The forest had once spoken in a tongue understood by few. The soft chirping of a lone cricket, the murmur of a southward wind stirring the branches of the strong and firm trees, all tied together by a chorus of golden leaves falling from their skyward origin in a fashion only nature could orchestrate. It was once a common sound to the deaf ears of a young and naive boy, oblivious of its beauty. But no more did it speak. The language was now as dead as the forest that once dictated it.
A lone doe moved amongst the gray trees, progressing across the wasteland of blackened leaves. With each step the discolored debris silently submitted under the deer's hooves, leaving nothing more than a soft imprint upon the ground. The doe stopped abruptly, its ears perked and shifting as if it was searching for something. Yet searching for nothing. The malnourished deer resumed its empty journey in peace.
Jackson held his breath with a discipline of sheer will. His heartbeat began to return to it's steady rhythm as the doe continued it's course. It was a game of opportunity now. Inhale three beats, exhale four beats. The doe had stopped once more, searching the ground for grazing. Jackson shifted his weight ever so slightly while putting pressure on his right elbow. The AR-15 platform rifle made very little noise as he brought the dark iron sights to the intended alignment. The sights came to bear with their target, slightly swaying with his rhythmic breathing.
Two shots broke the suffocating silence as the pair of 5.56 slugs hit home. Jackson slowly and calmly arose from the pile of shrubbery and approached the fallen doe. The creature was kicking in a spastic motion, its eyes stricken with fear. It began to twist in violent convulsions, struggling to summon the will to flee. Jackson watched it as he pulled out a knife and knelt down close to the animal. He stare one last time into its hopeless eyes before he plunged the five inch blade into it's neck.
Jackson examined the freshly killed deer. He had put one slug in its hip and the second three inches below the first. It was young and malnourished, with a pale sickly look in its face. It had a grayish brown color to it's hide, as most did, and it's skin was quite visible underneath the patchy fur. Jackson soaked up the scarlet blood with a rag before discarding it. He unwrapped a blotchy brown sheet from around his waist and slipped it beneath the doe's torso. He took a second to admire his handiwork and resumed to heave the deer onto his shoulders.
The doe could last them a day, maybe two, but it would have to do for the time being, assuming he would find his way back. He new the path that he needed to follow; he had taken the trail many times before. Yet the dead forest seemed to intimidate him in an indescribable fashion. The trees seemed to watch his every action, as if the forest had left behind a ghost when it perished. Nothing about it felt friendly or familiar. Even while Jackson lied in wait beneath the foliage he never quite felt concealed from the haunting chills of the god forsaken place. The sooner he left, the better.