle from his son’s hand. A round penetrated the roof, left both their eyes ringing. David locked the car doors, looked over his shoulder away from the beast, and drove out through the dirt track and onto the open road.
Tears rolled down his son’s cheeks, his stare blank as he repeated what he had seen over and over in his mind.
David locked the thoughts in a cold, dark place. He could get his son to safety, that was all that mattered.