Hunted This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

October 13, 2012
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Always hunted, never had he known anything but the running and hiding of the hunted. As a youth, nestled against his mother in the chill of the night, was the first surfacing. A loud holler had rung outside and the fear had begun. The swirled hues of his mother’s eyes suddenly filled with the black hanging mist of the tortuous killer, fear. Before so calm and loving, she had transformed into a maniac, yipping and screeching like a bird captured in the claws of a feline. Her body writhed back away from him, letting his weak body slump down into the cold, unforgiving earth beneath. The dirt of the cave floor smearing into his rich red fur, fur that was so coveted by all.

She hadn’t looked back as she fled from her pup, so driven by the banshees calls of the warriors outside, searching and tracking them, to look back for her baby. He had been the runt, staying behind after his siblings had moved on out, out into the world where horror and terror were as common as a cold. And they spread just as easily, with the holler of his mother the whole forest seemed to come alive. Birds screeched from their treetop homes. Gophers dug deeper into the safety of their earth. Inside the damp, musky cave where safety had once held him the young kit felt for the first time fear. It started deep in his stomach, like a reaction to spoiled meat, and worked its way up. An infection spreading through one piece of his body at a time till the very tip of his charcoal black nose twitched and curled up with the touch of it.

Once fear takes hold it never lets go.....

That had only been the start, the birth, now years and half a lifetime later it has eased back into a familiar disease one lives with all the while knowing one day it will rise up and choke the life out of them. Now, here today in a different forest then where he was born, Fox lives a different sort of hunting. Hunting now threatens more than his feeble, childlike mind that it once had. Now the hunters could take so much more from him.
Back in his own cave, hidden beneath a large boulder that served as a doorway of sorts. A doorway that had to be crawled beneath to enter. Hidden there, at the edge of the forest, with dusty earth and lush ferns was his home, his family, his life.
Just yesterday, in the pale morning light of a new day, three miniature foxes had been born, created as if by magic within the belly of his mate, whom he had watched and doted over for weeks before the small bundle inside her would come out into the world. That morning had been the first moment in his life that fear had drifted away, to be hidden beneath the glowing brightness of amazement.
Never before in his life had he seen such a miracle, small bundles of fluff and lashing tails had assaulted his cozy home with noise. Their maws wide open as they mewled and cried their way into the cruel world. Though once quieted, Fox was gifted with sight of them up close. Their bodies were so like his own, with soft downy fur and a thick tail. Though were his eyes glowed yellow theirs were only slits, leaving them blind in this new place. Though blind they stayed innocent and calm, so trusting of the strangers that were their parents. In that moment, Fox realized the importance of his duty now.
These tiny bundles of life were on his shoulders, and it was his job solely to protect them till those eyes could open and they could see for themselves the small bit of wonder left in the world so taken over by chaos and destruction...

Now off in the woods a distance from where those pups rest, sleeping perhaps curled with their mother in relative safety, Fox leans his head down on his black tipped paws and lifts an ear to the wind. The sounds of the forest flooding his mind as he searched for the sound of prey to bring back for his deserving mate, now a mother.
Though when none came to him he drifted off, into the lasting valleys of thought he held within his skull. A land that wasn’t permeated with the evils of the true reality of Earth. He imagines a time when the hunters weren’t alive, when furless warriors didn’t storm his home waving about sticks of death and mumbling incantations. He pretends for only a moment that he never feared being snatched from his loved ones and skinned, skinned to make enchanted cloaks and scarves for the warriors. In this moment he finds peace, and inspiration. A deep lingering calm enters his realm of thought, and seeps down into his body till his tensed muscles find peace in the bed of leaves he rests on. Seconds slip past as he lays lost in the strange territory of thought, till slowly, almost unbeknownst to him fear finds its way into this most private of sanctuaries.

Dressed in a cloak of darkness the tall, imposing figure of fear steps into the rich grasses of thought, and takes a stroll over Fox’s memories to the moment he’s lost in now and with long, gangly fingers he reaches forward, inch by inch getting closer....

....and closer

...and closer still till with a soft crunch his talon like fingers snap shut, grasping the peaceful creature by the throat and holding him tightly in the vice-like grip of impending doom.
Terror rips up through his legs, making them go limp against the black, decaying leaves beneath him. Angst grabs his claw tipped toes till they curl up to try and escape. Panic leaps into his stomach with a dance of twisted amusement and stomps on the shattered pieces of sanity he has left. Dread drips down from the tips of his ears and into his mouth, taking away his cries of help and smothering them against his squeals of last words. A cold sweat spreads over every inch of his furred body. Hot and cold battle across the expanse of his chest, with the cavalry of ice surrounding his heart and the artillery of heat pumping his blood faster than ever before. His heart in a last, hopeless attempt to escape certain death throws itself forward into his throat, the pound of every pulse racking through each inch of his body till he seems to shake and quiver with the effort of his heart beating.
Ba-dum. His mind goes blank.

Ba--dum. His eyes slip shut.

Ba-dum. His muscles relax.

Ba....dum. His body goes limp.
The hands of his killer; creeping, deceitful, evil, regretless fear has captured him finally. He had been caught and surrendered for another’s twisted pleasure with the goods of his body. He only has another few heartbeats to suffer through before he is free of the cruel, fear-filled world he lives in.

Ba-dum. Silent goodbyes flee his mind, in hopes of finding his mate.

Ba-dum. His mate, in their cave, nestled to his pups.

Ba-dum. His pups, with eyes still shut, trusting.....

Fury suddenly grabs holds of him. Passion shoves terror down away from his legs and they twist and shudder against the earth. Rage drives his toes out till they scratch against the fingers of angst twisted around them. Vexation shrieks through his stomach and chases the panic away to replace it with the bubbles of anger. Hatred fills his mouth and soars out to fill the air with his call, sending dread spanning out like forgotten raindrops, no longer smothering his voice. Anger, love, hate, and peace all swarm together like a motley militia and charge against the holds of fear. One last scream of passion escapes his lips and Fox fights against the holds of his captor.
Twisting and writhing he pushes back against the coiled fingers that had snatched him up from his peaceful place. His razors of teeth lash out and dig into the tender flesh of his weakening attacker. Driven on forward by the image of innocence he fights against what has shoved him down all these years, this fear; wicked and pungent. He pushes it back, and demands to be freed with his shrieks and piercing fangs.
Fears jolts back, and drops his from its grasp. Those yellow eyes of the fox, courageous and passionate are the last sight it sees before it flees back into the holds of the forest around, no longer a plague on the creature, and never to be on his blind, innocent pups.

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