Spirit Deer 34

Then it stumbled as something turned under his feet, and when it leaped to its feet again, Tim cast a spear. It fell short and Tim recovered it as he went by without breaking stride.

His breath came in tearing gasps. The deer was steadily pulling away. Only Tim’s crazed strength and the deep drift snow had kept him so close so long. The deer was running up what seemed to be a blind canyon. When he reached the end, Tim saw it leaping from rock to rock up the sheer side wall. As it neared the top, it slipped in the snow and plunged back, then recovered. It leaped up again and as it did, Tim cast his spear again. The range was extreme and the was angle great, but he connected. The deer went over the top with Tim’s spear protruding from the muscles of its hind leg.

Tim collapsed against a rock with his breath coming in hoarse wheezes. Then he started up.

He found the spear a hundred yards down the trail, lying in a patch of pink snow. The snow was dotted with pink as he trailed the deer.

* * *

The bear heard the noise of pursuit, rapid footfalls softened by the snow and harsh breathing. He plunged through the snow toward the sound and came across the pinkened furrow plowed by footsteps only minutes before. He smelled deer blood and man scent. The man scent set new fire to his smoldering rage. Rolling his shaggy head to one side, he studied the broken snow, but it told him nothing. Only his nearly useless nose told him anything worth knowing, and his ears that still heard the sounds of pursuit up ahead. He started quickly across the snow, following the trail of blood.

* * *

The sky was ominous. Black and gray clouds billowed above him, but Tim paid no attention. His entire world had shrunk to include only himself and the deer.

Then it burst from a thicket almost under his feet and leaped away. It did not seem that its strength had been reduced at all by the injury. The deer turned downslope in the direction from which they had come, and Tim cast his spear again. It furrowed the deer’s back muscles and stuck without slowing it. Tim ran after it, lifting his other spear.

Suddenly the deer fell forward in a shower of snow. He had plunged into a small ravine; there had been no break in the smooth white snow to mark its presence. The deer plunged and faltered, reddening the snow. Tim drew up and poised for a moment with his spear at the ready; then he threw with a long, clean motion. The spear plunged deep.

Still the deer struggled and regained its feet. Tim leaped into the snow choked ravine. The butt of his spear came around and smacked him in the ear. Then he had the deer in his hands. He wrapped his arms around its body and held it as it heaved and struggled, until it finally grew still.

Tim sat down in the snow beside the deer. Snow drifted down to settle on his clothing. He pulled out the spears and tried to think. He had to gut the deer, then build a fire. And a shelter. He had to skin the deer carefully so he could make a blanket of its skin.

No, first a shelter. And a fire. Then he would skin the deer and eat.

He heard a coarse grunt and heavy breathing.

He looked up into the eyes of an enormous black bear. more tomorrow

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