I spun around, startled by the voice behind me. The robed figure had returned, and I could feel its presence within me even stronger than I had done before.

“We never think of it that way, do we?” said my inner self.

I turned back to the body, who still bore my face. The corpse’s eyes stared up at me and I watched in horror as the irises and the white of the eyes were swallowed up by blackness. I turned back to my inner self, who had a grave look upon his face.

“You simply cannot understand. Killing is not in your nature. If you kill him, the most important parts of you will die along with him. You will kill all the most important parts of yourself. And in the end, there will be nothing that anyone can do about it. But you still have a choice to do the right thing.”

I looked at my hand, the blood still dripping off the ends of my fingers. I suddenly retched when I saw how much blood there was. Remembering it was a dream I straightened up. I refused to believe that what I had just seen was a taste of things to come. I turned back to my inner self, my resolve unchanged.

“My war is out there! Not in here! Why are you here? I know what I have to do” I said in defiance. The robbed figure simply smiled and stepped forward.

“If you had no war to fight within yourself then I wouldn’t be here. Yes, you may know what you have to do but you don’t know how to do it.”

I broke eye contact with my inner self and looked at the floor. I suddenly noticed that my hand was clean, and the blood had gone. Looking further down the ditch I saw that the body had gone as well. My eyes opened wide as I began to think clearly.

Killing my parents’ killer in my dreams had allowed me to assess my responses, as well as my capabilities. I was trying to convince myself that the killer had to be stopped, yes, I had to make some kind of retaliation for my parent’s death, yes, but I had to do it in the right way.

“I think I understand. The fact that you are saying this is helping me. And right now, I need all the help I can get from inside. I know that I must send Peter and Sarah away, while I do this” I said looking back at the robed figure.

“I cannot promise I won’t kill him. But one way or the other, the only goal I intend to achieve is his defeat. I think, I would prefer to see him rot forever in prison than to see him dead at my feet.”

The robed figure stood forward and placed a hand on my shoulder.

“This is something that you must do alone. If you must protect Peter and Sarah while facing him, you will lose. That is a certainty. They cannot be a part of this, however much a part they are already.”

“You have everything you need to do this. I know there is a chance you will have to kill him, but that must remain the last resort. If you slay him at the right time, and for the right reasons, then you will survive. Nothing of you will die with him.”

I smiled and nodded to him, reassured by his presence and his words. I knew that once I woke up, I would have to find a way to get Peter and Sarah to leave for help. I knew that I had to do this alone, somehow.

Looking up, I saw the sky growing light. The sunrise was yellow against the morning sky, and some small clouds had entered view. Realizing that my time of awakening was upon me the robed figure turned and began to walk away from me along the ditch.

I did not follow for I knew that he was with me now and always. I knew that his words would always help to guide me in my times of strife. Watching the manifestation of my inner self leaving the place where I now stood, the only thought that played on my mind was the hope that I didn’t let him down.

I made myself jump as I snapped back into an awakened state. Sarah still lay snugly against my right side with my arm draped over her. It didn’t take me long to realize how cold my body had become, for I was shivering.

The morning dew had descended and there were very few clouds in the sky. Peter lay off to my left, snoring softly. I thanked God that his snoring hadn’t been louder for I knew it could have easily given away our position.

The fact that we had all made it through the night unmolested and unharmed meant that we had escaped successfully.

With that in mind I began to calculate what I had to do. Firstly, I had to make sure that Sarah and Peter both left to find help.

Secondly, I had to begin a hunt of my own. The fact that we had seemed to escape made the matter easier for me.

I had no military or tactical training of any kind at my disposal. But I had studied with my father as he hunted animals in the forest with me.

The man who had slaughtered my family was little more than an animal. I could see it in his tactics and his methods during the whole night.

I had thought of him as a hunter. But today, I thought of him as the hunted. And What put a smile on my face was that the hunter did not even realize he was about to become the hunted.

I knew that my parents’ killer would not have left the area so soon. For we lived in a remote part of the country and help was hard to come by.

The closest source of help was Peters house, a good seven kilometers from mine. As to which direction we had travelled within the great forest, I did not know. Escape was the only course of action on our minds during the night.

I shifted slightly, only to find that my backside had fallen asleep. Giving a lop-sided smile at the pins and needles I now felt I decided it best to wake Sarah while adjusting my position.

Shaking my head, I realized that Sarah would not wake so easily. I held her shoulder and shook it slightly.

Remembering a trick, I played on her once I leaned over and blew into her right ear. When she suddenly bolted, I realized that my trick had worked better than I had hoped.

I rubbed her back as she began to awaken and regain her surroundings. She turned to me and smiled.

A smile that soon faded as she saw the look in my face and recalled the events of the previous evening. She cupped her face in her hands and began sobbing softly.

With my arm still around her shoulder I pulled her close to my and let her bury her face in my shoulder.

“This isn’t right” she whispered as she cried. I continued to hold her close, rubbing her back and stroking her head slowly.

“I should be doing this for you not the other way around” she whispered once more. I smiled a little. I knew that she would want to help me as much as she could.

And I knew that before long I would probably need her shoulder in the same way. I had convinced, almost programmed myself, that I needed to act without emotion to succeed in my mission.

I felt as though I could do it. I felt a true sense of justice within me about what happened to my parents. Justice that needed to be satisfied. I no longer sought vengeance for what happened.

My mission was clear. To bring my parents killer to justice, and to kill him if I had no other choice. Only if I had no other choice.

I was thankful that my inner self was still strong enough to remind me of my principles. Even in times of great sorrow and strife.

I suddenly remembered the deer, the animal that regarded me with so much curiosity and respect before I had fallen prey to my exhaustion.

I felt sorry for it in a way, for I knew my mission and I had the ability to stop my hunter once and for all. It didn’t.

I hoped I would see it again, under better circumstances. But then I frowned at the absurdity of what it was I was thinking. Although, at the time it did not feel absurd in the slightest.

Before tonight I wouldn’t have given eye contact with a deer a second thought. But there was something about it. I felt a strong connection between myself and the animal.

Almost as if I understood what it and its species had gone through, and it understood what I was going through.

A part of me somehow knew I would see it again. I did not know how or when, but I just knew I would.

It was a strangely personal experience for me, connecting with that deer. And an experience that was for me alone without the others. Much like my mission.

Sarah pulled back from my embrace and wiped her face. She had a concerned look on her face, one that I had not seen before.

I imagined her reaction to be due to the look of a stranger on the face of her friend. Never had I felt so hard and cold, so barren and alone.

My healing would take much time. But I would not put my feelings before the completion of the task at hand.

I looked at Sarah for a moment longer before I turned my attention to Peter. Not using much finesse, I thumped his shoulder once, causing Sarah to let out a soft laugh.

As he began to stir, I shook him a couple of times to get a response. The response I got was a deep throated groan.

Sarah slowly stood up and brushed herself off. She realized quickly enough that I had taken my jacket off and let her use it as a blanket.

She shot me a look, which was both irritated and forlorn. I looked up at her as I took my jacket back.

“You were wet and cold. You needed this more than me” I said to her. She looked at the floor and walked off behind the mound we had leaned against.

No stretch of the imagination was required to realize that she needed to take care of some ‘business’. Peter had begun to shift and wake up himself as Sarah walked off.

To Be Continued………

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