“Roe, Roe, you have to get me home.” Tears streaked my face, which was covered with sap and grime. Somehow I had lost my shoes and one of my toenails had ripped off as I ran. It hadn’t begun to hurt yet. I felt like a child again, unable to understand what was happening in detail, but experiencing the knowledge of full bodily terror. The slender wounded deer that I clutched spoke with a deeply soft voice.
“If I move, dearest, they will shoot me down. If I stay here, they will find me and shoot me down.” He spoke in that archaic repetitive way deer always did and it was slightly calming, even in the chaos. I touched the bullet wound in the soft flank and he shivered underneath the pain. I ran my sticky blood covered fingers over his large moist nose. The hunters that plagued us had not been following us long, but it seemed to both of us that running away from them had taken over all of our memories. Flight was the only thing in our lives now. Nothing existed outside of these dense woods. I tried to remember when I had unbuckled the saddle from Roe’s back and let it slip to the ground. When he had been hit or before? I couldn’t even recall what it felt like to ride on his back. I wish I could, it must have been nice. Foliage crackled around us and my heart beat faster as I thought of all the reasons for it to make noises.
“Roe, Roe, you have to get me home.” I selfishly cried again. I knew I was being heartless to beg, but I let the desperation consume me fully. I didn’t want to be heroic, I wanted the safety of a friend and I wasn’t willing to try and escape without him.
He spoke again, comforting me as if I was the one who was in pain and not him.
“All you have to do is follow the light, small one. Follow the path. It is very easy to see and it is not long. I promise” They were such simple directions. I had never been so terrified in my whole life.
“Roe! Roe, you have to get me home!” I sobbed heavily into his strong chest. I was sure that I couldn’t do this alone. I would rather the hunters come and find me than try to run without him by my side. I was convinced that we would die here because I was too cowardly to leave the forest. I almost stopped crying as I laid down in defeat on the twiggy undergrowth to wait for the men to arrive.
To my surprise, the buck rose. He was so very slow, first on his back haunches and then wavering onto his forelegs. Finally he stood, looking down at me patiently. I didn’t think he was even able to stand, but here he was walking. He was more than just walking, he was leading me to the path. We exited the woods and it was suddenly looming behind us like a dark leafy backdrop of a stage. It didn’t hide us from the men any longer, instead it felt like a velvety predator. Everything wanted to devour us, even the trees of the woods. I held the stag’s body up with my trembling arms and he steadied me with his powerful neck. Who was helping who?
We stepped onto a curious sidewalk surrounded on both sides with close cropped grass. The winding concrete was so starkly different from the rambling wildness of the forest we had just come from. It was not at all what I had imagined when Roe told me to find a path. ‘Maybe this is all part of a weird park,’ I thought. We were underneath a bare yellow light; a tall post stood far off- was the light from on top? I looked up, but I couldn’t see where it ended. I was reminded again of being on a stage, standing in a glaring spotlight, immovable with stage fright.
The hush was broken with a blast and then men started to shout. We had been sighted. Loud muscled hunters shot their rifles into the light we were standing in. I pushed my friend from me, instantly regretting that I had begged him to help me. How could I have been so self-centered?
“Run…run…” I couldn’t say anything because it had been me who had brought him out under the lantern.
He leapt, stumbled, plunged from his pain. His flight was achingly beautiful and I knew it wouldn’t last long. The light was shining right on him, how would they miss him? The blood matted fur from his wound was so incredibly crimson and wet. The sound of a shot close by pierced my head and sent it ringing. I saw the buck somersault and tumble like a piece of meat. ‘Oh, I hope his antlers don’t snap.’ I thought in that strange disconnected way that trauma causes you to process things. I felt everything crumble and my heart wailed.
“Roe, Roe! You have to get me home!” But he was dead. I shook with the world in my grief of losing my only friend I had, of being lost. I shook and I shook. I could see his dark syrupy blood shining on the grass blades. He wasn’t moving. Wasn’t breathing. The lantern light faded and everything turned into night. It was darker than any dark had ever been. He couldn’t get me home because I had killed him.
The body of the deer heaved and stood. He was clear as glass and strong as diamond. He had been beautiful before, but now he was breathlessly radiant. He bent a noble head to drink from the vast puddle of his own blood. I shuddered at the idea, but I saw now that it had turned into the coldest, purest water. His head lifted, rose colored droplets shimmered in his crystalline mane. A huge sun- never seen before- burst right above us, already placed in its noontime position. The rainbow drops glimmered in my eyes.
Roe, Roe. I’m home
I either slept or woke. I do not remember.