"Do you know what kind of berries those are?" snapped Cervos.
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Fia looked up with a mouth full. "Um yuh...they are good eatin' berries!"
"Do you even know where we are? I mean, I don't know this part of the woods. And I really don't think you should be eating those berries!"
Cervos was obviously nervous. He always was. Even though he was more muscular and taller than most his age, he lacked the self confidence the others had. Fia on the other hand was shorter and thinner but obnoxiously over confident. He was always doing his best to make Cervos even more nervous.
"Listen, we really need to get back to the others. They are gonna start wondering where we are. And its getting dark! I hate navigating woods in the dark!" Cervos's eyes shot back and forth scanning for anything out of the ordinary. Shadows, sounds, and wisps of wind were all targets of his focal darting.
"Let me just eat a few more berries and then we can be on our way." Fia stuffed his mouth with even more berries. His eyes rolled back in his head as he savored the sweet taste.
Cervos gave Fia a disgusted look. "If those kill you don't say I didn't warn you!" He continued to scan the area as if on guard.
"Do you ever get the feeling you're being watched?" Cervos said quietly out the side of his mouth while keeping his eyes focused on the trees ahead.
Barely stopping his gorging of berries, Fia looked up, "Oh yeah. All the time. Especially here...in the woods. You never know whats got its eyes on ya..."
The evening was now settling in and the sun was hanging low casting long shadows through the trees. The cool air calmed the wind and everything fell silent and still.
"Wha....? Do you smell that?" Cervos stood at full attention peering into the darkening trees.
"Sheeesus man! Did you fart or something? You're ruining my meal here!" Fia spit the berries to the ground. He couldn't get the taste of the smell out of his nose. He took a big sniff in the air.
"GACK....ugh. What the hell is that? Thats horrid!" Fia blurted as his eyes begin to water. He began to snort heavily in an attempt to rid his senses of the stench.
Cervos squinted and cocked his head low as if to see under an imaginary veil. "Something isn't right. That smell. It isn't right."
"No shit? Anyone could tell you that smell aint right! It smells like something died and then took a dump on itself, then pissed itself and then died again!" Fia was nervous now too. For all the time he had spent with Cervos he had never let his pal's paranoia rub off on him. This was different though. That smell was odd. Not the smell of decay, but the smell of...death. Encroaching death. He couldn't make sense of the thought himself, but that was the only explanation he could muster.
"Lets get going now." Cervos was stern. His hair was visibly standing on end. He was breathing heavy and with each inhale the rancid smell grew stronger.
"I agree, lets get the hell out of here!" Fia shoved his way past Cervos. He was usually graceful through the trees but now he was bumping into them left and right.
Cervos slowly began to follow his friend, all the while staring at one dark spot in the woods. A dark spot that held his attention since they stopped to check out the berries. It was as if the trees themselves were watching them. But deeper, and darker. It was the eyes he felt. Hiding there in the darkness. Waiting. Had the wind not died, they never would have smelled...it.
"Lets run." Cervos turned his head to Fia and began to take a wider step.
Suddenly there was a loud crack. Cervos knew where it came from. He felt a sharp piercing pain in his neck. "RUN FIA!"
Fia darted off through the woods. The loud crack had pumped his adrenalin. He never looked back.
Cervos lay on the ground. His neck bleeding and burning. He began to flail around trying to get up, but just kept tripping over fallen branches. His attention turned back to the dark in the woods. He stared for a second and then his eyes caught it. The tree was moving. It was coming closer. As it approached it began to change. Then he made out another figure. The rancid smell grew stronger and stronger.
"Hey! Holy shit man! I didn't think you could actually hit em! I can never shoot when I'm drunk! I mean hell, you couldn't even hold your beer!" Jimmy patted Rob on the back then reached to his hip for the large knife strapped to it.
"Well, you didn't kill him so you get to cut his throat!" Jimmy slurred as he handed Rob the knife.
Rob grabbed Cervos's antlers and pitched his head back sharply. Cervos was helpless as he felt the sting of the blade in his throat.
"Six points, a nice trophy. Oh...look. Berries!" Rob reached down for a handful.