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Sasha stared at the gleaming surface of the mug in his hands. He licked the milk sliding down his chin. As he moved to one of the barred windows, a warm orange glow crept through the little cottage. “Son, do you want some more bread?”
“It’s okay, dad.” Sasha smiled and picked up his favorite book and lunchbox. “I’ll be back before the sunset!” He turned the lock and the great wooden door opened with a gush of fresh wood scent.
“Bring your jacket, Sasha! It’s cold out there.”
The wood was covered with glittering snow. The weather itself wasn’t cold unlike what his dad had expected. Sunlight reflected on the snow and blinded Sasha for a moment. His big topaz eyes blinked several times and he started to make his move towards his favorite place.
After half an hour of walking, he finally reached a huge maple tree. The leaves had all fallen off and were now resting beneath the snow. There was a massive hole in the center of the tree. It was big enough for an eleven-year-old boy to rest his body in. Sasha laid a strip of blanket in the bottom of the hole, and crawled into it. He then leaned on the wall of the hole and dipped himself into the adventure.
Ever since his mom had passed away, Sasha spent everyday reading in this hole. He could hear the books whispering to him. He entered a completely new world, submerged in them. That was why he couldn’t let go of the books. He wanted to get away from the real world where his mom didn’t exist anymore.
Hours had passed, and he had fallen asleep. The sun no longer hung in the sky, and instead, there was a red moon, gleaming behind the dim gray clouds. Sasha woke up and found out he had spent too much time in the woods. He looked up and saw a bloody, white balloon. “Lunar eclipse...” He muttered. It was just then, he heard someone shouting, “Help me! Please, somebody help me!”
Sasha hopped down and looked around the white woods. Suddenly, something approached fast from his left. He could see movement in the bushes, and flash of tan hide. It looked like a deer, although Sasha could not see its head, and it was clearly fleeing from some threat. When it fully showed itself, Sasha gasped, for it was not the head of a deer but that of a young girl with blond hair and violet eyes. He could see where her human neck ended and the body of the deer began, as red marked the place where the two parts had been joined. The girl glanced up, startled by his appearance.
“Help me, please!” She begged. Sasha could hear the clatter of hoofs and soon he saw a horse and a rider on it. An arrow from the rider’s bow was released and it struck the deer-girl’s neck. Her body fell on the snow, where it lay twitching upon the ground. Her back legs kicked at the dirt, her body trembled, and then she stopped moving.
The rider dismounted from the horse, drew a long blade from a scabbard dangling on his saddle, and pointed the tip of it directly at Sasha’s neck. “Lie down, on your tummy.” He said in a funny voice. It was as if there was a hairball in his throat. Sasha wanted to cry as he was scared to death. “Please, don’t kill me.” He begged as he lied down. Then the hunter approached him, tied him up, and piled him over the horse.
They rode for what seemed to Sasha like an hour, or even more. At last they came to a long stone house in the forest. It was a plain, unadorned house with narrow windows and a blue roof. The hunter tied the horse in a huge stable where other animals were too. A fox, a wolf, several chickens and a doe.
Then, the hunter carried Sasha over his shoulders and threw him on the carpet. The inside of the house was decorated with various heads of animals, bottles of all shapes and sizes, filled with clear liquid, stood on shelves.
Sasha shivered as he heard footsteps approaching. The hunter stood over him, the hood now lowered had the scarf removed to reveal the face underneath. It was the face of a woman. Her eyes were green, so green that they resembled the color of the trees. She had a tough body and long features. “Who are you? Why did you kill that deer-girl?” he asked. “I am a hunter, and a hunter must hunt. That girl lasted longer than I thought. Perhaps a fox’s body might have been more suitable for her cunning brain.” Sasha gasped. “You made her that way?” He gave her a disgusted look.
The huntress seemed uncomfortable with the way Sasha looked at her. “Well, what’s your name, boy?” “...Sasha” “Okay, Sasha. You see, animals aren’t always the smartest things in the world and I got tired of hunting them. It was just too easy. So I started to hunt humans, who could think more reasonably and I expected them to provide me with a little more fun. But, the thing is, they were physically behind animals, too weak and too slow. It wasn’t fun at all. That is when I have got to think of combining the two of them. Cunning human brain with excellent animal body. What a perfect prey, don’t you think?”
Sasha’s face turned pale. He lifted up his head and looked at the heads again. Then he came to think about the animals out in the stable. “Aha, you got it, Sasha. That fox you saw out there, that is going to be the other half of your body soon. Very soon.” The huntress gently petted his hair and observed his face. “You have beautiful, clever eyes. You should make a very good prey indeed.” She smiled slightly as she felt Sasha shivering. “Don’t be scared for now, child. I won’t do any harm to you...at least for today. Now go and get some sleep. Sweet dreams, Sasha.” Then she lay upon her hammock and fell asleep.
