Chapter Three - The Hunter
"To be or not to be, that is the question . . .
- William Shakespeare
Light came to him again. This time it wasn't the soft
and smoky memory of a time gone past, it was a lightning crack of pain
that sometimes accompanies the never ending now.
He opened his eyes and pain screamed at him from his arms, his legs
his head and his lungs. He gasped for air and the world reassembled
itself around him. He was floating face up in shallow water and his
head rest in the muck of the river bank while the rest of his body splay
out into the current. He gasped in pain, turned himself over, slowly
crawled out of the water and pushed his face heavily into the mud. Choking
on the thickness of it he rolled painfully over onto his back and gasped
again as the stars leapt out at him -beautiful in a myriad of colors
and a brightness he had never seen before. The blackness of the sky
was deep and rich. There was no light pollution drowning out the stars
and each one shone with a joy of color.
How long had he been out he wondered. It shouldn't be this dark. Where
was the washing light pollution from the highway and the city lights?
He scanned the horizon by rolling his head from side to side and everywhere
there was complete darkness without a hint of the city or of the highway.
He lifted his head for a better look and nausea washed over him and
the blackness came again.
After a time he was dragged back into the never ending now. The Stars
welcomed him back and the nerves in his body screamed He had been through
so much. The accident and Arabella and the dog and the man with the
ax had all happened to him in the span of just a few moments. And it
that short period of time both his body and his spirit had been strained
beyond normal tolerance and he was broken.
He just lay there thinking about the pain in his body and the failure
to rescue his beloved and he couldn't move. His thumb sent a shock through
his arm and he lifted his hand to look at it. His left hand was deformed.
The thumb was dislocated and broken. And it pointed off at a peculiar
angle. He couldn't touch it, it hurt too much. He lay his hand back
down and turned his head. There had been too much for him. Arabella
was out there in the river somewhere and he failed to rescue her. The
pain he felt was nothing compared to that. He had built his life around
her gentle spirit and now she was gone.
He remembered again the first time that he had seen her. That first
glance had hit him like a thunderbolt. Clear and simple. There was nothing
he could do about it. It was simply love at first sight. He always thought
it was just a saying but it was true. It really did happen. And when
it did happen it changed your life forever.
He slowly gathered himself up onto his knees testing his arms and his
legs. He had a few cuts and the dog bite burned viciously but there
didn't seem to be any broken bones other than in his thumb. Standing
up slowly he waded back out into the river.
"Arabella" he barely whispered and waded out further. Everything
seemed different. The water wasn't the same, the shoreline was different
and now there were trees. There were no trees where the car had gone
into the water. Had his body floated downstream while he was unconscious?
He looked around. Everything was different. The air, the smells, the
water seemed even warmer than it had been.
This was all too much for him to handle so he waded his way slowly back
to shore and falling first to his knees the last of his energy left
him and he fell flat on his face in the mud. Gagging on the filth he
turned his head just a little to the side so he could breathe.
This was it he thought. No more strength and no more desire.
A comfortable calm came over him and he decided to rest. The thought
came to him that this was sort of like carbon monoxide poisoning. The
gas crept slowly into you and you just got tired and soon you were glad
to just give up and go to sleep. It seemed like a good idea. Maybe he
could just give up and go to sleep.
He opened one eye to take a last look at the stars. Lying face down
in the mud with his head turned to the side he could only open one eye,
the other was buried in the muck.
He looked down along the length of the river. It cleared a wide path
through the trees and he could see the horizon off in the distance.
The darkness of the sky was so complete that it reached all the way
to the horizon line. No light pollution made it fade close to the ground.
A bright and deep red star peeked slowly into view and he stared at
it. Not too many stars like that. The deep red color and the brightness
of it made him think it was Betelgeuse. But that was a winter star in
the constellation of Orion. No chance of Orion showing up in the middle
of summer. He just lay there and watched it as the minutes passed and
it slowly climbed higher. Soon another very bright star rose up. This
one a brilliant white. Damn if it didn't look a lot like Rigel -another
star that was in the constellation of Orion.
Slowly Orion made itself visible and he thought about it.
Every winter Orion, the mighty hunter threw one shoulder over the horizon
and slowly climbed up . He had been doing this since the beginning of
time. Orion proclaimed himself the mightiest hunter that ever lived
and he vowed to hunt and kill all the creatures on the earth. For his
folly the gods sent a scorpion to poison him and now he was cursed to
eternity in the sky.
There comes a point in any crisis where the body no longer has control.
It has been totally exhausted of its normal strength and reserves but
this isn't the absolute stopping point. The will has a say in the matter
and the will can either say stop or push forward.
Storm lay there in the mud, totally spent, his body exhausted beyond
exhausted and broken but looking up at Orion his will took over. This
would not be the end for him. If the mighty hunter could climb up over
the horizon every winter for eons then Storm could rise one more time.
He pushed his arms against the mud and rose to his feet. The blood he
had lost through the slash on his head made him dizzy but he stood erect.
This was not his time. There was still too much to do. He had to find
Arabella and he had to understand what had happened to him.
Putting one foot in front of the other he walked toward the trees and
entered the darkness of the forest.
The smells and sounds assaulted him with a beauty that almost brought
tears to his eyes. The smell of the soil, the leaves and the trees was
beautiful. The sound of the insects was like music. He walked on and
gained some strength from it. The crisis had passed now he just needed
to get some help so he could be healed.
A flicker of color entered his line of sight and he focused on it,
orange-red like fire. Instinctively he headed straight for it and as
he walked it darted in and out between the tree. After a few minutes
of walking he entered a small clearing to see it was a campfire and
sitting around it were three men. They were eating around the fire and
they sat and stared at him with food in their hands and in their open
mouths. He croaked some indistinguishable words at them and fell to
the ground and to another bout with the darkness.
End of the Preview