The air is thick with the smell of dead leaves and stagnant rain water. The sound of boots crushing twigs rings softly in your ears, like an echo. Your steps get lost in the heavy fog that hangs low, hugging your ankles as you walk. The heavy shotgun comes crashing against your back in a rhythmical cadence with every inch of the forest you cover. It’s quiet, aside from the sound of your breath and heartbeat. When you raise your gaze from the floor covered in rust colored leaves, you see the two men ahead of you stopped in their tracks.
“Jamie, move your ass over here.” The guttural tone of your dad’s voice makes you flinch, almost. You hurry your pace, heart sinking to the depths of your stomach with every step. Your older brother offers you a stupid grin - one of those smiles that is there to taunt you, ridicule you. You hate it.
“What’s up?” you whisper, almost breathless, while adjusting the position of the shotgun on your shoulder. Your dad nods towards a thicket of trees. And now you can see it. Hiding between the old trunks of the trees, a buck is raising its head to smell the air. It senses the danger but with a false sense of security, it goes back to sniffing the ground for food. Your dad stares at you intently now, eyebrows brought together to mark an intense expression.
“Time to shoot, boy.” Even in a low tone, the words flying off your father’s lips hold a tinge of authority, make the short hairs on the back of your neck stand up. For a long moment, you stop breathing. You can hear the mad gallop of your heart, you can hear the rustle of the leaves as the wind travels between the contorted branches of the trees.
“Do it already,” your brother mumbled under his breath. You pick up the shotgun - level it – stare directly towards your target. The buck stops now searching the floor. It raises its head and stares towards the heart of the forest. Your finger is quivering on the trigger and your vision is now blurred. You blink a few times, take in a deep breath. And shoot.
“Fuck!” The shout next to you makes your shoulders perk up and your back arch, in an instinctively protective stance.