The mid-autumn wind brushes through the trees like a caressing hand, lightly pushing out the summer’s dying warmth, bringing with it the cruel winter’s frigid gales. The trees sway back and forth with each little breeze, sending brilliant red and gold leaves fluttering every which way. Eventually they settle on the ground, where small squirrels scamper across them, once again sending the leaves scattering to the wind. The squirrels dash about in a calm panic gathering nuts and dried berries, stuffing their stashes and stomachs for the long cold freeze. Their bushy grey and black tails snap back and forth with each rustle of the treetops, while their eyes dart in every direction scanning the underbrush and canopy, at the same time. As the squirrels do their dashing, soft, sweet birdsong floats through the ever-darkening and ever colder forest like a leaf on the ocean. It echoes through the woods light as a feather, but holding the weight of a life. As the sun slowly falls below the horizon, the bird’s cry for company is only answered with a deafening silence, punctuated by the light rustle of leaves.
A hungry Mountain Lion lurks in the underbrush, long, sleek, and powerful, both unheard and unseen. Its shoulders roll forward in a graceful arc as it slinks through the forest. The creature’s tail hangs motionless behind it, only twitching when it touches some protrusion from the ground. Its matted and greying fur mesh with the surrounding forest, making the beast invisible to passersby, it slowly opens and closes its mouth as it stalks, as if tasting the wind.
Nearby, a lone man dressed in a red flannel coat, heavy wool pants that are tucked into worn steal toed boots, and a fur lined winter cap crashes through this calm scene. He has no care for where his feet fall, and no mind to the setting sun. With each step, he snaps a new twig, or crushes a plant that hangs in his way. He disturbs the peace and tranquility of this fairy tale scene, with no second thoughts. Old and angry, there is a determination in his sunken eyes, which can never be overcome with common sense or reason. Only by completing whatever is driving him, might this old man’s mind be put at ease. His lips pursed, he is an old grizzled bear, with a scraggly grey beard, crushing footfalls, and hulking figure. The man holds a large hunting rifle in his old callused hands, his eyes searching back and forth for something. As he walks, he kicks a large branch that had fallen in a strong gust of wind. Looking at the branch with a great bitterness and hatred, he picks it up and lobs it deep into the trees, then sweeps his hateful gaze around the forest.
He continues crashing through the woods, frightening the creatures into stillness and silence. All but one. The lion slinks around a tree brushing against its rough bark. Its eyes spot the old man approaching; the old man’s eyes snap to the predator. They hold each other’s gaze for a moment; they stand at opposing sides of a small clearing. The wind stops abruptly, the earth holding its breath. The lack of wind plunges the forest into a deep and eerie stillness that goes unnoticed by both the beast and man who’s cold hard eyes are filled with both vast hate and some sort of respect or admiration. They glare at each other, like old rivals preparing for their final fight. They hold each other’s gaze for what seems like an hour, until the man finally breaks. He raises his rifle and fires in one swift motion. In an instant, the crack of the gun, a streak of grey/gold fur, the slashing of claws, and the splashes of crimson, punctuated by two animalistic howls of pain. In the blink of an eye, the man has fallen and so has the beast. They both stair at each other, shocked, frightened, helpless. The man’s legs and stomach torn open by teeth and claws, the Mountain Lion’s lower spine shattered by a bullet. They cry out in pain and desperation, which soon changes to pure anger. The eyes of the two rivals once again lock, both filled with rage and unwavering from the others. They struggle towards each other, but to no avail. Deep down they both know what comes next, as a gust of wind brings the inevitable cold of winter.