The hunter loved and feared the woods, he’d grown up in them, fostered by a harsh man who spent more time chasing dreams in the bottom of a bottle than putting food on the table. He had escaped to the woods, after being thrown there unwanted, drank from its creeks, fed from its bounty, hunted its prey.
It was not that he felt at home in the woods, it was that he felt alienated. He did not feel safe, he felt watched. The woods he’d grown up in seemed as aware of him as he had always been of it; the shifting of shadows, the scents upon the wind, the changing of seasons that tickled the soul before ever coming to light.
This day he took his own son with him; a doe-eyed youth amazed by the wonders of nature around him, a child drawn to the woods as if his hazel eyes had been born of the thickets. Wild as the wolves running under the speckled light, the child ran recklessly ahead of his father.
Instead of hunting, the hunter tracked, amid leaves and moss and twigs and ferns, he followed his son’s footsteps to the base of a tree. Looking up, his eyes adjusted to the light shining down through the woods that had grown dark under dense leaves.
For a moment, just a moment, he saw his son clinging to the tree. It looked, almost, as if he had embraced the tree. Surely he had reached out to catch himself. He was a hunter’s son. But, then, just before calling to his son to come down, he noticed the golden light in the flecks of his son’s eyes, the greens of the leaves and browns of the tree reflecting there as well. A whole wild forest engulfed in those eyes.
He was a hunter’s son… yet he clung to the tree as if he’d found a kindred spirit at last.