I broke apart the silence and watched it dissolve into the steady din of my hunter’s march—a rhythm that seeks to contain the red music of prey. I could feel the big cat’s senses fluttering around me, whispering away with some of my deepest secrets. I allowed the theft, as I wanted the cat to know the risk it took in confronting me. The cougar made its departure, merging into a current of darkness that surged through a distant window. I returned my sisters to their slumber and sought out that which I was meant to find.
I walked the darkness-filled rooms of the cabin until the invisible threads that guided me fell away completely. I lit a match. The trembling light touched something old and dead. There was a skeleton before me, partly submerged in the dirt floor, as if the ground had quickly solidified around its white, flailing limbs. I removed the bones from the cold earth, examining them in minute detail. A rib bone had been shattered, perhaps by a bullet. In its ragged shirt pocket there was a knife and an age-chewed notebook. Within the book’s yellowed pages I found only a small list of six names, three of which had been crossed out.
Moving on, I found piles of cut-out newspaper articles stacked in a corner, every one of them concerning the business of murderers. My own efforts were among the many collected vignettes. I was happy for the opportunity to revisit the work of one particular artist whose paints outlined his dying vision of me. I have no doubt he intended the picture for me rather than the police and the newspapers, as he was clearly grateful for the experience I had granted him—to peek behind the curtain of his own skin to see what he was truly meant to become. While his depiction was wildly inaccurate (within this world at least), I’m pleased he thought it appropriate to render me slightly inhuman.
As I held the notebook in my hands and studied the names, it slowly became apparent that a great task had been passed to me. I knew in the same way I could feel certain shadows watching over me when I worked—a gossamer breeze that whispered beneath my skin, letting me know what flesh could never tell.
I would cross off the remaining names.
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