Entry by Chris Heiden. This entry needs artwork!
My name is Dexter Jared Peterson. I am 26 years old and I live in New York City. In the last seven years I have lived 10101 different lives.
This day was a new experience altogether… My focus shifted as I noticed my tail twitching gently side to side. Flexing my paws, my well-sharpened claws move cleanly in and out of my fingers.
“Well this is different” I thought for a brief moment before a loud noise trumpeted across the field. My vision shifted instantly to my surroundings. Tall stone columns with innately carved figures of huge hunting cats encircled where I stood with a small group of juveniles. To either side I noticed a good turn out in the stands for this event. There was hardly any room left to sit.
I felt a sense of pride being in front of such a great crowd. This was my moment in the sun and I was going to make the most of it. My huge ears swiveled to focus on the commotion coming from behind the stands to the left. A procession of, what I could only compare to large bipedal lions, moved gracefully onto the field. In tow, at the end of a line, he could see a beautifully decorated and ornate deer. Ribbons of silver and gold hung from the deer’s carved antlers, sharpened to brutal points. Its glistening fur had been painstakingly groomed to perfection, its hooves polished to clarity and its delicate tail cropped short. With any luck, this prize would soon be in my possession. My mouth watered slightly in anticipation as my tail lashed from side to side.
“No, luck would not do today”, I thought. This would be my finest moment and I would let no one else get in my way. The other three youths that stood beside me would not stop me. Today, I would make my first kill and join the pride as an adult. The signal sounded once more. The deer was released and with a resounding ‘thwap’ to its haunches; it quickly began to disappear towards the horizon in a flurry of sooty dust.
I could feel my heart begin to race, adrenaline surging through my body. My claws dug into the loose soil to gain whatever purchase it held. My focus narrowed to a fine point as my ears precisely followed the prey. Everything else faded out of existence. It was just me and my deer.
The final signal sounded so loudly in my ears, I could swear I had gone deaf. Without even realizing, my body flew forward at an amazing pace, the arena already a speck fading into nothing. As I watched the deer running full force for it’s life, I could feel the other hunters also closing on the prey. It was surely a fair match. In fact, I was losing ground to one of my rivals. I pushed as hard as I could to gain ground, but it was becoming painfully obvious that another hunter would reach my deer first.
I could only hope that they made a mistake in their approach.
Before I could even fully form his desire, the other hunter tripped and fell, tumbling into a pile of fur and dust. Blowing the dust forcefully from my nose, my focus honed in to my prey. I was getting closer with each breath. I could see the deer making small subtle mistakes as it ran. It was running too hard. Soon, I would be close enough to snag my prize.
My heart was beating out of my chest, adrenaline blinding my focus, paws throbbing in abuse, nose so overwhelmed by the deer that I could already taste it. My moment was at hand. I had to act now or lose my chance till the next season. I couldn’t let the other hunters reach it before me.
As the deer took a miniscule misstep, I made my move. Focusing all of my remaining strength into a lethal leap, my paws stretched far, razor sharp claws extended in an ivory arc into the deers soft haunches. I sunk my claws deeply into my prey, pulling my way quickly onto its back. Too late, I realized my leap had landed me slightly off-side. With a flash of the deers powerful hooves, I found himself doubled over in pain, flying through the air. The surprisingly quick dismount left me little time to recover for the landing. I braced as well as I could, knowing in that brief moment, that I had failed. As my head came to meet the ground first, my world went dark.
Pain. Pounding, throbbing pain. I felt like I was dragging my way back from the pits through fire and thorns. My world spun. It took all of my focus to get it to stop. I was nothing but darkness. There was no Dexter. Through the blurry fog, a small noise rang to a piercing pitch. My ears twitched, the small tufts rubbing against something soft. Soft was such a contrast to his darkness. The weight of my body became a quick reality.
As a rush, I could suddenly feel everything once more. My eyes shot open to a blinding light. Blinking furiously to clear my vision, I realized where I was: The infirmary. What a personal shame. Not only to miss my prey, but to have to be rescued by the clan and nursed back to health like a young-ling. The dishonor caused me more pain that my damaged body.
I sat up in a flash and looked around. There was one other laid out in a bed in the corner, still asleep. I recognized him as the energetic youth that tripped over his own huge paws. I laughed softly to myself. At least I wasn’t the worst off from the chase.
Quickly noting my injuries, I knew I was not too bad off. An obvious wound from a sharp hoof was wrapped in tan gauze to match my fur. There were other minor bruises and such, and my neck felt like it had been broken while my head throbbed, but I knew I would be okay. I needed to get out of here immediately. The laughing eyes of my family and friends would be too much to bear. It was bad enough that I ended up in a soft bed for the infirm.
Rousing myself from the bed to my feet, I quietly made my way to the door. The sooner I could make an appearance at the banquet, the better. I walked as best I could toward the main hall. I made every effort to hide any discomfort, shifting my weight so I appeared to be perfectly fine. With any luck, I may be able to laugh this off with the others as an overzealous effort by the medics. I needed to retain whatever honor I could if I was to have any chance of a good future.
Entering the main hall instantly brought back a shattering migraine. Too much bright light and loud noise, I had forgotten how much of a celebration this was. To become an adult, be granted land, hunting rights, the right to court a female, all had come and gone so quickly for me today. But I would have no time to be depressed, as my friends and family were watching as I entered the hall.
Feinting a smile, I went to make the rounds and assure all that I was perfectly fine. I had reached my limit and it was beginning to overwhelm me. I knew it was too early to leave the party, so I pulled up a chair at a corner table. My body was worn from such a long day. I just needed to relax a bit. Using my arms to prop up my head, I rested on the table. My vision blurred while the room began to fade.
I sat up quickly, alert, as I felt a soft warm hand on my shoulder. Did I fall asleep? What was going on around me? It took so much effort to focus, but then I knew this scent without even needing to look. It was Alexandria. The most striking female I had ever seen. She had made her kill the previous season and was now an adult.
I had yearned to make this kill today to offer to her as a proposal. Knowing how I had failed, her soft touch caused me more pain than any of my injuries that day. I steadied myself, then sat up to meet her with a smile. She smiled back.
“I brought you some of your favorite coffee,” she said, as she placed a steaming cup on the table.
I could feel the effects of himy favorite brew just by its vibrant scent. It smelled of hearty soil, sweet water, chocolate and cinnamon. As I raised the glass to his lips, my troubles melted away. Perhaps, just maybe, I could still have the future I wanted, with Alexandria.
She pulled up a chair next to me and slid closer than usual. Placing her hand on my thigh, she smiled with her eyes and began chatting amicably about the day and the general blather. I was doing his best to maintain my composure, as the world around me faded slowly to darkness once more.