They advance against the twilight's red eye. Blighted light will be what eventually turns them into ghosts. They search for the child with their lumberjack hands, charred from too many burnings, their sons' air rifles. They have visions of an early spring and wild phlox. The descending night, like a deceitful nymph, is offering false locations. Slugs and spiders live in their dreams of being crushed underfoot. The hunters now disagree as to the direction of footprints. This child was listening to a thousand snakes. The scattering of hunters is now a broken circle of flashlights.
Behind the body of a dogwood, the child, with flesh, toughened and braised, watches the splintered party. He runs past hornbeans, paper birch that have witnessed the fall of many a man, and into a cave. There, he cuddles next to the warm belly of a wounded hyena. His adopted mother is dying. As he leans against her, she gives several weak yelps. Then, dies. The child crawls further into the tunnel, follows the tapering darkness, hearing a canine-like cry, thin, stretching beyond hope, echoing in concentric islands.
© Kyle Hemmings
Bio: Kyle Hemmings lives in New Jersey, where he skateboards, does backflips, and often misses.