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The Roe-Deer


Driven by hunger the wolves killed everything that came their way. Some of them had grown up here, others came from abroad. This winter they had run berserk. They rummaged sheep pens and bolted into peasants backyards. Their bloodthirsty shadows flitted over the frozen snow.

Their wails woke the village in the mountain gorge disturbing the sleep of peaceful sheep and brooding goats. Uproarious domestic watch-dogs hung warily onto their leashes hiding a secret thought deep in their blood. Perhaps the leash could get torn. And they might turn into hunting beagles chasing the beasts.

The humans all were old and sick. Left behind or simply forgotten. They lived year in year out abandoning any hope for help. There were no telephones and doctors had never set a foot in that village.

They could rely only on their own stubbornness. The doors were locked and bolted, the people were armed with bludgeons, forks, axes, in one shack a couple of them, in another a lonely oldster, their teeth chattering with the cold.

The deep snow cut them away once again from the world about which they didnt care a fig. Their children there had turned into guys of apartments built of concrete panels. There was a place where nobody helped anybody else. In summer sometimes somebodys grand-children came on a visit to the village. For a short spell of time, they breathed pure air, plucked thyme and picked raspberries and mushrooms putting them in their baskets.

The place was beautiful and wild. Its villagers clung desperately to their primitive houses. Occasionally a hunter who had lost his way or was too exhausted would drop in to ask for a little water. The village here was short of water, too.

There was a little spring which never froze throughout the whole winter. In the summer there were frogs jumping about but the water always glistened clear and transparent.

All wild animals came here to appease their thirst. The spring had attracted the people to the place as well. The does more and more often gathered around it. They seemed to be looking for protection. They felt the odds were against them and that fate would no loner be merciful.

Famine was hellish and biblical. The old men and women had spotted the does other times as well and had thrown them chunks of bread, a leak or two, or some other meager remains of their modest meals.

The people were worried about their lives, too. Their hearts sank as they sensed that the does would perish because of their hope. The roe-deer had always come, one or two of them, but never so many. They were a herd now.

This night was not late, it came tired and angry. The eyes of the wolves burned. The herd of does got thick and numb. One roe by the other, one by the other. The neck of the first glued to the back of the next one as if they all were interwoven with one another. The young ones stood in the middle, in the periphery - the old and the sick. They pressed to the rest as close as they could. The bucks with their sharp antlers stood knee deep in snow in front of all.

The beasts closed in on all sides. Deer hides crackled and crunched, vertebrae broke and bled. The smothered does were more than the wolves could devour. The blood of the predators churned and they could not stop killing. The living roe-deer caused further wild panic and hatred. The bucks ripped open two young thoughtless wolves.

The pack of beasts finally tore the herd apart. Every doe ran for her life. The deep, frost crusted snow riveted the victims. They sank overwhelmed by the hungry shadows. Their last whizzing breaths and croaks echoed in the cold rooms where the humans lived. The sight was not to be witnessed in cold blood. This sort of death was not to be endured.

A door creaked suddenly, a move unexpected by the wolves. Then a another one creaked, yet another. An old woman who had neither a backyard nor a fence around the house opened the door and stood virtually at the threshold of her home. In bolted a little roe-deer. Its heart pounded ringing like a bell. The old woman could hear it as the animal pressed itself against her leg. Then the woman locked the door and barricaded it with the old chest of drawers in which the poor soul had amassed her bridal trousseau so many, many years before.

Well, the sun would rise no matter how late and dawn would come.

 

Translation: Zdravka Evtimova

 


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