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Hidden Hunt

My fiction is all about escape. You may not be escaping to somewhere better but you'll definitely find a different story every time and you can avoid any news about COVID-19 cases. With that in mind here's another short story for you entitled Hidden Hunt, I hope you enjoy.



hidden-hunt



Hidden Hunt


I pull the zip up to my neck and try to hunker down into my thick coat. It’s colder than I expected. Bee is being pulled off ahead by Blitz, our black lab, and keeps looking back at me while I rummage in my pockets for my gloves. The only reason I agreed to these morning walks is because I need to lose some weight, but I didn’t realise she’d be dragging me out every damn morning, come rain or shine. 

My nose is freezing and I wonder if anyone has invented a nose-muff yet - you know, like earmuffs, but for the nose? 

“Are you coming or what?” Bee yells at me.

“On my way.”

I quicken my step and catch up, and she flashes me that melt-my-heart smile. 

“About time.”

“Where are we going today?”

She nods towards the forest at the top of the hill, “Through the woods. It’ll be fun, and Blitz’ll love it.”

I look up at and wonder what path we’ll find in there. Living in the country, we’re used to muddy paths but aren’t forests full of trees? And the trees have huge roots, right? That grow wherever they like and trip up unsuspecting people. I’m likely to land on my face in the middle of the forest and have to walk all the way home covered in mud. I don’t like the sound of that. But I want to disappoint Bee even less, so I smile and nod.

She powers ahead, Blitz bounding towards the footpath that will lead us to the woods. Bee is taller than me, by about a foot, which means when she walks fast I have to go faster. I’m almost running to keep up, and I’m not sure my legs will keep going at this pace. I’m not used to it. 

At the footpath Bee leans down to unhook Blitz from his lead and the second he’s free he zooms into the forest like he’s just got a power boost.

“Not far!” Bee yells after him. 

She turns to me and smiles, then grabs my hand as we wander into the woods. It’s not as bad as I thought, and having Bee by my side makes it worth it. The path is muddy, but not so muddy that I sink into it. Tree roots snake across the pathway and form a kind of base that helps with traction. As we walk along, I keep my eyes on the ground, looking out for any roots attempting to trip me.

“Jimmy made me laugh the other day.” Bee says.

Jimmy is our adoptive son. We adopted him 7 years ago after failed IVF treatments and he lit up our lives. Ever since we met him, I don’t think either of us have been happier. We’ve watched Jimmy grow into a lovely young boy and right now he’s at school.

“Oh?”

“He was talking about a girl in his class and how she keeps following him around everywhere. He said she follows him in the playground and he doesn’t know what to do about it.”

“Should he do anything about it? I mean, she’s not doing anything wrong, is she?”

She looks at me and says, “No you don’t get it Lizzie.”

“What? She wants to play with him?”

“Jimmy says this girl is always following him. She sits next to him at the lunch table, she trails after him in the playground, and she waits for him at the end of school.”

“Okay, I don’t get it. What am I not seeing? Doesn’t she just want to be his friend?”

“She’s got a crush on him, Lizzie!”

“Oh!”

“You’re useless!” She slaps my arm. “I was going to say he made me laugh because when I told him this girl had a crush on him he was like ‘ugh, that’s horrid!’ and screwed up his face. It was the cutest and funniest thing I’ve seen him do in ages.”

I have to admit I’m a bit daft with that stuff. I didn’t notice Bee liked me until she came up to me and asked me out. She told me she’d been trying to send me signals for months but I didn’t pick up on it. But what, I’m supposed to look out for this stuff? All the time? Why would I want to do that? Admittedly, because Bee had the courage to ask me out, I am now happier than I ever thought I could be, but I’m not about to look out for ‘signals’ - it’s just not me.

Bee chats about Jimmy and the girl who has a crush on him while I keep my eyes on the ground. We walk through the woods along the path, and every so often Bee stops talking to call out to Blitz. He gives a bark to acknowledge he’s heard us and we continue along the path.

We’re around the middle of the forest when Bee taps my arm and says, “What’s that?”

I follow her pointing finger and spot a big red winter coat draped over brambles, as if someone had taken it off and dropped it. But it’s far too chilly to want to remove your coat. I let go of Bee’s hand and traipse through the undergrowth to where the coat lays. 

“Be careful!”

I remove my gloves and put one hand on a nearby tree to steady myself, then lean over to grab the coat. It looks brand new. The vibrant red could be spotted from a mile away and the fur lining the hood is soft, albeit a little damp. 

“What is it?”

“A coat. A new one.”

“Check the pockets. Maybe you’ll find ID or something.”

I reach into the coat pockets but they’re empty.

“There’s nothing.” I tell Bee.

“Well, bring it with you and we can take it home. Maybe someone will be looking for it.”

As I turn back to the path, Blitz yelps. 
Bee looks at me, I look at Bee.

“Blitz?” Bee calls out.

He yelps again.

“Blitz!”

Bee glances at me for the briefest second before darting off along the path. I scramble over the undergrowth to get back to the path so I can follow, all the while hearing her calling out for Blitz again and again. Her voice fades.

“Bee? Bee, where are you?”

She calls from far away, but I can’t figure out which way to go. I stick to the path and call out to both Bee and Blitz. Apart from the rustle of leaves, the forest is quiet. I can’t hear Bee anymore, and Blitz has stopped yelping.

A scream echoes through the forest. It’s Bee. I scan the area, trying to see her. Another scream and my heart jumps into my throat. I run towards where I think the scream came from, all the while calling out for Bee. I pass a small pathway to my left, then back up to it. There’s a footprint in the mud. More leading further into the brush. I follow the path, stepping over bushes and branches that have fallen from the trees above. My pace has slowed, but I look around trying to spot Bee.

As I climb over a huge branch that spans the pathway and glance up I spot her coat, the purple catching the sunlight as it bursts through the trees. I hurry towards her as fast as I can, but something grabs my foot and the next thing I know I’m on the ground. My hands sting from slapping the cold mud and even before getting up I know I’m covered. I push myself up, dust off my hands as much as I can, and look for Bee again. She’s gone.

I hurry towards where I thought I saw her. 

A sharp pain in my neck makes me stop dead, and I reach up to check it. There’s something poking out of my neck. It’s icy cold. Could be metal?

My arm goes heavy and drops to my side. My eyelids droop. The surrounding trees dance and I feel strangely drunk despite it being 7am. I can tell I’m swaying but can’t seem to stop myself. The ground comes up to meet my face and as my eyelids threaten to close, I spot two black boots right in front of my face.

Then darkness.

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