The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
Death is a Hunter
by Sonora Taylor
Maddie sighed as she walked through a field. “How long until we get there?” she asked.
“Soon,” Dylan replied.
Maddie pouted. She’d lived next door to Dylan her whole life, and until today, he’d never wanted to play with her. He never showed interest, probably because he was a boy and because he was five years older than her.
But Dylan came to her today, and asked if she wanted to play in the woods. Maddie loved the woods. She played there almost every day. Dylan had insisted they cut through the field, and because he was fifteen – almost a man – Maddie had listened.
After a long time walking, though, she began to regret listening to him. “Why doesn’t the field have a path?” she asked. She thought of the paths in the woods that were littered with paw prints from Mousie, the grey stray tabby cat that her mother said she shouldn’t touch. “I wish we could make one.”
“We’d need a scythe,” Dylan said.
“What’s a scythe?”
“A long blade. Reapers hold them.”
“Ghosts that gather souls.”
Maddie smiled at the spooky image Dylan conjured in her mind. “If they have blades, then wouldn’t they be hunters?”
“I bet Death is a hunter.” Maddie thought of Mousie pouncing on a bird, or snakes that snatched up mice. “I bet reapers have eyes like cats, and chase souls until they fill their bellies –”
“Maddie, be quiet. You don’t want to attract animals.”
“None of the animals will bother me. Not even the mountain lions –”
Maddie clamped her mouth shut. They walked in silence and, at last, reached the woods. They moved down a path she hadn’t walked before, which opened into a dark clearing with a small pond.
Maddie gasped and rushed forward. “A secret pond!” she cried. “How did you find it?”
“It’s mine,” said a deep voice to her right. Maddie turned and saw an older man, much older than Dylan, with blood-stained overalls. She turned and was about to call for Dylan, but he disappeared into the trees. Something told her that calling for him wouldn’t help.
“It’s my special pond,” the man continued. “Where I hide special girls like you.”
Maddie closed her eyes and prayed that the forest would help her. The man moved closer. She could smell rot on his breath.
A hiss broke through the clearing. Maddie opened her eyes and saw a flash of grey streak towards the man. Mousie leapt onto his neck and dug her claws in tight. The man screamed as blood poured from his skin onto her paws. He tore Mousie from his neck, but before he could throw her, he screamed again and dropped her. A cluster of snakes slithered up his legs, their fangs in view and looking for a place to bite. The man fell to the ground as the snakes slithered up his body. They each took turns biting into his skin. Maddie watched while Mousie rubbed against her legs and purred.
The snakes suddenly scattered. But the man wasn’t safe. A mountain lion jumped into the clearing, blood and drool dripping from her maw. She looked up at Maddie, her eyes green and glistening. She almost seemed to smile, as if to thank her for the prey. Then, she grabbed the man by the neck and dragged him into the forest.
Maddie smiled as she stroked Mousie’s fur. Death was a hunter, and the forest was filled with the best hunters of all.
Fiction © Copyright Sonora Taylor
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Sonora Taylor:
Should we or shouldn’t we? It’s a question many ask themselves each day. Should we or shouldn’t we wither in a wooded paradise instead of a broken city? Leave our home when the news warns us of what’s outside? Join in a circle of nighttime delights? Be with someone who awakens our sins?
“Wither and Other Stories” tells four tales of the choice to partake. In the end, the choice may not need to be made. For when we ask ourselves, “Should we or shouldn’t we,” the answer is always yes.