[I.III.] Pursuit

echoing's picture

When I awoke
The moon still hung
The night so black
That the darkness hums

She keeps to the shadows, like prey. They do not protect her here, but she doesn’t know that. There is so much she doesn’t know and will not find out.

She slides out of the shack as far from the voice as she can get and hopes.

A fox it was
He shook afraid
I spoke no words, no sound he made

When she pauses to catch her breath, she doesn’t realize where she’s come to. This is her second mistake. Her first was coming here. Once again she finds herself beneath the bows of the Not-Oak. She believes she has found a landmark—and does not realize that the landmark has found her too.

The creature lunged
I turned and ran
To save a life I didn't have

The creature finds her swiftly then. It is not slow as she had thought—it has been tracking her. It sits on its haunches, the faces along its sides rapt, and watches her with what she can only call curiosity.

My head was warm
My skin was soaked
I called your name 'til the fever broke

There is a noise.

Hlin freezes. Her ears pin back.

The noise comes again. She identifies it.

Someone is calling her name.

I raised myself
My legs were weak
I prayed my mind be good to me

She has forgotten that hope will fail her here too.

A creature watches her from within the trees. It would have spotted her no matter what she had done; it is massive, its head level with the top branches of the trees. She can hear its breathing from here, its chest rising and falling like immense bellows. She catches a glint in its eyes, below the great antlers that rise from its head like a thousand trees. It turns. Along its body are more faces—too many to count. They snap to attention in one swift movement.

An awful noise filled the air
I heard a scream
In the woods somewhere

She flees.

A woman's voice
I quickly ran
Into the trees
With empty hands

When the prey sees the predator’s shadow, it leans into its nature. She is swift-footed and surer than a new traveler would be. She is away into the trees opposite of it before the beast can charge her.

The creature follows.

His bone exposed
His hind was lame
I raised a stone to end his pain

What caused the wound
How large the teeth?

To her credit, she does realize this when the branches of a tree reach out for her and pin her against it. Its heartbeat is loud now, pounding against the bark that twists and pulses with life. Her thoughts freeze. All she can hear is a single sentence, played on repeat.

I was right.

I saw new eyes were watching me

Now she makes a noise. The scream rises from her chest and rips from her throat like a murder of crows.

The panic electrifies her. It’s a kind of power: to turn fear into something else, by alchemy. She writhes and suddenly she’s out of the branches, stunned and stumbling. The amulet doesn’t work as well here—but it works well enough.

She takes the opportunity it’s given her and runs for her life. Behind her, she hears the creature laugh. It is a sound she will never be able to erase from her nightmares

if she lives.

Dear, in the chase
There as I flew
Forgot all prayers
Of joining you

She can hear the creature trotting behind her as she runs, pulling aside branches and carelessly breaking sticks. How she wishes it would run too. If it gave chase, that would mean she had a chance of escape. Instead, each plodding step means one thing: that it is waiting for her to get tired.

The adrenaline is wearing off. She stumbles over a tree root in a moment of distraction, skinning her knees. She gets back up. She falls. She gets up. The cycle is endless. The beast in the distance laughs again.

I clutched my life and wished it kept
My dearest love

I'm not done yet

So she gives in to one last hope.

With the last of her energy, she reaches out into the barrier. She can feel it swarming over her like ants. It does not want her to leave; perhaps it somehow knows what’s behind her. The jewelry buried in her chest pulses with blinding heat.

The barrier tears with an unspeakable sound.

How many years
I know I'll bear
I found something
In the woods somewhere

She escapes the predator’s talons that night, tumbling into the forest and fleeing for anywhere to hide.

But so too does the predator escape its cage.

Oh Hlín, what have you

Oh Hlín, what have you done...
Really love the tension in this and so excited to see where it's going.
Kaoori's picture

I love this. I was tense the

I love this. I was tense the whole time!