16 The Hunt

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Stephen Whiteside
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16 The Hunt

Post by Stephen Whiteside » Wed Oct 26, 2011 5:47 am

16 The Hunt

© Stephen Whiteside 16.10.2011

He caught it out of the corner of his eye. Movement, no more. Movement against a background of utter stillness. That was what seemed so odd. That was what caught his attention.

He willed himself down the bank, moving without moving, closer and closer to the protection and shelter of the ruined nursing home.

Horatio! he squeaked, as silently as possible. Horatio! Don’t look now, but do as I say. Clamber back into the wreckage and hide. Don’t say anything. Don’t look at me. Don’t move suddenly, but move. And quickly.

Horatio froze for a moment. A million questions ran through his brain. He knew enough about his new life, though, and his new friend, to understand the importance of obeying unquestioningly his instructions.

He moved like a cat. Or should I see he moved like a rat. But a wild rat, but an overfed, pampered, soft, pink-footed rat, but a wily, cunning, leather-footed rodent of the world. Magnifico followed.

The two squeezed themselves into a tiny dark crevisse - what had once been a bedroom, but with walls now almost pressed together. The bed had been thrown onto its side and jammed against one wall, which meant the two walls could not be entirely parallel. This created a tiny space at the bottom. This is where they lay, trying to breathe without breathing, willing their natural odour to cling to their fur so that the skulking predator outside could not catch them on the breeze. There actually wasn’t much breathe, which was in their favour.

Magnifico was not sure what he had seen. He knew only that it wasn’t friendly. The way it was moving suggested it was big, relaxed and confident. And the only thing relaxed and confident around here right now would be something near the top of the food chain. And Magnifico and Horatio were pretty low down the food chain. That much they both knew. A cat? A wolf or dog? In truth, it could have been any of a number of large, scary animals.

There was nothing to do but wait. Wait and pray. Whatever it was, it was likely to be hungry. It had probably had just as bad a few hours as they had, floating through this sea of chaos on some wretched piece of debris, itself lucky to be alive, perhaps having lost friends and family, cold, starving hungry, uncertain of its future, traumatised, miserable, unhappy, mean. And, apparently, friendless. But that was a good thing, surely. They didn’t want to have to face a pack of them. Then again, a lonely hunter is a dangerous hunter. Ruthless. Efficient. Patient.

But they could be patient too. So they waited.

They heard it before they saw it. Its footsteps were silent, but it was sniffing. Sniffing the breeze. They guessed it had caught a trace of their scent after all. It seemed reluctant to leave the bank and enter the wreck without some stronger evidence of their existence, but it was definitely suspicious, and approached closer and closer. The sniffing got louder and louder.

It was almost upon them now. What separated them from it? Nothing but the thickness of a single wall. Surely it would discover them. It raised a paw and pushed, hoping to flush them out that way. It mouthed the end of the wall, twisting it this way and that. But it held. It was no longer sniffing, but breathing. Heavily, with exertion. It was onto them. Surely it was just a matter of time before it burst their little hidey-hole open and snatched one of them into its mouth, or squashed them beneath a large paw.

They stopped breathing, and held their breaths. It was all instinct now. Time seemed to stand still.

Then just at the moment when all seemed lost, inexplicably, it lost interest and walked away. Who knows why? Perhaps, at the end of the day, it was all becoming too hard. Perhaps it was not quite as desperate after all. Perhaps it had already just eaten a rat. Or a mouse. And this next one just didn’t seem to be worth the trouble. It would find more a bit more easily a little further on. Who knew? One thing seemed certain, it had not been scared off. It had not been frightened itself by another, larger, predator. It had broken off the search of its own free will. It remained unhurried, and continued to pad deliberately through the mud, away from the wreckage, towards higher ground.

But before it did so, they got one good look at it. The narrow nose and mouth. The wide face. The eyes like slits. The dazzling brown and white stripes down its flanks, and the long, heavy, brush-like tail lowered so close to the ground. The unmistakeable appearance of a thylacine.
Stephen Whiteside, Australian Poet and Writer
http://www.stephenwhiteside.com.au

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Maureen K Clifford
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Re: 16 The Hunt

Post by Maureen K Clifford » Wed Oct 26, 2011 8:16 am

The last one died in 1936 supposedly - but maybe it didn't :o - perhaps there are some still lurking, and now the floods have flushed them out - stay safe Horatio and Magnifico . In real terms it would be wonderful if they were 'rediscovered' IMO
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Stephen Whiteside
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Re: 16 The Hunt

Post by Stephen Whiteside » Wed Oct 26, 2011 8:19 am

Remember, though, that all this happened a long time ago on another planet. It would seem that thylacines don't just exist on planet Earth! Who knows, there may be a planet out there where thylacines have not even evolved yet...
Stephen Whiteside, Australian Poet and Writer
http://www.stephenwhiteside.com.au

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