Hello! I apologize for the long hiatus. Bare with me!
This is for anyone who had been following this story. I don't like to leave things unfinished :)
There was nothing different about the day. Everything was the same as it had always been.
As always, I existed. Beside me were deer.
Autumn moved in with gentle puffs of wind, a crisp edge to it gently moving the trees to silence, though their drying leaves shuffled and whispered as the wind gently plucked them from their branches, carrying them along to far away places, piling the ground with litter that made it difficult to be silent.
There was also an earthy smell that I knew meant that the pines and mosses and fungi were happy, eating the corpses of trees, taking in the humidity that signaled the end of the light, cold rains of the day.
The corpse of a tree must be nearby. I realized, dully, that I knew that tree, once, when it was a sapling. Now its body rotted.
Auha twitched ever so slightly, dreaming her last dream before the gentle darkness of dusk would awaken her.
But the Fawn was already stirring, her head up and looking out into the forrest. She said nothing, but her body, nuzzled partially against her mother's and partially against my own, suddenly stiffened and froze, her breath hitched into complete silence.
A gust of wind threw around tides of leaves, blocking my "sight," but even around it I could hear something that didn't match the falling of leaves, the many steps of feet.
Tendrils leached their strengths from my body, and with minds of their own they extended to pull upon my body. Vaguely, I recalled the sure movements of spiders upon my skin, checking for prey. I carefully stepped over Auha, over the nearly-mature Fawn.
I could sense them, each started by my presence. Their fur, never washed, stank of their scent, and I could sense them smelling me. They seemed to be speaking to each other, recognizing me in some way.
They continued past me, in a hurried trot, not stopping to inspect. There was something smaller moving between them, and the breathing of one of them seemed strangely blocked — filled with smaller breaths.
I understood they were carrying pups, and pups walked among them. I didn't think anything of it, focusing instead on the simple feeling of what I knew was the last trickle of light from the sun before the darkness.
I could feel also, that the deer behind me and under me did not relax when they moved on. I felt it as one feels facts — as one does when they exist. It was a truth.
I settled in my spot, missing summer already, though at the same time noting the difference in the calls of the birds. Nothing about it bothered me, but I understood parts of the languages, as much as the deer did. The birds were talking about a predator.
It could have been the wolves, but my mind had no need to think of reasons, to come to conclusions.
The deer, all awake, seemed to feel differently somehow. They stood and a little too early began to stretch and pad the ground. I had fallen into a routine of being near them, watching the forrest through my senses, sensing every movement and the surprising energy of trees.
They began to walk together, moving silently despite the occasional kicking of leaves. I sensed Auha approach me, to nudge me to continue with her, as she always did. The Fawn, still nameless, was walking slowly ahead, following the small group as well as waiting for her mother and for me to follow them.
But I had sensed something. Something else had just entered the forest, something that seemed alien and… different.
I stood still to sense it, surprised by the sensation of newness, until the Fawn slowed her pace and looked back. She said nothing verbally, but her mother did, huffing, Fauha.
And so, unthinkingly I began to move, coming out from between the familiar trees.
I needed no conclusion, not curiosity troubled me here. It was truly not so strange when a new creature entered the forest. The result of it mattered very little to me.
I moved along, very slowly. This satisfied Auha, who followed the Fawn with a quickening pace, trusting I would stay nearby even if I could not be seen.
All at once, I heard something I had never heard before.
A swishing of the air around something small, as if a dragonfly had folded his wings to his body and shot himself down like a falcon. Only it went straight forward, and smelled like the corpse of a tree, but… cleaned of its decomposing inhabitants.
The heavy body of a deer thudded to the ground, and the panicked gasps of Auha filled my vision.
Just as suddenly, the deer scattered, huffing and running without checking to see what had happened. I had stopped, sensing that Auha had, and the rough sound of hooves on leaves came toward me as the smell of the Fawn rushed under my body.
She never made a sound. I noted it without meaning.
The endlessness shifted, suddenly. I felt something odd, something I didn't understand, and so I ignored it. I acted without needing anything, without feeling to guide me. I knew somehow what to do, never needing to consider it or think about what was right.
There had never been a right move before. There had never been a mistake. I had never thought about anything but endlessness and winters and the feeling of the summer sun.
