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Chapter 4

4

With the soft crunching of grass, he moved; nimble and lithe with a flow that seemed unlikely for a man of his stature. One leg before the other was placed, finding the patches of cushions to mask his sound. Ears pricked, he listened. He was waiting for an echo like that of snapping bone. The wind picked up now, whirling herself around his head, momentarily deafening him to the noise he was waiting for, deceiving him with her whistle.

Then he heard the distant crack - too loud for rabbit or squirrel, too agile for another human - and, adjusting the settings of his instrument, he began his hunt.

3 miles he walked with his astronaut’s gait. 3 miles of careful footing, and squinting eyes. He crossed a small, fast-flowing stream, muddying his walking boots; all the while listening and patiently holding his breath.

His previous visit to the New Forest had been thwarted at the last minute by a moment of clumsiness and this time round he had made the commitment to himself that he would not return home without at least one shot. So he persevered forwards.

He had seen hundreds of deer since he had started wandering the Forest alone some years previously. Staying downwind at all times so that he could approach them up close, the animals never ceased to amaze him: their powerful, dainty legs, their beauty, the way they held themselves. Despite his breadth, he was not a tall man, and he often, subconsciously, found himself comparing his posture to that of a deer, making himself stand tall and proud as though he was one of the herd.

He was close now, remarkably close. His assured feet and curious musings had accompanied him to within feet of the deer he had been following; for there were three of them.

With quickened breath; the perspiration dripping down the back of his neck, he planted his feet firmly on the floor, as though anticipating a tackle. His hands shook slightly as he drew his instrument up to his face, and choosing his target: the elegant doe closest to him, he softly fired the shot.

The deer scuttled away in fright. Christopher bent low, squinting at the screen of his camera. It wasn’t a bad photograph.

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