Bright Moon

Wisps of grey cloud drifted across the face of the moon creating the impression that the silvery orb itself was gliding across the tops of the black fir trees. Shafts of soft light meandered down through the gaps in the canopy, dissolving shadows cast on thick powder snow. For a few moments the silhouette of an animal, perched on a rocky hilltop appeared against the moon’s face, dominating it. The posture was relaxed and confident. It sat on its haunches, head raised to the midnight blue star studded sky.
The howl was long and clear, piercing the night and the hush of the forest;
a long stiletto slicing a velvet curtain.

The soft snow cushioned my feet as I made my way through the lines of fir trees

standing like sentinels. Numerous night creatures could be heard scurrying, their
tiny hearts beating fast as they hurried to natural dormitories to escape the cold, or was it fear that motivated them?
I felt no fear. In fact my confidence was high. My thick warm coat kept the icy
chill at bay, my heart beat at a steady rhythm in my chest and I breathed effortlessly, my warm breath clouding as it met the night air. My natural senses surprised me this night. My vision was exceptional and my hearing acute. I swear I could hear every movement, from a night creature scampering up a tree to the tiny thud as a clump of snow slid from a branch and hit the ground below. My sense of smell too picked up a plethora of aromas as a gentle breeze pushed them my way. The spicy scent of fresh pine, rotting wood, the odour of an animal where it had hidden in a small cave in the rocks. It can’t have been gone long, maybe my approach upset it. The smell of smoke, not too far away, caught my attention and over it the rich smell of meat roasting stimulated my taste buds.
The night was so clear, my eyes had quickly become accustomed and I could see a long way with the help of the bright moon. A cocktail of thoughts passed through my mind as I moved slowly forward. The one that was most predominant was, why am I here? What made me come out on this night, especially into such a foreboding place as the forest? It was the first time I had ventured into the outside world since the attack. An hour earlier Naomi, my partner and I were fast asleep however something must have spooked me. I awoke quite suddenly and started dressing myself. My movements woke her and she switched on the light to see what was happening. The glare alarmed me and hurt my eyes. I covered them with my hands and cried out angrily.
“Turn that off. Go back to sleep!”
“No! Don’t speak to me in that tone! What’s wrong with you? What are you doing? Why are you getting dressed?”
“I’m going out. I’ve been cooped up in here for too long. I need fresh air and some freedom.”
“Daniel, it’s nearly midnight. Are you crazy? You’ve been so reclusive the last few weeks, since you were hurt and…and now you just want to rush outside .. into the snow, in the middle of the night!”
She peered at me as if I had two heads, her eyes searching my face for something, some sign and then the hint of fear showed and she looked very upset but I didn’t care, I just had to go. As I reached the front door she rushed to me and seized my arm.
“Daniel, Darling, come back! Let’s talk about this. You obviously have a problem. You’ve been bottling things up. Let’s work out why!”
“No! Let me Go …!”
“Oh! … You bastard!”
I struck her and the stunned look on her face stopped me momentarily. It was a look of surprise and horror. She turned and stumbled back to the bedroom crying but she still managed to scream back at me in her most vicious tone.
“Go on, get out! Go, and don’t come back!”
There was such anger and hate in those words. I’m usually very placid, I have never ever struck her before but her attempts to make me change my mind, for some obscure reason had upset me and fired my anger and I had lashed out verbally and physically. I saw that she was frightened by my outburst however I could feel myself losing control so I stormed out without looking back.
Once outside I felt no remorse for the way I had treated her and for a moment I wondered why but the joy of being outside gripped me and I forgot about her. It was strange entering the outside world for the first time in weeks. I felt uneasy and uncertain of myself at first as I looked about and breathed the cold night air. The streets were empty so thankfully no one was about to get in my way. I looked to the sky, I don’t know why, for inspiration perhaps but it seemed to trigger something inside me and after a while a weird yet powerful force, which appeared to come from within me took hold and lured me towards the dark forest ahead. Each step I took made me feel stronger and more and more confident. I couldn’t believe how good I felt. It was intoxicating, euphoric. Everything that had just happened became a distant memory, I was completely focused on what lay ahead and whatever it was, it was exciting, exhilarating.

