The Hunt

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This is a 500-word stand-alone flash piece. I hope you enjoy.

The Hunt

I found the woman that Kester shot, stiff and snow-dusted beneath a fir. Other footprints head north, the white glaze of ice crunching as we track them in our heavy boots. This is my first hunt, my first war, old enough now to join the rebellion and execute my neighbors. Better than a bullet in the back, Kester says. You have to pick sides in these things.

“We’re stopping for the night.” Kester kicks the snow and points at the trees with his rifle. “You’re in charge of wood, Grayse. The rest of you set up camp.” I stare into the black forest beyond the body, my eyeballs stinging, toes gone numb hours ago. “Get going,” he barks at me. “I’m gods-damn freezing.”

My rifle abandoned, I trudge into the winter barrens beneath a star-spilled sky. The trees are giants wearing snow-draped robes, yet their crisp twigs and dead branches snap like small bones. I fill my arms, tramp back, and head out for more. Kester will nod when it’s enough, so there’s no point in asking.

Worried about losing my way, I follow the tracks while gathering my sticks, and the trek is easier where the snow’s crust was broken. Before I’ve hiked far, the trees thin and part, and at the forest’s edge, the night burns in a fire-show of light, rippling in hues of topaz and tourmaline.

Beneath the sky’s blazing ribbons, a village winks into existence, candles glowing in frosted windowpanes. I blink and rub my eyes with frozen fingers. Across the pale snow, I behold my countrymen staggering, stiffly, colder than death, lurching like disjointed corpses toward salvation. Their skeletal shadows stretch in the holy light back to me.

“Grayse! Graaaaayse,” Kester bellows from the forest, searching, my absence too long. “Graaaayse.”

In a panic, I run toward the village. I don’t know why. Do I seek its snug hearths or the promise of golden windows beneath a child’s magical sky? Or do I flee my future? Am I a weapon of the soulless, a beast in a child’s skin, killing my victims in the cold? Before me, the hunted weep and fall as they flee. I grab a man who pleads on his knees and hoist him up. Arm in arm, we stumble through the deep snow before the calls of my pursuers.

The last to reach the village, the man staggers through an open door and turns, beckoning me inside. I want to join him in the warmth and light. Instead, I draw my knife and face the skylit snow and black rim of forest.

“What the hell, Grayse?” Kester demands as my unit tramps toward me across the barrens.

“I was…” Despairing, I glance back before attempting to explain the village, to defend my actions, but behind me, nothing more than the night’s aurora ripples over the snow. “I was…lost.”

Kester smacks me across the face. “Run off out here, you get lost forever.”

“No,” I murmur. “You get found.”

 

Flickr Image: Northern Lights, Yukon, Canada www.studiolit.com

83 thoughts on “The Hunt

  1. Neelima says:

    This is so beautiful Diana. I see a story in the making…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This piece really evoked what it feels like to trudge through a stark snowscape! Well done, Diana!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I really enjoyed reading this! I especially loved the metaphor that you used when describing the trees in the third paragraph. I hate to focus on that one line in such a wholly beautiful piece, but it really jumped at me for some reason.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Beautiful imagery in this one. And I do love flash. Very nice!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “Beneath the sky’s blazing ribbons, a village winks into existence, candles glowing in frosted windowpanes.” How gorgeous!
    I love flash stories too. They are so intense but they feel effortless compared to longer pieces. And Diana, you rock at it! You depicted an entire world in such vivid and intense details. I love it!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Helen Jones says:

    This is dark, Diana, but at the same time such beautiful imagery. I felt as though I were out there in the snowy night with them. Lovely.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Awesome 500! Your story fits in with the snowy boughs alongside the posts here on your blog. Makes me feel the chill Grayse feels. But, it isn’t nighttime. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The last line made it for me. Great!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. You managed to include a great deal in those 500 words, Diana. It made me feel the cold. 🙂 — Suzanne

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Antonia says:

    Such a wonderful piece Diana! I really felt like I was in the story, on that cold night. I love the ending…”you get found.” Awesome job!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Annika Perry says:

    Great writing, Diana which pulled me in from the start. Oh, I felt for Grayse and whilst wanting him to find safety and comfort in the village realise this would never be an option for him. Love the last line – sums it up perfectly. Hope we will see more of these flash pieces…😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed my cheery Christmas offering 🙂 Ha ha. I would have liked him to find safety too, but that wasn’t part of his journey to self. I love doing flash pieces…I’m certain there will be more 🙂 Happy Holidays!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I loved this short, suspense-filled piece, Diana! I like how Grayse finds the place in his heart to realize the horror of war. I love the descriptions, nice and cold….could truly feel it!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Great flash, Diana! Love the pic as well. Both are very powerful. And I could see this scene fleshed out into much more. Hope you’re staying warm and having a great week!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Loved it. I’ve never seen the Northern Lights in person, but reading this I felt like I could tip my head back and watch the colours dance across the sky. Perfect setting for this mysterious story.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Steven Baird says:

    Beautiful and intense setting, Diana. An atmospheric and chilling flash piece.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. Such a gripping piece of flash, enjoyed it so much Diana. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  17. dgkaye says:

    Intense, war, conflict, and humanity in the end. Wonderful writing Diana. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Felicity says:

    Vivid and gripping are the very best descriptors for this piece… and your writing in general. I love the easy and natural flow and cadence of your writing! Happiest of the season to you 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Jade M. Wong says:

    Wow! That was a gripping tale and I love the twist in the ending.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Susanne says:

    You have so many gifts, but what strikes me about this story is the strong sense of place. The setting is vivid. I must have mentioned this before, right? Anyway, I’m also curious about how you come up with names for your characters. they’re also highly original.

    Liked by 2 people

    • In this case, the story has a bit of Amazing Grace buried in it, therefore “Grayse” is intentional. In getting lost in war, in winter, he gets found by something higher that saves him – his compassion and humanity. Now, Kester just popped into my head, which is how most names happen. Thanks so much for reading and for the lovely comment, Susanne 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  21. quotesandmore (Chitra) says:

    Loved reading it… liked how you ended with “You get found.” Hope is like a drink of water, helps you survive…

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Larry says:

    Wow, Diana!! Oh, you really should think about expanding on this one…please, please!

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Bernadette says:

    A powerful piece of writing.

    Liked by 2 people

  24. It sure starts with a bang–“I found the woman that Kester shot”. It reminds me of one I read–“She couldn’t believe she was dying in English”. Opening lines like these are like the 140-character Twitter story where you fit everything into a short space.

    Great start and even greater finish.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Wow so intense Diana! Always a pleasure to read your words!

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Wow. That was intense, but beautiful. Getting found…indeed.

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Nurse Kelly says:

    The setting was so strong, overshadowing the pettiness of war, at least that is what I took away from this. Made me think of compassion, and conversely, torment. Stunning write, Diana, a real joy to read this morning.

    Liked by 2 people

  28. Phil Ryan says:

    Gripping! Well done Grayse, glad you live to describe another perilous venture, hopefully soon.

    Liked by 2 people

  29. balroop2013 says:

    Diana, I liked the touch of poetry in this dark story. I guess this is one of your ruthless and crude characters from your book but he is very impressive! The backdrop too is well-defined, within a few well chosen words. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  30. Heartafire says:

    A fascinating tale Diana! “he trees are giants wearing snow-draped robes, yet their crisp twigs and dead branches snap like small bones.” Priceless! ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  31. Morgan says:

    Is this a stand alone or a snippet from one of your books? It begs for more…or maybe that me? 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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