This story is by Norma Rrae and was part of our 2018 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
You don’t see the purple of a rainbow often.
The yellow of sunny days is bright.
The red of first love is strong. Green of the nurture built you first and even the blue of deepest tears stood bold.
But the purple, it’s something of myths.
It’s the shade reserved for the deep of the woods. The color many don’t see.
The pigment hidden from most and ignored by many.
The truth beneath our skin. The purple of the rainbow.
It illuminated the fall sky with its radiance.
The scent of the swampy underbrush was musty in his nose. The weight of his body sunk him deep into the muskeg and the aroma worsened. It clogged his ability to smell the human. An ear twitched from a near inaudible sound. He froze to listen and risked a glance before planting another hoof. The rain moved in and clouded the skies, created a blanket of darkness to allow him to move. Even through the thick of the muskeg, he could smell the sweet red-twig dogwood.
It was still far from here but it was his end goal.
He kept his antlers positioned down and forward just in case. This was the most dangerous time of year for the young elk. His enemies would fight for any cow in the vicinity. Even to be near one could be catastrophic. He had seen the carcasses of young bulls put to death over a cow and he would be sure to hold his own. It was all that drove him in this life.
Then there were the humans, he had smelt them years ago with his mother still by his side. Now, the smell was thick in every direction. The red-twig dogwood bush was not safe nor was the river he had just ventured from. The scent stung his nostrils and reminded him to keep moving.
Thirst crept in and he bent his neck to the stale water for a drink. There was no point in parching himself.
His jowls touched the coolness of the swamp just as an ear shattering scream broke the forest silence. The threat of human faded but his nerves snapped as the foliage surrounding the swamp shook and broke.
The bugle was a throaty warning from a large charging bull of another herd.
The young elk had time only to raise his head a half inch before the full rack of his aggressor slammed against his own mismatched set. The dumb side being only a spike fork and his strong side a measly two tine made his weak rack miss the blunt of the blow and the young bull staggered.
He lost his footing in the slick clay mud of the swamp and fell.
The brute slammed the young bull while he was down and gashed his mouth wide. Only a moment before it had been cool and refreshed, now the instant spike of pain stabbed through the young elk. He had no time for weakness.
He fumbled back to his feet; he would fight for this unknown cow. He knew she was here; he heard her mew earlier and apparently, so did this bull.
Young but brave, he held his four-hundred pound stature in front of the adult that doubled his weight. The hormone enraged bull kicked boulder-size holes into the swamp just before he slammed the young elk as finality into his chest.
A grunt and he fell. The victorious elk sauntered off toward the mystery cow.
Too tired to rise again, the young elk lay helplessly listening to the howls of the approaching wolves. He had lost but he would do it again, in a heartbeat for that cow.
The bridge moaned under his steps, boots heavy from wet silty mud. It only seemed to accumulate, no matter the brand he purchased. He would pause periodically to kick off the large chunks of earth. Grass on the opposite side of the bridge appeared to shift and sway. Could be the wind, thought the hunter.
But this time of year, every movement was worth checking out.
“You don’t even pay attention to me,” his wife’s nagging voice edged into his mind as he focused harder. “All you care about is hunting.” Her voice was cold prickles on his neck.
Now’s not the time, he thought to himself, and I listen to the forest all the time. He answered her in his mind.
Out of the house before she woke was the easiest escape. He knew family was coming and had no time to assist in meal preps. Hunting season was so short; he had lots of time to spend with them the rest of the year. Meat at the local grocer would not impress them as much and the freezers were beginning to empty. An elk at the butcher was required.
The sun crested on the horizon, he had already been hiking for hours. The warmth of the sun was welcomed, unlike his wife’s unrealistic request for date night. He hadn’t the time! Why couldn’t she understand that?
He slowed his steps, the bridge apparently out of service as piles crumbled under his weight. Concrete splashed loudly into the river below and he cursed himself and his wife for causing him to not camp out overnight. She had needed the truck last night for some girl thing and the hunter lost a whole evening hunt!
Holes large enough for two men to fall through the wooden planks on the bridge and rot was creeping along the sides. Old metal signs riddled with bullet holes clung for life to the bridge.
“You don’t even care,” her voice was so screechy.
He replied with a whisper to the breeze, “I care after open season.”
His steps careful, placed with precision on the wood planks that had survived. He gave extra care to place his 300 WinMag hunt rifle down on the disintegrating concrete ahead of him before he stepped across.
He wouldn’t risk his gun.
His camouflage enhanced by the beard he had grown. It annoyed her but only amused him further. “You won’t grow a beard for our wedding but you’ll grow…” the memory of his wife’s complaint weaned but he helped it along, “a fifty inch bull moose.” That was a good year, he recalled.
A few more steps and the hunter planted his foot onto solid ground once more. Slung his gun over his shoulder and stepped toward the tree line. No matter the beard he boasted, it would not prove him to be a tree in an open field. His foot crunched loudly on a whittled arrow head. Dispended from a poorer man, the hunter sneered at the sound it echoed through the woods. Man needed bullets, the best money could buy, he thought to himself.
“It’s cheaper to buy chicken,” rude of her to have said. “It’s cheaper to be single too,” that had shut her up. He secretly rearranged a few household bills to buy the Hornady brand bullets.
He also secretly made his sandwich with the Cobbs Bakery bread she had bought for dinner. He didn’t plan to return while her family was there anyway.
He even stuffed the remainder of the loaf in his backpack, “good elk feed,” he said to the silent kitchen. He didn’t care it was illegal to bait the animals. It was his god given right, to get one in the freezer.
He didn’t care when his wife cried that he wouldn’t be home for dinner, “My parents are coming! I made so many arrangements for us.”
He didn’t care that she screamed it was over when he left.
He didn’t look back when she ran after the truck and he turned his cellphone off after she texted him to come back.
The woods grew in front of him as match sticks: solid and symmetrical. He stepped from the naked grassland and into the cover of the forest. Exhaled with relief but was stopped short when a dying cry of an elk shattered the silence. He moved as a mountain lion and readied his rifle as a lynx claw.
Trees often bellowed as an elk would, often mislead man away. But this hunter watched in awe as a form built in front of him. Trapped and bleeding in a swamp, the elk could do nothing. Another branch snapped and the distant wolves began to howl once more.
The young elk looked to the man.
The hunter readied himself and centered the crosshairs.
The elk swallowed a cry for his lost cow.
The hunter thought nothing of his wife’s pleads.
His inability lost a love.
His selfishness pulled the trigger.
To be made into something you are destined for.
To be called something you always knew you were.
To step into the foot prints nestled for you,
Call you rightfully the name you were destined for: Monster.