by Zack Yancy

The hunter fled, and the hunted followed.

It was, ultimately, a charade. An elaborate one, which sought to convince even the actors themselves, but it was a charade nonetheless.

The hunter dared not look back at that which was hunted, for in that instant it would become real, tangible, and perhaps even palpable. The hunters palms were layered with sweat, which seemed to leak from every orifice, every pore, stinging the eyes, brackish to taste. With every stumble, every delay in the fleet-footed pursuit, the hunters stomach lurched, as if the hunted were gaining ground in that instant.

The trees parted their branches, withdrew their roots, perhaps guiding the hunter to the destination, and as the ground grew barren, the hunter stood at the narrow climax of a precipice, looking down to the waters below, crashing against the beckoning shore, the eroding mainstays calling to join them.

The hunter could feel the hunted now, standing just aft, could smell the hunted, the scent wafting on the slight breeze, as if it were just within arms reach. Every instinct, every nugget of wisdom and every more and folkway passed down from generation to generation begged the hunter to take a single step forward, to feel that weightlessness as the wind rushed by, until it was all over. No more running, no more hunted.

The hunter lifted a foot and prepared.

The weightlessness did not come. There was no surprise, for it was the hunters own volition which kept it at bay. A quick turn revealed the huntedmixing shades of clear-sky blue and bone white, melting into each other, like liquidflowing through a transparent form, one which the hunter desired at this moment more than anything.

The hunter and the hunted locked eyes, their stares electric, and the hunted returned the way they cameback toward the tall trees, which now seemed to tower menacingly.

The branches whipped at the hunter, stinging like a thousand needles with each strike. The tree roots snaked out from the ground, and the hunter tripped and stumbled. The trees closed in, barely allowing even a single breath, and suddenly the hunter was drowning, the hunted standing just out of reachso tantalizingly close. The hunter raged against the living thicket, pushing, scratching, biting, and progress began to trickle in, but not quickly enough. With every second the trees grew closer, until the hunter could move no more.

And in a last, single breath, the hunter paid no mind to the thicketpaying attention only to the goalthe hunted desire incarnate.

The pressure dissipated, and the hunters eyes opened, and there was the hunted, waiting in a field with nothing but the two of them.

Just the hunter and the hunted.

And the hunter was fleeing no longer.

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