Perpetual Prey

canopyAs he scrambled through the underbrush the jagged tear in his leg soaked his boot and, worse, left a clear trail for the monster on his trail.

The same question circled his brain over and over: loop back and get behind the creature, or drive like a madman straight away from it?

His inability to decide stemmed from his unfamiliarity with the beast. Was it sentient, reasoning, a strategic foe, or simply a mad animal looking for a meal?

Pushing through the dense jungle since waking before dawn to the stench of the taloned thing behind him, he fought the mental fog brought on by lack of sleep. The animal had dogged his trail for a week, if his count of the days was right.

Precision wasn’t his strong suit.

Death was.

Kill or be killed. The law of the jungle had become his only choice, a way of life no sane man would accept if another was possible.

Pushing faster, ignoring the damp in his right boot and the fire just above it, he came to a clearing.

Never cross a clearing.

Visibility is the enemy.

Invisibility. The path to success.

Success, in this case, meaning life.

The wind shifted from the east, around to the south, behind him.

And he smelled it.

No beast watching the clearing ahead was worse than the one stalking him.

He could tell it had slowed with the wind change, hoping to catch the muddled scents it now associated with its prey.


Or never.

He burst from cover and crossed the clearing in seconds that felt like a lifetime. He felt the clawed rip in his leg tearing further, felt the gush of blood in his boot.

Time enough heal later.

If there was a later.

At the far side of the clearly he stopped short.

Just inside the jungle, beyond the first large tree, was the fence.

He’d made it.

Leaping past the bole of the huge jungle tree he tried to squat and dive between the wires.

At the last moment, his injured leg failed him.

One leg and arm between the strands, he felt something on his neck.

He heard a scream.

As the teeth closed on his spine, he heard the scream again and recognized the voice.

His own.

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