Tuesday, October 25, 2022

October Vignette - "Hunter’s Moon" by Linda Mooney

Posted by: Linda Mooney

"Hunter’s Moon"

              Most of the year, the little cabin was empty. A little wooden one-room hut at the edge of the woods that gathered dust and cobwebs until its owners returned in the fall to take occupancy and clean it out.

            The full moon illuminated the open field adjacent to the cabin. It enabled Crestan to make his way like a silent ghost toward the building whose windows now shone like tiny suns in the night. Smoke from the chimney rose upward until it appeared to envelope the glowing orb.

            Reaching the line of trees that edged the field, he quickly shed his outer skin. Bared in his human form, he shivered in the frosty air, but he continued toward the cabin. Partially formed ice crystals crunched beneath his feet, cutting into his flesh, but he tried to ignore the pain. He had to see inside the cabin to make sure.

            He carefully peered inside the first window he came to and spotted the fireplace on the other side of the room. It cheerfully provided warmth and more light along with the two lanterns already lit within.

            He could hear muffled voices, but the people speaking weren’t visible from this end. He moved to the end of the cabin where the other window was located. Here, the voices were clearer. Even though his natural form had more acute senses, he wasn’t able to understand human conversation unless he was in his human form.

            Slowly, gradually, he raised his head above the sill to look inside. Sitting at a table near the window was an older man with a young boy. They were eating from bowls as they conversed.

            “So this moon is called the Hunter’s Moon cuz this is when we go huntin’?” the child, who couldn’t have been more than twelve, asked.

            “In a way,” the man replied. “You see, in the olden days, this is the time of year when hunters and farmers would go out and hunt near and far. They’d bring in as much game as they could. They’d skin it to use the hides for clothing and whatnot. Then smoke and preserve the meat, and store it so they’d have enough food to last them through the cold winter months when the game would be too scarce to find.”

            “Why didn’t they go to the store to get food?” the child asked.

            The man chuckled. “Grocery stores didn’t exist back then. They had to hunt, or grow their own food in gardens.”

            “And that’s why we came here to the cabin you and Grandpa always came to? To hunt so we’d have enough food for the winter?”

            The man laughed again and reached over to tousle the hair on top of the boy’s head. “Yes. To hunt. Most of the time we do it more for sport. We don’t really need the meat. Although your mother does enjoy fixing stews and all with the deer meat if we happen to get us a buck or doe.”

            “At school, Mrs. Tafta told us the full moon this month was called the Dying Grass Moon,” the child stated, reaching for a cracker.

            “She did, huh?”

            “I guess that’s because the grass is all dead and turning brown, like the leaves die and turn colors on the trees.”

            “Could be,” the man said. “Never heard it called that before, but it sounds about right. Although I have heard it called the Travel Moon a couple of times.” He snorted. “Heaven knows why it’s called that.”

            They ate in silence for a while, when the boy spoke again.

            “Do we hafta hunt for deer? Can we hunt squirrels and all, too?”

            “We’ll see if we can’t get us a turkey if we come across any,” the man admitted. He gestured to the child’s bowl. “Hurry up and finish your chili. Then dress up good and warm. It’s gonna be a cold night tonight. Oh, and don’t forget your gloves!”

            “I thought you and Grandpa hunted in the mornin’ ‘for the sun come up,” the boy commented before shoving a spoonful of chili in his mouth.

            “Normally we do. But since the moon’s so bright out, and the deer love to feed when it’s a night like this, I thought we’d sneak out to the deer blind and see if we can’t bag us a nice buck before daylight.”

            Grabbing his bowl, the man got to his feet. Crestan quickly ducked below the window to prevent being seen. He heard a chair scrape and knew the two males would soon be leaving the cabin to venture across the field to the other side where a tiny hut on stilts sat at the edge of the tree line.

            Which meant his time was limited.

            Hurrying back to the far side of the cabin, he resumed his natural form, taking a few seconds to let the warmth soak back into his muscles and blood. With his feet now hooves again, the brittle grasses and ice crystals no longer hurt, and he bounded across the field to reach the safety of the trees.

            He quickly retreated to the small copse of sheltering oaks. There, he found his mate lightly dozing, waiting for his return.

            “Vuli! Vuli, wake up!”

            She opened her eyes, her slender head jerking up at the sound of urgency in his voice. “What’s wrong?” Her eyes suddenly widened. “They’re back, aren’t they?”

            “Yes, but it’s the father and his young son this time. And they’re preparing to go out to the small hut to hunt tonight.”


            “Yes! We have to leave and find shelter somewhere else to stay until they go away!”

            She awkwardly got to her feet, her body ponderous with the pending birth of their youngling. “We need to warn the others,” she told him.

            “We will. Come. I’ll clear the way for us.”

            He went ahead, using the massive rack of antlers on his head to keep the overhanging limbs and brush from biting into her distended sides. Whenever they encountered a family of squirrels, they let them know to remain hidden from sight until the humans left. The squirrels promised to spread the word.

            They traveled most of the night. At times they thought they heard the distant sound of gunfire coming from behind them, and their hearts bled at the thought of the animals who might have met the end of their lives tonight.

            When Vuli could go no farther, he found her a large strand of maple where she could take refuge. As she trampled down the dead leaves to make a comfortable bed to lie on, Crestan stood guard. Overhead, the shiny white moon cast its bright light over the surrounding trees. With his enhanced vision, he could see a great distance in either direction.

            Nothing would get to his mate or to him tonight. Or the next night. Or the night after that. He would give his life for her and their unborn babe.

            “Crestan?” Her voice was as weak as she was, but for now they were safe.

            He glanced down at her and gave her a loving smile. “Don’t worry, my Vuli.”

            “I was so worried when you were gone.”

            “I had to go. You know that. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have learned they were back, or that they were going hunting tonight.” He motioned upward with his nose. “Did you know this moon is called the Hunter’s Moon?”

            “My mother always told me it was the ‘danger moon.’ When the leaves turn color and start to fall off the trees, that is when life is the most at danger.” Sighing, she set her head down between her front legs. “Tomorrow when the sun comes back, will we have to leave again?”

            “I don’t think so. But if we must, we’ll do it when it’s dark. It’ll be safer then. Their eyesight is pitiful, even with the moonlight.”

            “Crestan, lie next to me? I need your warmth.”

            He stretched out beside her. Truth be told, he was as exhausted as she was. Moreso because of his worry and fear for her.

            Before long, she was asleep, her nose nestled in his fur. Somehow, he managed to remain awake the rest of the night and allowed himself to rest only when the Hunter’s Moon finally sank below the horizon to make way for the sun.          

Linda's Website

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...