The Witch and the Hunter ran until night fell, but the rain never let up. The Witch tried her best to remain calm, but with her sense of sight dulled once more, her nerves were mounting. But even as infected, they all had their limits, and the Hunter had reached his. His breathing was much more labored, and from what the Witch could see from the flashes of light between the trees, his head was glistening. Not with sweat, but with blood. His gash hadn’t stopped bleeding since they had left.
When they did finally stop, it was because the Witch said so, not because the Hunter gave out. The Hunter would’ve probably kept going all the way into the night, no matter his injuries, but the Witch couldn’t stand hearing his feet, once smooth steps, crunched into the ground, heavy and without much purpose. He was getting worse and worse the farther they traveled.
“Hunter. Stop now.”
At first, the Hunter ignored her, and his steps became much more calculated, while his speed took a toll. Seizing the opportunity, she dug her heels into the ground, hissing as her naked heels took a beating from the underbrush. The Hunter fumbled, much less gracefully than he usually would have, and even lost his grip on the Witch’s wrist. He didn’t fall, but he came close, and ended up in a dipped crouch. He turned back to growl at the Witch, but momentarily froze, along with the Witch as she caught his face in a flood of light.
What had it been called? Moonlight? She couldn’t recall it right away, but at one time it had made her feel warm. But as her eyes studied the face of the Hunter, she could only be filled with dread. His face was marred with a never-ending lace pattern of scars. They had no real rhyme or reason, but they seemed to form some intricate pattern beyond the understanding of the Witch’s mind. His lips were shredded, parts of the top lip hanging limply on the bottom lip.
None of his face was more horrifying than his eyes, or rather, his lack of them. They were sockets, darker than the night that blurred the sides of his face, where the light didn’t quite filter out. But where the tops of his cheeks were, laid two pulpy masses, which glimmered red and angry. The Witch had been blind since her change, but she couldn’t imagine what the Hunter had seen before his eyes had been mutilated, and it wasn’t just because she was unable to comprehend complex ideas.
She stepped toward him, and he shuffled back, his form bleeding into the darkness. He was nothing more than a shadow, and he would eventually be nothing to her if he didn’t come back into the light.
The Hunter growled, but remained in the darkness. The Witch tried again, adding a flourish.
“Hunter. Come. Please.”
The Hunter remained silent for much longer than the Witch was comfortable with, but he did make his way back into the light. He stood much taller and straighter than before, his body rigid except for a slight lean he had on his left side, but for the most part, he was much more like the men the Witch remembered at her old home. She physically shivered, which caused the Hunter to wilt. She wasn’t sure why.
Still, she made her way toward him, slow. She reached out with her hands, claws reflecting all the light that filtered through the trees, making them look unearthly beautiful. There was a feeling of warmth in the Witch’s chest when the thought danced across her mind – the thought that something about her might be beautiful. But she was careful. She knew they could harm the Hunter, and she didn’t want to harm him more than he already had been. She lifted her claws toward the sky and pressed each cold palm against his cheeks. They were rough to the touch, and she was reminded of something in her past life. She remembered feeling such a thing before, but she couldn’t recall a name. It was infuriating, but when she saw her shimmering claws masking his eyes, she was reminded of something else. They were tears.
She wondered if the Hunter could cry, but she found the image before her too beautiful to question or alter. The Hunter, on the other hand, was lost
“What you do, Witch?”
The Witch suddenly felt self-conscious. She knew what it was like to be blind, but the Hunter had feigned perfect vision since they met. It didn’t make sense to her, and she found herself longing for the innocence of his hoodie.
The Hunter’s mouth moved slowly as he spoke, each word seemingly forcing its way out of his mauled mouth.
“No eyes. Mind. Mind’s eye. See sound. See smell. I am Hunter.”
His description matched her former description of the word, “Hunter.” He was stealthy, but he was so much more than that. He lifted his hands to grip hers, careful to avoid her claws.
“I see Witch. Witch always so sad.”
The Witch wasn’t sure how to respond, and instead focused on his hands holding onto hers. Even his hands felt rough, a detail she hadn’t noticed before. She also wasn’t sure if it was just her own imagination, but she felt both a heat rising in her cheeks, and a strange heat from his hands warming her hands. It didn’t necessarily feel real, more nostalgic, like the flash of a memory across flesh. It was a lovely feeling, but the Witch soon felt a dampening deep in her chest – a dampening of the heat, and the rising of tears.
She wasn’t sure why, but she cried, just as she did when she had been stuck in that house. The only difference was that the Hunter was there to take her in his arms. And while she feared his face, she did not fear his imaginary warmth and the warmth his touch rose to her chest. The memories were becoming much more powerful as the night went on, and the intensity had her wishing she could have known the Hunter before the change – before, when all of the heat was real.
To Be Continued…