The potent smell of rotting wood coming from the log in front of me had faded into the background. I kept my head high enough so that I could see The Beast, but low enough so that it could not see me. The Beast’s eyesight wasn’t as sharp as it used to be, but he made up for it with his intimidating hearing. There were enough branches in front of me to camouflage any subtle movements I made, but sound was a different matter. My heart thudding through my chest could be considered too loud given the right circumstance. Today, however, I celebrate my third year of living on the island so I was determined to avoid being caught at all costs.
My only weapon against The Beast is to run. And to run, I need paths. Lots of paths. Taking the same route more than once within three days results in The Beast being able to track me down, making new trails notoriously challenging to create. If I didn’t plan far enough in advance of The Beast waking up from his deep sleep, then I would be forced to forge fresh tracks in a hurry, which meant making sound. And then, once I have used the primitive tools at my disposal to clear or create a track, I have to wait four days to use it, placing me in the unenviable position of having to memorise the paths as I create them.
The deep sleep of The Beast lasts for three seasons, waking from his slumber and exiting his cave in the warmer months to eat the bark of the majestic Cyantic Tree. I clear the tracks closest to The Beast’s cave towards the end of the seventh month, as I reason that the sound would be less likely to disturb him provided he was still in a deep enough sleep. The Cyantic Trees are left alone as I clear. For the past two years, that pattern has served me well. An eruption in the heart of the forest on the mainland this morning, however, disturbed both mine and The Beast’s pattern. I gazed out over the water towards the mainland, every muscle in my body coming to a halt. A towering geyser shot into the air followed by a rumbling in the cave next to me, so I dashed and hid behind the nearest log that I could find and waited.
The Beast wandered out of the cave and raised his snout in the air as if taking notes on what had changed since he entered seven months ago. He would have known he was out early, but, if that caused him any discomfort, then he certainly didn’t show it. The Beast used his hooves to make his way down the steep, rocky slope, guiding him from the entrance of his cave towards the tree line of the forests below. Two enormous, winged creatures shot out of the geyser; a timely reminder for why I no longer live on the mainland. The sound of their wings was too far away for me to hear, but it was worse being forced to imagine the sound, rather than to experience it firsthand.
Ceasing his foraging and staring out towards the mainland, The Beast let out an almighty growl upon spotting the winged creatures flying towards him. Being the admirable creature that he was, he stood his ground. I protected my ears from the terrifying noise of the creature’s wings as they landed on the sand in front of The Beast, taking care not to damage their precious cargo. My hand shot up to cover my mouth when I saw what they were carrying. It was a girl. No more than ten years old. I kept the shallow breaths wanting to surface at bay. The Beast let out a snort of approval and, as fast as they had arrived, the creatures spread their wings and returned to the source of the geyser. The girl lifted her head, attempting to intimidate The Beast with a piercing stare. It was never going to work.
The Beast took a step closer towards the girl, prompting me to throw a stick into the forest behind me. The Beast turned his head and snarled in my direction. He stood up slightly on two of his hooves and sniffed the air, taking note of both my location and intentions. “Run!” I yelled at the girl. “Use the tracks and run!” I was relieved when she did exactly as I asked, running over my tracks in the forest faster than any animal I had ever seen. The Beast avoided her and ran towards me. I was the threat. The cave was his territory, so I was left with no option but to run in the same direction as the girl. As our paths met, I found myself running directly behind her. The tag sticking out from the back of her top had a name on it, and I smiled for the first time three years.
I had a companion, and her name was Haley.
My name is Gregg Savage and, every night when the house is quiet, I write and publish a free children’s story at dailytales.com.au for you to share and enjoy.
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