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The Dawn of Knowledge (1980)

A short story I wrote in high school, 1980-82 or so. Around the time I decided to stop hunting.

The Dawn of Knowledge

The boy impatient clicked the safety of his 20 gauge shotgun on and off. As he struggled down the trail through the weeds and briers in an open patch of the forest, he tore his arms and legs constantly against the unrelenting pull of the briers’ spindly appendages. He stumbled clumsily into a branch, causing a downpour of dew to drench him. He nervously blazed down the trail, knowing with a pessimistic confidence that the rabbit would cross the trail ahead of him. The negative mood was enhanced by the dour expression of the sun behind clouds smeared with dirty yellow. The barking of his dogs seems so close that he knew the rabbit had already passed. But, as he buried his way around an end in the crude path, the rabbit, ears back and fleeing for his life, sped across the trail from the right.

The boy’s breath came in quick, short huffs. His stomach knotted and the moment seemed slowed; he ran as if he were treading water. He brusquely raised the gun and made a reflexive attempt at an aim; the safety was conveniently already off. But, in his excited haste, he didn’t stop running, and his foot was caught in a vine. As he stood upright, the ground seemed to pivot up at him, with a gnarled root aimed maliciously at his forehead.

He awoke, not lying down, but, unexpectedly, running. He instinctively tried to stop, but he had no control over his body. Weeds and briers rushed past him, apparently yards over his heads. Then, with a shocking awe of realization, he felt his body running on four limbs. His heart, he notices, was beating widely, like a jackhammer trying to mercilessly batter its way out of his chest. His body was trembling and quaking so much that he was dim.y confused that he didn’t fall over while he rant.

He wanted, and needed, to think, but there was too much turmoil, confusion, and heart-wrenching fear mingled in his mind to allow him to. Since he could not think, as some formidable wall seemed to block all rational thought, he passively allowed the thoughts, memories, pictures, and experiences which surged past and against his essence of consciousness, to invade him.

Many scenes nervously flicked by him. Scattered creatures, apparently rabbits, were revealed, nibbling placidly and peacefully on clover, grass, and shrubs, with a gentle blanket of heat on their backs from the summer sun. He saw twigs and bark in front of his face, being eaten, and felt a numbing cold. Moments of terror flickered by and gripped him—the gaping maw of a huge wolf snapping at him, dogs barking on his heels. But the majority of the images and memories were of blissful peace, instinctive and natural.

Still, the weeds rushed past him. The terror and fear present seemed to defile, mar, and rudely interrupt the peaceful sanctity that seemed to be something holy, something quiet, calm and sacred, a gift that should not be disturbed.

He let himself fall helplessly into the well of emotions and shape of existence that threatened him. He fell into its rhythm, not concentrating on anything, but just experiencing. He heard the sound of dogs barking behind him, and a different, haunting fear, that originated from his own mind, began to gush. A precognition of something, hideous and ominous, terrorized him to the marrow. The anticipation gathered strength, and two heartbeats, intermingled and pounding, hammering with ferocious dread, filled every crack and crevice of his consciousness. He felt hypnotized, and dazedly accepted an immediate and upcoming doom.

An explosion thundered, breaking the spell. The sound seemed to come from two sources, one of which instantly died away. He noticed he could now think, though he thought nothing, and found himself lying face down on the ground, his head directly above a gloating root. As he raised his head slowly, he saw, down the trail, a brown mass of desecration, still and lifeless.

As realization dawned on him, he lay his head back down on the root, and bitterly, quietly, began to weep.

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