But Sasha did not sleep. He thought about his situation and recalled all of the tales he had read. In every story, there was something to be learned.
And, in time, he began to plan.
Sasha observed the huntress carefully the next morning. She was making a cup of tea for herself. The huntress gave him some of the tea, then tried to make him eat the meat, but he would not open his mouth. It smelled strong and gamy. The huntress gave up and offered David bread instead. She even freed one of his hands so that he could feed himself.
“So what do you think of your new body to come?” She pointed at the fox in the cage beside the dining table. “It is a fine fox, see. It even has eyes like yours.”
“Why not a bird? Eagles?”
The huntress seemed interested.
“And why is it so?”
“ In the stories that I read when I was little, I came across a creature which was half eagle and half man. It had the torso of a woman, and the arms of a human. But it had a huge wings attached to its back and it had the legs and talons of the eagle. You might be quite fast on your horse, but imagine. If you have the wings and talons of the eagle, you would be able to fly around anywhere and be the best hunter ever!”
The huntress looked from the fox to Sasha, then back again. She turned her back on him and walked to her desk. She found a scrap of paper and a quill pen, and began drawing. From where he sat, Sasha saw diagrams and the shapes of eagles and men. Suddenly, she put her pen down and pulled Sasha towards a room hidden behind the bookshelves. A huge, metal cage was placed in the center of the room. Sasha could not see what it was in it at first, as it was very dark. However, as the huntress lit the candle, he could see a huge eagle which was as tall as a bear.
“I will make a deal with you. I have been thinking about this creature you just told me. You are right: such a beast would make me a perfect hunter. I want to become one. If you help me, I swear that I will let you go.” She said softly. “You can trust me. I’ll burn my own bow and arrows and draw you a map to guide you back to the place where I found you. What do you think I can do without my bow and arrows? But, Sasha...If you are not going to help me, I am going to kill you right now, by opening that cage and pushing you in it.” Sasha tried not to imagine him being eaten by the beast beside himself.
“I want to live.”
“Deal, then.” With that, the huntress tied the chain connected to Sasha’s ankle tightly around the leg of the operating table and explained to him the whole process of how it was going to work.
“Alright. Are you ready? Don’t you dare think about betraying me. Remember, I know where the key is for the chain around your leg. Okay now, let’s begin.” The huntress moved the great beast into the operating room and injected some kind of a drug so that she could easily cut off its wings and legs later on. She then lay herself on the table and demanded. “Hurry up! Cut my legs! Not much time left until that beast wakes up!” Sasha took a big breath, and chopped her legs with an ax. “AHHHHHHHHHH!!” The huntress screamed and fidgeted her body frantically. “APPLY THE SALVE! NOW!” He had no choice but to follow the order as he did not know where the key to his freedom was.
Suddenly, Sasha heard something jingling. He looked around the floor and discovered something shiny. It was the key that had fallen from the huntress’ hair when she moved her head. “NO! GIVE THAT BACK TO ME!” She bellowed when she noticed that he had found the key. Her wound was slowly healing as the salve began to perform its miracle. Sasha reached for the key and freed his leg quickly. The huntress was no longer in pain. Her eyes were burning with fury. She struggled to get off the table, and fell onto the hard marble floor. Sasha could see a bone sticking out of her left arm. But she was near from a bottle of salve which would heal her and enable her to get Sasha back.
‘If I just leave now, she would track me down again someday and kill me. I have to end this.’ Sasha looked around the room and found out that the eagle’s eyelids were flickering. It was starting to wake up. He rushed towards the huntress, took away the bottle near her and dragged her body next to the eagle’s cage.
“What are you doing? No, no, no, no. You are not doing this. Sasha. ” She hissed.
Sasha simply ignored her and rolled her body into the cage completely. Then, he closed the door of the cage and locked it safely. The eagle flinched and opened its eyes.
“Don’t desert me...Sasha! Help me! Help me!” She was frightened now, tears welling up.
‘Sasha, promise me you would be gentle, generous and humble towards everything. Always remember, every creature is precious and you have no right to harm it.” Suddenly he remembered what his mom had told him before she passed away. He felt guilty.
Sasha went back to the cage and inserted the key to the lock. He was very nervous as he was only a few centimeters away from the eagle. It was still unable to control its body. Huntress sighed in relief as Sasha slowly started to pull her out. He was all weary by then and the huntress was quite heavy. Just then, the eagle rose and grabbed her left arm with his talons. She screeched in horrible pain. The beast pulled her body back to where it was instantly and buried its beak on her flesh.
There was nothing he could do. He had choice but to run away in order to survive. The sound of tearing and biting, ripping and shredding didn’t stop, even after Sasha turned away from the repulsive sight and fled into the forest.
He was home.