by Syn McDonald, January 10th 2023
It is here, under this tree, that I died.
I often took this path on my way to drink from the sweet water of the small brook at the bottom of the hill. If I’d taken the other branch that morning, my life would have been saved.
But I was thirsty. I could hear the water babbling over the rocks that lie midstream. The sound made me hurry and in my rush I was careless.
I’m usually the careful one. My sister teases me for going so slowly. But there are often men here. The number of times I have cautioned her against how quickly she travels these paths. Their loud footsteps are not hard to miss; they break branches as they move heavily through our woods.
When we heard them we dashed away, often pushing through the undergrowth to avoid being seen. Our father disappeared after a loud bang like thunder once as we ran.
But I digress. The day I died I darted along the path, eager to quench my thirst. I didn’t see the strange loop that hung in the middle of the path until it was too late. My head slid neatly through and as I ran forward, it pulled tight and I was snatched into the air. I kicked with all my might against the tight band around my throat to no avail. My body swung through the air. I struggled to breathe but not even a sip of air would pass the noose around my neck. A pounding in my head grew worse and everything began to grow black. I kicked more weakly. Finally I could only hang there.
The next thing I knew I was watching as a man approached my hanging body as I observed from a higher viewpoint. I felt no fear as I heard my frightened brothers and sisters dashing away through the brush. The man grasped my hanging body and reached out— his paw seemed to have grown a longer, shining claw which broke the cord around my neck.
Now that my body was free I wished I could go back inside it and fight my way free, return to the path and run away to join the others. Instead I could only watch as the man used his shining paw to open my belly. All my insides fell out onto the path.
I remember finding a pile like that after my father disappeared. Did this happen to him? I thought. How awful. But it didn’t hurt. The man tucked my hollow body into his back. How did he do that? I wondered. Strange creatures, these men, with their shining paws and hollow backs.
I tried to follow, to see what the man would do with my body. Nothing happened. I still floated above the path, without a sense of purpose. Why was I here? To watch the gruesome moments after my death?
It was at that moment I heard my father’s voice.
It is time to go, a voice echoed in my head. You will live again. I looked down at my own paws and saw that I was fading away.