Forever Changed

We caught a glimpse of the beast through the trees. It was nearly midnight and we weren’t supposed to be on the reservation, but we hiked up anyway. We had watched the city come to life earlier, and now, wanted to behold the lights from on high.

With that glimpse, we both stopped in our tracks.

It moved gracefully. Its strides were long and purposeful. And when it reached the glistening water, it gave no indication it knew it wasn’t alone. It bowed its head and drank as if it had been waiting for this all day.

We were holding our breath.

It lifted its head, and turned to look at us. When our eyes met, something deep inside of me stirred. Colin collapsed to his knees, but I stood strong, our gazes locked on each other.

There was no music. No singing. No humming. No birds chirping. No animal sounds.

Just silence.

I swear even my heart stopped beating. I heard nothing. Colin swears he was whimpering, or even yelling, but I heard nothing.

I saw those black eyes and all went still.

The white stag broke the trance by putting his head back down to the water. Colin pulled on my legs, trying to get up. His cries suddenly rang loud in my ears, and I winced.

“Get me out of here,” he whispered. “We need to leave, now.”

I picked him up and slung him the best I could over my shoulders. I was stronger than I gave myself credit for sometimes, but I knew deep down, he was right. Leaving now would save our lives. Staying, and we’d never make it home again.

So I hoisted him up, and stumbled the best I could back the way we came. I fumbled for the keys, and gently set him in the car. He had lost consciousness along the way.

Hands shaking, I drove to the hospital, pulling into the emergency bay. It was eerily quiet. I stopped short of opening Colin’s door, pausing for a moment to wonder if I should get a gurney instead of lifting him over my shoulder. But then he coughed, and something dark came out of the side of his mouth. I opened the door and hoisted him over my shoulder once again.

Walking through the doors, I called out for help. One nurse looked up, her hands on her hips. “And just what happened here?” She asked, her nose wrinkling in disgust.

I surveyed the rather empty room before answering. “I’m not really sure. But he’s bleeding out of his mouth, and he just kind of passed out.”

She gave me a condescending look. “Drugs?”

“No.”

She looked down at the paperwork in her hands. “Have a seat, then.”

“How long will it be? I really think it’s an emergency.”

She waved to the seats nonchalantly, “The doctor will be with you shortly.”

The convulsions started almost thirty minutes later. A gurney was rolled out and Colin was roughly dropped onto it. The nurse gave me another sideways glance. “You’re sure it wasn’t any kind of drug?”

“I swear. We were walking in the woods, saw a white stag, and he fell to the ground in pain. We got outta there and I came straight here.”

She paled. “It wasn’t on Pike’s Peak, was it?” she whispered.

“Well, yeah I think that’s where we were.”

She bolted from her chair after the gurney. “He saw the stag! He saw the stag! Don’t administer -”

The doors clanged shut. I jumped up and ran to the door, trying to look through the window, but they’d already wheeled him into a room. I slunk back to the seat and waited.

Hours later the doctor came into the waiting room, sweat dripping from his forehead. He briefly wiped at it, before indicating that I was to follow him.

“He’s alive. Barely. He’s seen the white stag, which means that he’ll be forever changed.”

“What do you mean, forever changed?”

“Well, for one, he might not see clearly again. He’ll have visions, or nightmares every night. He’ll feel like the devil has been implanted in him. Happens to everyone who sees the white stag.”

My face gave me away.

“Wait,” the doctor looked closer. “You didn’t see it too did you?”

“Um. Well. Yeah. I mean, I think I did.”

He grabbed me by the arm and dragged me into a room. “Tell me. Everything. All that you can remember.”

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