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A Gaunt Silence Within Snowy Woods








A Gaunt Silence Within Snowy Woods

 

I roam the snow-frosted wood warily, as gaunt as the night itself.  My gut is all wretched pain, as though I’ve not eaten in all of eternity.

I have, of course, and recently.  The taste of the child’s flesh this dusk was sweet, but all too fleeting a sensation.

A sound intrudes, but it is welcome, not frightening: a four legged stride on a distant road means, perhaps, my next meal.  I move softly, soundlessly, in that direction.  Shrouded in night, I go close enough to see while yet remaining beneath the trees.  My tail curls around one white trunk, and the barbs with which I tickle my prey anchor in its papery skin with small ripping sounds.  I taste the air with my tongue, and saliva spurts at the smell of unwary flesh to also be shred.

In just a few moments I see my target.  Horse and rider!  I’d moan if I could make any sound at all.  Drool falls from my jowls as I consider the ideal moment to attack.  But then, of a sudden, the man pulls up on straps of dead skin, and the beast beneath him stops.  The falling snow is as silent as they suddenly are.  I see his face clearly when he peers into the woods in my direction.

Sudden terror sears my veins and I freeze.  Does he hunt for me?  Once, when men were merely feral little warm bits, I hunted with impunity, but I have since learned caution, caution.

The man looks behind himself, considering.  I can smell a lake beyond him--he is at almost the exact midpoint between it and the edge of the woods I stalk--and I wonder if he leads a pack I cannot yet sense.  Has he seen me?  My hunger would have me attack immediately, my fear to withdraw.  Undecided, I remain motionless except for tightening my tail’s grip on the tree.

His beast’s head lifts suddenly, and bells on its harness shake with a shockingly LOUD sound.  The ichor in my veins pulses hot again, with confusion and fear.  It scents me!  Flee!  FLEE! 

But for that moment, I can’t make the talons of my feet release from where they puncture the forest’s floor, my tail unclench from the wood, and so I watch, and listen, and wait.  For long moments there is only the sweep of the wind and the snow in the stillness.

I am paralyzed by ever-increasing terror.  Is he the father of the morsel I took earlier?  Is his thirst only to be slaked by vengeance?  Is this night my ending?  I feel weak, the ichor in my veins aflame to the point that falling flakes begin to hiss where they strike my flesh.

Then the man flicks the straps suddenly, and the sharp crack they make cleaves the air viciously, such that I cannot breathe!  Woe!  Death comes for me!!

But before I can break away, to strive to prolong this suffering life, his horse begins moving sleepily down the road as if unaware of me.  The slow sound of its hooves against the road muffled by the snow which has thickened since they had stopped there.  Safe?  My ichor flows cooler, and I draw a shaky breath.

His apparently unconcerned passage along the edge of the wood lulls me almost enough to give in to the hunger—But caution!  Caution!—yet it seems this hunter is not done toying with me.  Eager for my murder, his voice shatters the fragile silence.  “And miles to go before I sleep,” he mutters.

I cringe, and a new, worse pulse of fear scalds me.  Nerves taut, I clench claws and wait for him to come and try to claim me.

He does not. 

A trick? 

I stand motionless and wait until long after he and his beast are gone, because I have learned that the cunning of men is not to be underestimated.  Hours pass before I dare to steal away silently, deeper into the woods.

Perhaps another child tomorrow?

But caution.

Yes.  Always, caution.

David M. Hoenig
 

David is an academic surgeon who lives to write, instead of writing to live. He's had poems and stories published with Flame Tree Publishing, Elder Signs Press, and Cast of Wonders, among others.  He is working on his first novel, and has a cosmic horror poetry chapbook in process with Oscillate Wildly Press. Slowly.

https://davidmhoenig.wordpress.com/about/
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B0164YY4FW

 

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