There is something delicious about pursuing a mystery. Although I am often thrilled by what I do, chasing creatures, satisfied with the catch and scream, the quiet after and the thought of a belly full of meat by night, I was caught off-guard by this renewed sense of instinct. I felt every muscle poised, each drop of sweat glistening in the dull light of sunset. My feet bedded with the earth more quiet than a leaf settling on grass, so that not even a mouse could hear my approach. I was in full element. Hunter.
The pearl white boar was nuzzling through some earth between a thicket of heavy forest underbrush. My arm was pulled back on the bow, arrow precise and unwavering. I pulled a half inch more back until the muscles burned across my shoulder, letting my breath die and chest relax, and released the string. I heard the slice of the arrow cutting the air and a sucking thwack as it embedded smooth and solid into the boar’s chest.
An ear-piercing squeal. The alarmed rustle of grass and bush as it flailed its legs uselessly.
No longer afraid of scaring prey, I raced the remaining distance and stood over the dead boar, astounded by the color of its skin. Pearl white, like jasmine petals. The hairs on my skin pricked, as if I were being watched. I darted my eyes to the canopy above, sensing something discomforting in the air. Uneased by the disquiet of the forest, I grabbed the boar by its hind legs and slammed it over my shoulders.
The walk back home was just as eerie. I had that itch behind my neck, as if being followed closely. Yet with every turn back, there was just the darkening forest. I hastened my steps back home, longing for the comforting walls of my nipa hut.
Yet the dread did not fade once I closed the doors of my home.
Segunda lay on her belly on the hardened dirt floor with a piece of paper in front of her and crayons in her hand.
“I had a dream, father,” she said. I cringed as her lost eyes stared slightly off into my own. Segunda was blind since birth. Her mother died during childbirth, and I’ve had to raise her alone for the past five years.
I placed the boar carcass down on the floor next to the kitchen, and carefully cleansed my bloodied hands with a scoop of water from the barrel.
“I dreamed that you killed his friend,” she said.
Segunda wisped her way toward me in the manner that only a blind person can do and handed me a piece of paper.
“The creature that followed you back home.”
I looked at the picture and staggered. She had drawn, with black crayon, a shadow-like creature that loomed ominously against the forest’s edge with a crippled, hunched form. Skeletal arms and hands reached out through the dark mass of its body, and where was supposed to be a head was only a jagged mess of darkness, like the distorted lines of a channel-dead television. I couldn’t quite make out the face underneath all the distortion, but it seemed eerily familiar.
“He’s hungry, father," Segunda said. The inflection in her voice was not her own, as if she were haunted. “He wants meat.”
“Who are you talking about? Why are you saying this?” I grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her, as if to wake her from a nightmare. She blinked twice, rapidly, and seemed to come back to her senses.
“I’m sorry,” she hushed, then kissed me on the cheek. “I think I was dreaming.” The beating in my heart began to slow, fists unclenching. Segunda steadily made her way to her cot, sitting cross-legged before looking back at me. “You know how I love my dreams, papa. They are a window to a world I cannot see.”
“I know,” I said, mouth tight. “Are you hungry?”
Her face melted into disappointed at the dismissive change of topic before looking away into the window. “Yes. I have always wondered what white boar tastes like.”
Again, the tightness in my chest. How did she know what I had hunted when she could not see? She had been blind since birth. There was no way she could dream of something she had not seen before.
Segunda seemed to sense my insecure thoughts and glanced expressionless my way. “Just out the window, father, in the distance where the forest meets the village. He’s standing there.”
I numbly made my way to where she sat across from the window, glanced out and only saw forest and quietness. But the hairs on my skin pricked with fear.
“There’s nothing there,” I said.
“Oh, he’s there.”
She said nothing more. I bothered myself the rest of the night with cleaning out the boar and preparing a meal for us, but even this work failed to shake away the uneasy feeling of being watched.
That night, while Segunda slept and our bellies were full with a cut of the most delicious pork I had ever eaten, I found the drawing and studied it once time.
The head, I realized... it was wearing the face of the boar I had just killed.