The smell of smoke and roasting meat became much stronger as I advanced and I could now see the flickering of flames ahead. I slowed my approach to a cautious pace, my breathing became barely perceptible and my feet made no sound as they pressed into the snow.
I stopped behind a tree and surveyed the scene ahead of me. My sharp eyes, aided by the moonlight, the firelight and the reflection off the snow, took in everything. The hunter sat on a log eating the meat from his kill off a tin plate, resting on his knee. His pack and firearm were propped alongside him. He looked very contented with himself.
My thoughts as I watched were strange. I’m sure if he looked my way he would have seen my eyes glowing with anticipation. I felt a very strange desire building within me and for a while I was unsure what it would make me do or how I should handle the situation. Should I boldly move into the open and confront him? I decided to err on the side of caution and wait to see what he did next before planning my move. My natural instincts seemed to be working overtime and I felt sure that in a short while the answer would come to me.

A light breeze ruffled the hunter’s hair as he finished eating the last few morsels of meat. He wiped his greasy hands on a dirty handkerchief and started to pack his gear. When he looked at his watch he appeared surprised at how late it was. He had obviously stayed longer than intended but hunger and the beautiful clear night had encouraged him to stop, light a fire and eat in the open. It was something he enjoyed on rare occasions. It was time to begin the short trek to his Jeep and then the drive to his cabin, several miles away.
He picked up his pack, rifle and the remains of the young buck and started off. After a few moments he stopped. What was it? A sound, a movement, he wasn’t
sure but his instincts warned him that all was not right. Having hunted for twenty years, although his senses were not as finely tuned as an animals he knew when someone, or something was watching him, stalking him. It was awkward for him, carrying heavy gear, the remains of a kill and his gun. It was impossible to have the gun at the ready so he put everything down then raised his rifle and released the safety catch. He listened to every sound as he turned in a circle looking for the slightest movement amongst the trees but to him the open areas around the
trees were all veiled in deep shadows. His breathing quickened and he started to feel hot. Fear was starting to take a hold and fight with his desire to try and see or hear the predator that he felt sure was watching him. He fired two shots into the trees hoping that would frighten the stalker long enough for him to make his escape.
Fear is a dangerous state. It confuses the mind. A person in a state of fear will generally react in one of two ways. The least likely being to bring the fear under control and plan the next move or just move on carefully. The other is to lose control and flee. Being an experienced hunter he managed to steady his breathing and think rationally. He had about a hundred metres to go to his vehicle so he strapped his pack onto his back and picked up the gun with his right hand so it was ready if needed. He left the remains of the kill in the snow, hoping that
the predator would take it and leave him alone.
His heart beat rapidly, and waves of anxiety kept antagonizing him as he fought to move quickly through the snow but it was soft and difficult and he panted as exhaustion, exacerbated by the fear, weakened him.
He felt the tension ease as he saw the black vehicle parked amongst the trees thirty metres ahead. When he reached it he was confident that safety was within his grasp. He stood the gun against the tailgate and commenced unstrapping the pack from his back. As he did this he looked upward at the roof of the vehicle and
a movement caught his attention. Something large and black leapt onto the roof with extraordinary speed. There was thump, a terrifying growl and the creature leapt on him knocking him to the ground with great force. In seconds his body lay twitching with a gaping wound in the throat and bright arterial blood spattered the pristine white snow.

I was shivering and shaking violently as I stepped into the shower and turned the hot tap on. The water was extremely hot and stung my skin however the heat helped the shaking to slowly subside but my mind remained confused and there was a taste in my mouth that made me feel quite nauseous. I used a rough sponge and soap and scrubbed my whole body until it hurt. I looked at the shower base. The water run off was very dirty and tufts of my black body hair started to clog the drain.
I toweled myself dry and then loaded my toothbrush with a large amount of toothpaste and tackled my teeth. I brushed and brushed to get rid of the foul taste until the rinse water turned from pink to clear. I felt a little better but every now and then I trembled and sobbed but couldn’t understand why.
I went in search of Naomi and found a few clothes scattered around the bedroom. The wardrobe however was empty and her suitcases gone. What had I done? I couldn’t remember how the argument had ended but I must have really hurt her badly. We were so close. The guilt that I felt was overwhelming and I gave into it and lay on the bed sobbing and shaking until I eventually fell asleep.

During my sleep I dreamt of the night I was attacked, the wounds that had been inflicted upon me, and the events of this night. I awoke as the cold gray dawn made its presence felt through the chinks in the curtains. My thoughts were clear now and I knew where my future lay. I now knew those wounds were not just physical. I was changing and the future looked so different to what it had a few days ago.
I arose, lit several candles and placed them on my bedside table then knelt in front of them. I prayed. I prayed like I never had before, for help and salvation. I prayed to my God for forgiveness, for my Naomi to be safe and to find happiness again with someone else and I prayed especially for clouds to cover the earth next full moon so that at least one innocent life might be saved.

Bright Moon


Lower Templestowe, Australia

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Artist's Description

A short story based on a poem. A writing experiment by JT7

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