By Ellen Wardle
1. BURNT BLOOD
It was dark, the night sky was black and smooth like star-spangled velvet overlain with strips of mist and far-off snippets of the milky-way. I stepped backwards, my foot crushed a twig, it snapped with the sound of a gunshot. I felt my heart catching in my throat. I wasn’t scared of the darkness, no; I’d never been scared of the dark. I was scared of what was hidden in the darkness, the blackest night. But I was ready for it too. I was ready for him.
I could feel him close by; could feel the fear and anticipation that happened every time I had gotten this close; Every time I missed him.
Not tonight, I thought to myself, not tonight. Tonight was my night and I was ready. It had taken me months, over a year, to get to this stage. I was not losing tonight.
I knew he was watching from somewhere out there in that velvety blackness, he could be a hundred meters in any direction; I felt the hairs on the back of my neck raise and prickle I knew those blue eyes were on me, he was out there somewhere.
“Come on,” I whispered into the darkness. “Show yourself.”
I knew he could hear my voice just as easily as he could hear my pounding heartbeat. But I was ready.
I whipped round, he had spoken pleasantly, like I was his friend not his hunter, like I wasn’t ambushing him here in the dark.
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