The Pursuit of Happiness
The wind held something in it that brought tears to the eyes. A bitter cold that followed froze them. It was so hard to move quietly in the early morning frost. Everything was so crisp, so loud. The forest air could carry a sound, distorted and hollow, from miles away; or from just behind the next hill. One could never really tell. Felt padding on the shoes helped a little with the sound, if not the traction. They helped to muffle the crunching of leaves and breaking twigs. At this point it didn’t matter, Brian thought, as he knew he was being followed. He had been since dawn. His tail, at least he thought it was just one, had made a few slip-ups his hunt. He had heard a few branches breaking. There was also the occasional pheasant that would take to the air in a fervor. An extinguished campfire had left a sweet, burnt musk in the air when he had woken from a bone-numbing sleep. The wind had shifted since and he could no longer smell that. He had half a mind to just stay put and wait for his pursuer. Better to face the devil than to let his mind build up who it may be. Was it a hunter? It would be pretty obvious to any hunter worth his salt that the tracks he left was not made by a forest animal. Deer didn’t wear shoes. But yet, he was still followed. Not a good sign. He straightened the heavy load on his back and set out. As quietly as he could, he walked a good part of the early morning.
Brain ducked behind a large oak to catch his breath. It must be warming up a bit as his breath was no longer immediately turning to ice in his beard. Still didn’t make it warm. Peering around the tree he still saw nothing. He would have to be more cautious now. He had no weapon save a walking stick and even that wasn’t straight. It would certainly make a poor spear. His best chance, he thought, was to use it as a cudgel. Little use that would be against a gun, he thought. He scanned the forest in from of him and saw a copse of pines. He could climb one and hope his pursuer would pass by. It was extremely risky. If he left a trail to the trees, he was sure to be discovered. . He could probably hide in the tree and not be discovered by the casual observer. If someone was searching for him…he didn’t know. His clothes did provide good cover. There was nothing that would be considered out of place in the pre winter landscape. Everything was brown or muddy green. Emma would have laughed. She hated his usual color palate.
He hated to admit it but it had been a relief, having someone following him. Keeping his mind occupied was a blessing that came all too infrequently these days. Sleep was usually a collection of fits and starts that ended with him screaming himself awake. He was constantly haunted by her eyes. The way they twitched in those final seconds, her pupils dilating, releasing her soul into the ether. He banged the back of his head against the tree forcing the thoughts out. The sharp pain brought him back to the job at hand. He pulled the hood around his face and headed to the clump of trees.