- Vol. 04
- Chapter 06
This forest would have been my last choice for a rutting contest. Dark shadows enclosed the strange trees with their evil spiny branches and fertile bulging hollows. Even the October moon was struggling to show her face. So unnerving. Richmond Park or Heathland in daylight would have been appealing, but Rufus had first choice of venue this year. I wondered how humans choose their fate-mate. Did they have an audience of eager other-humans? Suddenly my musing was cut short by the snorting arrival of Rufus, my belligerent combatant! We confronted each other. Eyes met. Heads lowered and we took precise steps until our breath was steaming through the musty air. The deer ladies watched in apprehension. I had won many ruts in my time and enjoyed the fawning adulation, but surely my energetic thrusting and side-battering was coming to an end. One last performance, followed by retirement with a sleek red goddess in a velvety coat. We'd munch acorns and lie in the sun all day. Crash! Our antlers tangled together with a grinding sound. We were fighting for supremacy; Rufus the Ruthless and myself. The deer ladies averted their eyes. Maybe they had transferred their affections to a mightier power. I managed to drag myself onto a grey rock. My body had undergone a transformation. Strangely, I wasn't afraid because I had become almost human. My bones were visible, ribs and other bits. The evil branches I mentioned earlier were embedded throughout my skeletal frame and for some unexplained reason there was one bony digit pointing. Perhaps it was telling Rufus, 'Your turn will come'. One of my bone-human-arms was merely a stick-shape, but my handsome stag's head was leaving the dreadful forest soon. Guess I had been hung out to dry...