Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Reluctant Huntress

When they called her name, she stared up blankly.

I don’t know who I am anymore.

She clenched her fists. Slick fingers rubbed up against each other with no friction. She held her hands to her face and looked at the color. The wetness clotted in places.


The stag next to her lied still. A redness contrasted the whiteness of snow. The sun shone bright overhead from a frozen and cloudless sky. He ran so far, chased by his own dogs. He ran so long. He almost got away.

She looked up at a patch of barren oak trees, noted the way their bare branches cut jagged lines through the blue unending dome of sky.

“Diana.” A hand fell on her shoulder. A soft grip on her chin tilted her head up. She saw a face she almost recognized. “It’s me, Diana. It’s okay. You’re not in any trouble, baby. I promise. I’ve come to take you home.”

Diana looked at the stag again. She willed it to move, willed the chest cavity to rise and fall once more. It stayed still.

I don't know who I am anymore.

She closed her eyes. She reopened them, and the world changed.

Her ears heard sounds. Cars honked. A pair of policemen milled nearby talking together with hushed voices. She turned away from the field and saw the grey brick back of a strip mall.

She turned to the stag.

In place of the stag lay a man: not Actaeon, not a myth, just a man. A young man who had tried to…

She shuddered and pulled her legs up to her chest. She cried.

“It’s okay, baby. It’s okay. You didn’t do anything wrong. Shh.”

Diana found her voice. “Why’d he do it, Momma? Why’d he try to take me?”

Her mother looked to the policemen with glassy eyes. “Can I take her home now?” she asked. The words came out hitched and uneven. The woman released a stubborn sob.

The two men looked to each other. They nodded.

One of the policemen walked over. “The general manager says they have just about the whole incident on tape. Self-defense, so I don’t think anyone’s going to press any charges.” He reached out his hand to the mother to hand her something. Diana jerked away, startled by her own movement and instantly felt shame for being afraid. “Here’s my card, Mrs. Vines. Should you have any questions, give us a call, okay?” The policeman bent down and ran a hand over the back of Diana’s hair. She wanted to pull away but didn’t. The man tried to look into her eyes, but she hid herself in her hair. “Look, I know a good doctor who deals with this sort of thing all the time. I mean it, unfortunately. All. The. Time. Normally, after, you know, if it goes too far, we always have to take them to the hospital. But in this case, I think home might be best.” He sighed. “Anyway, please understand this girl will need to talk about this with someone. There’s good people out there who help people get through this sort of thing all the time.”

Diana’s mother nodded, said her thanks, and helped the girl to her feet.

They left fresh tracks in new snow as they walked back to the shopping center, back towards the parking lot full of people and something resembling normalcy.

Diana turned around one last time. She saw the dead stag, his fine coat shredded by his own hunting dogs. Something pulsed in her clutched fist. She opened her hand and saw Actaeon’s heart bleed through her fingers.


  1. I enjoyed this. A fine blurring of myth and reality.


  2. I like the myth part, too, but I question whether the police would really send her straight home.

  3. Maybe they wouldn't but that didn't strike me as a problem when I read it. Great story - I also loved the blurring of myth with reality. Thanks

  4. Thanks, everyone, for the kind comments! :)

    Michelle -- I went back-and-forth on that point. In the end, I thought the story was better served by letting the little girl go. But it could always be revised, if needed. That's one of the best things about electronic publishing.

  5. Strangely, sadly, this story ended up being timely. This news story came out shortly after I drafted this story: There's just too much evil in the world...