Take a Walk With Me

We laughed and swam until the moon made an appearance, brightening the night sky. I walked out of the little pool, followed by a soaked mass of white and black fur. She stopped, and I braced myself as she shook her entire body, water droplets raining down on me. I jumped back, avoiding most of the spray.

Filos led me down a path in the woods outside the camp. She took the forks leading to the most challenging trails. As always, my mood was an open book to my friend, and she was more than happy to let me lose myself. Each time I found myself lost in frustrating thoughts, she veered to a new fork or off the path altogether. The rhythm of my feet hitting the ground soothed me.

After an hour of running at full speed, Filos brought us to the bottom of a small waterfall. She stopped at the water’s edge and panted for a few moments. It took a four-legged long-distance runner to keep up with me, but even Filos could not go on forever. After she caught her breath, she leaped into the pool and splashed around. The smile on her furry face echoed the joy I could feel coming from her. 

The waterfall was tucked away and a challenging hike. I knew we would not run into anyone, so I peeled off my heavy boots and clothes, leaving them to dry in the sun. I dove in after Filos and tackled her, making sure her nose remained above water. We chased each other around the pool until she became distracted by a fish. It lived up to the reputation of a slippery fish and slipped out of her grasp several times. I cracked up each time she jerked away as fins smacked her in the face.

We laughed and swam until the moon made an appearance, brightening the night sky. I walked out of the little pool, followed by a soaked mass of white and black fur. She stopped, and I braced myself as she shook her entire body, water droplets raining down on me. I jumped back, avoiding most of the spray. The stubborn girl always refused to walk a few feet away. I gave her an annoyed look and inched a little closer, shaking the water from my soaking wet hair onto her. The contest started and she naturally won.

Breathless with laughter, I sprawled out on a rock to dry. The soft glow of the moon caught my attention, calling to me. I still reveled in her song. Picking up the change in my mood, Filos looked up and howled a greeting. It warmed my heart to hear my friends singing to each other, so much so, that I joined in their song. It was one of our favorite pastimes. The moon’s voice gained depth in response to us.

After our song ended, we lay on the rock to dry off, content to just revel in the night. I felt a peaceful but weary presence drawing nearer. Filos had been getting antsy and was ready to run again. Her energy would have scared off the newcomer. Filos was a predator and her scent would have scared away the timid creature, so I soothed her to near sleep. I took a deep breath, permeating the air around us with calm. It emboldened the deer, and she came closer to the water’s edge, never taking her eyes off me. I could feel her confusion at being calm in the presence of a stranger. Not wanting to ruin the effect, I stayed perfectly still. She eventually eased herself to the pool and took a drink.

I could see a wound on her leg. It was not deep but would be causing her pain. Slowly, I reached down and gently placed my hand in the water. As slow as it was, the movement caught her attention, and she stopped to look at me. Being prey, she was always on the lookout for potential danger. I went still. She waited, her eyes glued to me. I did not move for a long time, and she dared to take another drink. I guided my healing magic through the water to her mouth. The water was scooped up and slid down her throat. I could feel it move through her body. It spread to every part of her, healing old scrapes, strengthening weaknesses, and filled her with calm. Once down to her ankle, it passed through the wound to cleanse it. I felt her muscle and skin knit back together, leaving her whole again.

When done, I released the magic. The few small fish swam with more energy, and the pool felt cleaner. The deer’s eyes had softened, recognizing me as one of her kind. She thanked me with a slight bow of her head, and I could feel her invitation to join her herd. I wanted to make sure Filos stayed asleep, so I tied her to the sleepiness I had imposed on her. It would not do for her to jump up when I moved. 

I slowly pushed myself up and walked to the deer. She was far calmer than she would normally be, allowing me to approach and not shying away when I reached out to touch her. I ran my hand along her side in greeting. Not wanting to impose too much of myself in our first meeting, I let her step back when she realized how close I had gotten. Staying calm allowed her to remember the invitation she had just made. She ran into the woods, pausing to make sure I followed.

I transformed as I ran after her, my four legs and skinny hooves making it easier to follow her. I could have done this in my human form, but not without widening the path. We ran, hopping down a game trail small enough to be undetectable to most humans. I could sense that we were close to her small group and slowed down. I wanted her to appear before I came in, so I masked my scent.

They had their customary greeting, checking to ensure she was not followed before showing their pleasure at her return. After the greeting was complete, she looked back in my direction, and I slowly unmasked my smell. I could feel her group’s surprise, and I made my movements as deer-like as I could manage before emerging.

They responded by checking my smell while they looked around to see if anyone else had come with me. The patience it took to wait out their wariness was what I needed. The key to that discipline is to let go of all the worries and let the expectations fall away. At that moment, I was a deer, and I waited. There were no other moments to examine or anticipate. I sat back into my deer form and let it all wash over me. I waited for them to decide nothing was going to happen. My new deer friend also waited until her group was calmed down again. She then walked up to me, and I lowered my head to the ground, taking a bite of grass. This allowed her to lick my head, showing the others I was accepted and safe.

We ate together, and the other three deer, one by one, walked over and greeted me. I grazed, allowing the simple sweet grass to nourish my body, and accepted their soft affection. I nuzzled them back and let their calm, peaceful nature wash over me. The tension of the hunt slid off my back in the company of these gentle beings. The stress of dealing with my new company, the pressure to go home and see my chaotic family, the mystery and frustration of having an unknown enemy flowed out of me. I allowed my thoughts to flutter past and dissolve. Even the competitiveness of my maidens, whom I adored, did not make it past the boundary of the simplicity I felt with the deer. My mind was still at last.

I’d lost all track of time and was happy. Then, I felt Filos wake up, and I knew she would come looking for me. My deer form never threw her off. I looked up at my new friends and felt the companionship we had established. I wanted to prolong this moment of peace for as long as possible, but I also did not want to disturb them. They would tense up as soon as they heard Filos approaching. I chose to leave them in peace and depart before Filos got close. I rubbed my nose on each of their heads, saying farewell and thanking them for the company. They would welcome me back when I sought them out in the future, and I was grateful for them.

I wanted to stay, but I had things to take care of. Even though those things wore on me, I loved each of them. I left my new friends and went to find my old friends. By the time I got close to Filos, I had changed back to two legs. My mood had been lightened, and I was ready to play again. I hid behind a tree and let Filos get close. As she started to pass, I Ieaped out and tackled her. We rolled on the ground, over small rocks, crushing a pile of leaves. I swatted her head, and she pretended to nip my arm. Happy grunts came from her as we circled each other. When she jumped, I let her pin me to the ground. Her joy, on top of the peace I had just found, was euphoria. I sprung up and ran with her close on my heels. She loved the chase as much I as did. I kept her close for a while and then ran ahead of her again. When she howled, I slowed down and let her catch up. I allowed her to overtake me and then chased her.

We chased each other in circles around the camp until we were tired again. I stood on a low hill while Filos panted beside me. The camp sprawled out in front of me, and I watched as my maidens trained. They were good warriors and loyal to me. I could see them joking with each other as they sparred. Others worked to keep the camp clean and running smoothly. Some came into the camp having completed missions, and some left on errands. They were my pride.

Miss Imani’s voice could be heard, even from this distance. The maidens cleaned up whatever they were doing and started toward. a large tent. I looked down at Filos’s hopeful face. “Yes, dear girl. It’s time. Let’s go get some chow,” I said as I rubbed her head. She darted down the hill, letting everyone know we were coming to dinner. I followed her, finally happy to be home and to see my friends.

Artemis (Shannon Clark)
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