It was one week after his grandmother passed when Noah was led into the dense forest behind her estate. In the evening, the woods would terrify the young boy, but it was not yet dark and his grandfather enjoyed taking walks after dinner, believing that solitude and motion were the perfect capstones to any meal. The meals themselves were lacking lately, a victim of loss as much as those who ate them. The old man was not a good cook, but he had managed simple stews and had no qualm consuming stale bread baked a week before.
That day marked the first time Noah had been invited to join his grandfather in the woods, though really there had been no invitation, merely a statement of fact. “We will go for a walk after supper.”
Now they had been walking for nearly an hour, and Noah began to wonder why he was brought along at all. His grandfather hadn’t spoken a word to him, just walked deliberately forward, though with no real haste. When at last they neared the edge of the property, the two observed a fawn lying motionless by a rusted barb wire fence.
“She’s caught,” stated the old man.
“Can you free her?”
“We will see.”
“Will she die too, grandpa?”
The man did not answer. He approached the animal with his same, purposeful gait. Bending close, he saw that the barbs had cut deep and that a great deal of blood was pooling around her. The fawn shivered, but made no other motion, no attempt to flee.
“She’s accepted it,” said the old man, unaware that Noah was crying, now having glimpsed the blood as well.
“I don’t want her to die.”
“What we want and what will happen… There is little link between the two.”
The boy continued sobbing, but now with a new kind of grief, one born from understanding. If he was older, he might’ve wondered if this ordeal had been prepared.
His grandfather whispered something that sounded like goodbye. Then there was a soft crack, and the man was on his feet.
“Did dying hurt her?”
“Less than living. There’s no more pain for her.”
The boy paused for a second, looking around his grandfather to the dead fawn on the ground.
“It’s ours now,” stated the boy, “We took it for her.”
The old man nodded, returned once more to silence. He placed a coarse hand around his grandson’s shoulder and steered the young man home through the dimming light.