It was not an act of bravery, but simply a reaction. The way a tree knows to grow toward the sun, wherever it can find light, even as it starves.
I turned around and began to walk, gliding over the tops of shrubs and between branches without effort. I could feel the Fawn beneath me, staying desperately close.
There was a gasp that sounded, to me, very deerlike, once I had begun to move. It had come from the middle of a tree.
I kept going, steadily, unconcerned. Simply aware that he existed there.
Until it happened again. I heard the strange whistling, and then something tore through a tendril, and lodged itself into my back.
I stumbled forward, moving my body away from the sudden pain as I swaggered. Instinctually, I reached with another tendril to pull out the intrusion, pulling and then yanking when I was met with resistance.
As I yanked it out, it pulled another chunk from my body, leaving me feeling unable to stand straight. Wrapped tightly in a tendril, I brought it to my face, inspecting it.
Just then, another one hit me. I stumbled forward once again, hissing with pain. Something wet was falling down my back, but it wasn't cold like rain.
I turned around, slowly, toward whatever was shooting. Another whistle — and I was hit in the chest. I stumbled backward, and with tendrils grabbed the intrusion in my back to yank it out. Again, it took more with it as it came out. I yanked out the one in my chest and threw them both aside, advancing thoughtlessly toward the animal.
I had met all kinds of creatures. Besides the occasional nibble from a caterpillar, I had never once known the fear of prey. I had never once cared for the role of predator. I had never once been attacked, never once had the thought that anything would try.
Such a possibility had never crossed my mind, no matter what creature I met.
As I advanced, the creature screamed. The Fawn lingered behind me, then was back under my body, then lingered. The creature backed away, and then shot again.
The whistling stick struck my head, and immediately I fell back with the force of it, noticing a warm liquid dripping down my empty face.
The Fawn couldn't take it anymore. She suddenly whipped around and started to run.
I heard the creature shuffling, breathing fast and in panicky, trembling bursts. I could hear the taught of his weapon, and I understood a word he uttered: "demon."
His voice was strange, like a large bird's but not the same, and not as short as the huffs of a stag, nor as long and held out as a wolf's.
Covering his body were the dead parts of animals and plants.
I realized factually that he might be aiming for the Fawn, or for my head again. Either way it was my concern, I felt. I snatched him up with a tendril, squeezing him hard, until I could feel his organs condense and shift under my grip. Something felt as though it were popping, and the man was screaming in terror and shock.
There was a shout, from elsewhere.
I turned my head toward the shout, and sensed another of the creatures freezing. I braced myself, sure I was about to be hit again, as it yelled something that sounded like, "poodeemdown!"
What an odd call, I thought idly, as if I were thinking of the sound of the wind on a spring morning, waiting for summer.
I looked for meaning in it, but found none.
At least, I thought there was none, but somehow I was acting. Thoughtlessly I unfurled my tendril, allowing the violent creature to roll out and fall uselessly to the ground.
Nothing else moved. As if the wind had caught onto my concentration, it suddenly died down, leaving the forrest quieter than it had been in a very long time.
But I was done. I raised myself on my tendrils, rising up higher than I had before, towering over the two of them. Or, the one of them, assuming the first one had survived.
I turned, and glided past trees, over a swollen creek, away from them. My smell was blocked by the flowing of liquid, which was filling my mind with a stench like mud and metal.
I could hear the second creature suddenly find his nerves, and he rushed toward the first creature, speaking words — yes, words. Like a deer, like a bird, like a wolf. But it was something alien, something oddly purposeful.
After a short silence, I heard another whistle. Another dead, sharp stick whistled, trying to graze me, but instead injuring a tree.
Without stopping I pulled the intrusion from the injured tree, aware that it was making a larger gash as if left, but I did not stop.
I kept on, into the darkness, seemingly forever. The endlessness in me was shifting, and I felt for the first time since Auha, something different. Something obsessive, fascinating.
Full of unknown meaning.
I do not know how much longer it was before it happened. Before the weakness in me, the pain at my wounds, finally overtook me, and I began to stumble, swagger, and then fall.
Drifting out of consciousness, I tasted the scent of the corpse of the tree, beside the nuzzling of Auha, of the Fawn.