You are rounding a bend on a slope. The trail has become thin from lack of use, the rains having nearly washed it away. A vague impression persisted but it was enough. Beneath your feet, the decomposing leaves smelt of wetness and earth, pine needles and moss. Death was here but not death. No sadness to it. No fear… You detect a rustling. You pause, still as a deer. Something was out there. Escaping you? Stalking you? You had no way of knowing. But you are not frightened. You ached to see it. Wishing whatever it was would come out to face you.

Many years ago, you were driving in the woods at night. It was late and it was completely dark. You’d rented a cabin with ______. Coming home from a roadhouse, drunk, attempting to find it. Turning a bend your headlights met two eyes. A deer? You stopped the car. A giant white owl stood like a ghost, staring right at you. Only for a moment. Then it was gone, disappearing into the darkest night. Such creatures were rare, even as far north as you were. Sometimes you think it was a vision. In time ______ would forget all about it. But you never did. You’ve been looking for that sacred animal ever since.

To be continued…