The too quick beating of my heart

Crouching low in a thicket of brush, I watched her padding along the forest floor, her golden eyes focused only on the path ahead of her.
Chin and stomach to the ground, I did not breathe, did not blink.
Yet still, she turned, great yellow eyes searching,
Velvet nose and rounded ears,
Searching, searching.

I am the hunter, the one who crashes through the brush, the rhythm of your beating heart like birdsong in my ears. The terror in your heart a sweet smell like fresh blood spilled on the ground.

In that pause when she turned her head, a thousand impulses ran just under my skin and a thousand times, I bolted.
A thousand times, I merely closed my eyes and waited.
A thousand times, I felt the force of her attack.

I am the hunter, my eyes tracking, my nostrils flaring to catch your scent and if I cannot pull you to me with the force of my will then I will find you in the brush and satiate my hunger with the very bones of your fear.

Something turned her great feline head, turned her head away from me,
And she swung her pink tongue along her yellowed, pointed teeth,
She shook her head free of a biting fly and padded on silently under the tall, sheltering trees,
the tip of her tail flicking impatiently from side to side.

I did not flinch or heave a sigh of relief.
I did not question.
For you see, I have always been the hunted. I have never known the freedom of walking along a path in the woods without fear.
Always I feel the terror of hiding low in the brush, hoping the too quick beating of my heart won’t give me away.

~Laura Heilman

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