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Stories

The Hunt of Life

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Slowly, silently, searchingly, he walked along the dusty path in the jungle. Morning sunlight spread across his face through the spaces between the branches in the crowded trees. His lower body was in shadows. The boy strained to hear a squeal of fear, a roar of pride, anything at all. Trying to maintain posture despite the heavy musket on his back, he trod along, careful not to step on dry leaves.

This was his first hunt. His family was waiting in the village, hopeful for a positive outcome. So were all of his friends. He was the eldest, and hence the first to be sent out. All he had to do was locate a big deer and bring it home, but his young mind hoped to spot a tiger or the like. Suddenly, he heard a bush shaking. The sounds of leaves falling, and the clip-clop of an animal's hooves filled his ears. This was his chance. Faster than before, but still slow, he moved towards the sound. When he was ahead, he spotted fresh marks on the green undergrowth, leading further into the forest. He followed, and before him appeared a large buck.

It was quite taller than the boy. The deer's golden body was speckled in white dots as if snow fell on it from the sky. Its antlers cast ominous shadows over the shrubs and the boy's face. It appeared separated from its group. The boy felt nervous, but kept a brave front. He pulled his musket over his back and into his hands. The boy began a breathing exercise his father had taught him to keep calm. The deer had not seen him yet. He remembered his mother's talk, of the glorious deer with its understanding eye and the grace of a noble. Then it struck the boy that the animal he was looking at did not seem to have much grace. In fact, it was walking with a limp.

Instead of a straight line, the deer turned to the left, occasionally correcting its path. The boy was now piqued. He could easily take down the deer, even if it was to start running, but he was disinterested in that. He wanted to prove to himself that he could hunt a healthy deer. He decided to follow the animal in hopes of finding others. He went ahead and agitated it. The deer, startled, bellowed and dashed ahead. The boy worked up a steady speed and made his way towards the deer.

Eventually they reached a river. This massive stream of water raced beyond their fields of vision at a vicious speed. There seemed no way to reach the other side, when the boy caught a glimpse of a weak, threadbare rope bridge a few feet from them. There was no way the deer could have crossed. Presently, it sat down and began eating the grass there. The boy made a decision. He walked over to the injured deer and wrapped some of his cloth bandage around its leg. Then he abandoned the deer and crossed the river on the bridge. He walked on ahead, with one last look at the animal. The deer had a peculiar look on its face.

Hours passed. The Sun peaked, and then began its descent. Creatures which had hidden until now showed their curious faces to the world. New sounds and smells filled the forest. The light was gone and below the velvet blue sky, a strange activity took over the jungle. The boy was now exhausted. He panted loudly, the stealth he displayed in the morning completely gone. His clothes were torn from falling from a hill. His boots were muddy from the time he fell in a marsh. His musket was lighter, but all of those were missed shots. The boy was filled with disappointment, and a certain sense of despair at what his parents would say. Slowly, he walked towards home, having killed no deer. The river had settled down by now and he had an easy passage.

Remembering the deer, he looked around the bank. In the dark, he saw a shape lying on the ground. The boy rushed over to the fallen deer. He checked for signs of breathing; there were none. Neither was there the movement deer displayed at night time. It was gone. The deer had died while the boy was away. There were no injuries.

The boy shed a tear. He thought of how weak he was to feel bad for this deer. But hunters were respected. They got through life easily. No, he thought, they find it easier because they are tough. Because they can navigate the forest, sneak up on animals, treat injuries, handle a gun, and reach home on time. The boy considered that he was enough of a hunter.

Wiping his eyes, he stood above the deer, aimed his gun at its heart and fired at the already dead animal. Then he picked up the body with his mark of death on it, and travelled home. His parents would be glad that the first hunt of his life was a success.

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