The Dead: Book 21 (frag. 1)

Submitted by Ken Watts on Tue, 06/29/2010 - 15:20

WARA MOVED SILENTLY AND STIFFLY into position.

The aching leg made the usual stealth difficult, but silence on the hunt had been a habit from childhood—not easily lost in old age.

So—not a sound.

The beast was not far now—food for a month or more, a chance for the leg to heal.

An arrow drawn over the shoulder, swiftly, silently, in cover of a tree trunk.

The string of the bow notched.

Then, ever so slowly, the move into place.

Taking aim...

And the wind shifted.

The beast's head turned abruptly.

It charged.

The first shot just missed, Wara caught by surprise.

The gravel shifted underfoot, and the lame leg gave way.

The second shot went home, but not in time.

The beast, already doomed, was carried forward by the momentum of the charge, and fell.

An antler pierced Wara's side, snapping ribs.

It had been a good life, Wara thought. I've had more years than others in my tribe, and better.

In one way, I've lived longer than any of them.

A tinge of regret.

The light diminished rapidly, and with it, the ability to think.

*****

A bird song announce morning, and light streaming over the hilltop tinged the leaves overhead.

Wara's eyes opened.

I'm not dead quite yet. I may last long enough.

The body of the beast was heavy, and it took long and painful work to dislodge the antler and get out from under the weight.

Blood flowed from the wound—too much blood.

Walking was impossible, but Wara managed a crawl, teeth gritted, leaving the quiver and bow, even the loincloth, pinned under the beast behind.

It was some distance back to camp, and took most of the day, with frequent pauses for rest and sometimes loss of consciousness to make the trip.

The elbow of a stream and a shallow beach provided a respite and water about a third of the way back, which made the rest of the journey possible.

The hut stood at the center of a small clearing, welcoming as ever.

Wara clawed the last few feet to the doorway, then, with great difficulty and using the stump which served as a seat by the door, reached for the latch.

At first the latch didn't work—a moment of panic as consciousness lurched and started to slide away.

Then realization, and relief.

It was the blood and dirt smeared over the hand from the long and tortuous crawl.

Suck on your fingers. Get them clean. Find one that isn't too damaged.

Just moments later—an eternity—the latch worked.

There was a click as the fingerprint was recognized, and a soft whirring sound as the door slid open.

Wara made it inside, and into a chair—the one at the desk, with wheels.

It was now possible to roll, with effort, to the sink and the first aid supplies.

Bandages, ointments, pain-killers.

Yes. These will provide some relief. But don't kid yourself. You know what's coming.

With one hand, she delicately lifted an sagging breast and with the other she gently probed the nasty wound below it.

To be continued...