He heard them just ahead. His could envision the clearing waiting for him over the next rise. He remembered every tree, shrub and rock. Eyes closed, he imagined they would be standing, spread slightly apart, on guard. He imagined he smelled them too, but he knew he wasn’t that good. He was good, but not that good. He did smell the breeze in his face. Luckily, he was approaching from downwind; otherwise he would have circled far around. He gladly sacrificed the sun at his back for the wind in his face. He knew they were good enough to smell him. He closed his eyes and pictured them at the bottom of the rise. He thought there were three, but could not be sure, certainly two, but he thought three. Three was enough for him.
It was a little easier for him this time. Back before the drought ended, the leaves would rustle, crunch and crackle under his feet, the noise magnifying his every movement. Now he moved silently, quieter even than the wind. The forest was old, canopied far above him, unwitting protection from the relentless sun. The tree’s children grew up around him, some looking down on him with the haughty disdain gained from the confidence trees develop knowing they will be enjoying the warm sun long after the fleeting lives of the nomadic life beneath them has returned to the earth. Mostly they looked him eye to eye, or tried to grab his legs as he passed by. But he was good, very good and moved past them without a sound. The wind danced with them more than with he.
His eyes never stopped, he constantly looked around him, but focused his attention ahead, towards them. He moved silently through the low brush. It barely moved as he passed. The larger trees watched, occasionally groaning a warning to those ahead, but they never heeded it. They knew it was just the wind in the tall branches gently rocking the trees.
Pingback: Passages To Ruth | "What If…" by Dave Oney