He smelled something.
Offensive and yet desirable.
The terrible hunger returned, roiling through the whole of him like the brawny ocean crests that had thrust him onto the beach. The hunger demanded he move. He floundered on his side for a moment before righting himself and beginning a frantic, disjointed crawl: one foot dragging behind him, an elbow giving out. Every hinge in his body resisted, and the movement required complete concentration. All the while this unignorable “wanting” spun through him like a bear desperate to hunt and devour.
The scent grew potent as he neared the wood.
His ceaseless craving forced him to scrabble across a path of wooden planks that bridged over the dunes. A spigot at the top of this footbridge awaited, causing him to hesitate. Was it thirst that propelled him? Perhaps dehydration had driven him to near madness?
Since he was on all fours, he reached the fausset easily. Why it would be built out here and so near the ground, he didn’t know. The handle twisted after a brief struggle that hurt the bones of his palm. He set his open mouth below it and let the water flow, glugging and choking as he filled his body with liquid. Still, he experienced no satisfaction.
The wind changed direction and that same scent tempted him. He scuttled from the path and entered into the dark of the wood, mindless of the ground’s debris, the stabbing sticks and thorns penetrating the skin on his hands and knees. Moving forward like a dog led by its sniffing nose, he charged through, searching for the source of the strange, beguiling stench.
The hunt led him to a small horse—or no, not un cheval—stubby horns grew from the animal’s graceful head. A deer, lying on its side, its legs twisted beneath and blood coming from its—he pounced, the animal shuddering as his hands connected with its warm trunk and his mouth attached to its supple neck. His teeth penetrated the hide, though not without effort, and then a warm, metallic taste filled his mouth and that was all that mattered.
He fell back in ecstasy as his stomach softened and veins thrummed, his heart quivering with new life. He’d never consumed anything so soothing, so satisfying. His limbs warmed, the nourishment spreading, and his insides filled to bursting.
He rested on the ground beside the animal while it relaxed into its last breath.
Go with grace, he said in his mind.
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