I peered over the top briefly before ducking back down again. I gripped onto the gulley wall tightly, making sure I gave off no sounds or tell-tale signs. With no other choice I peered over the top again and surveyed the area.

The ground on top was flat, like a small plateau that had formed above the one I had just traversed. I saw a campfire, with stones around the edge of it and moderately sized branches stacked in the middle.

It was clear to me that the man who started the fire knew a great deal about camping and or living in the wild. Despite the triumph of finding something as attention grabbing as a campfire, I had no way of knowing if the hunter had started it.

For all I knew it was a hiker that had gotten lost and set up camp. Many thoughts began to enter my mind. I had allowed myself to speculate on all possibilities given the unpredictable nature of the hunter’s behavior.

If the hunter had not wanted to be found, he never would have set up camp in such an obvious place. One possibility was that this was the site of an innocent hiker, who had no idea of what was going on in the darkness around him.

The other possibility was that the hunter started the fire in an obvious place for the sole reason of drawing me in and trapping me. Realizing the latter was a far more plausible explanation I began to think very carefully about my next course of action.

My sense of the hunter lying in wait grew stronger by the second. As much as I hated and despised the hunter and all those like him, I knew that I had to think about what he would do if he was placed in danger.

I very much doubted the hunter would become lax and overconfident enough to not worry about being ambushed in the middle of the night. I had to outthink him. If I could win the battle of the mind before I ever had to fight him face to face, I knew my chances of survival were much greater.

One option I had was to simply wait where I was and see if anyone returned to the campsite. If the hunter was out there waiting for someone to make a move he would not return to the site, leaving both of us sitting and waiting.

It was a stalemate I knew had to be broken. One thing I was counting on was the hunter not expecting the only son of his last victims to hunt him down and stop him. Of course, if at some point during the night or maybe even at my home the hunter had seen me prepare for the confrontation, that changed everything.

Realizing that I was not going to win the war in my mind with speculation and assumption, I began thinking about my next move. I decided to wait exactly where I was, clinging to the face of the gully while I contemplated my next move.

My first thought was to enter the campsite and investigate. To try and determine if the fire was started by the hunter, or by someone else. I grew hopeful of the prospect of a hiker, or some other person having set up camp. For that provided me with a potential ally.

Aside from my own defense and my own reasons for needing an ally, if there was a camper nearby who had started the fire he needed to be protected. If the hunter had not started the fire for my benefit, he would almost certainly see the fire and attack anyway.

I stopped and listened to the forest, listening to any sound and any change in the nearby trees. Satisfied there was no new movement I returned to thinking about how I was going to make my next move.

My thoughts once again returned to the deer and its mate. They had disappeared shortly before I had located the fire. And I knew that there was no movement and no sound in the nearby area. Where they had disappeared to was simply beyond me. I still had no idea as to what their purpose was or if they were trying to help me.

All I knew was that once I engaged the hunter in combat, there wasn’t anyone who could help me. The palms of my hands began to grow sweaty as I held onto the roots and the clay that made up the gully wall.

Realizing speculation was not going to change my situation I decided to break the stalemate that I thought had appeared. Peering over the rim of the gully once more, I made sure the area was clear.

I then slowly, gently clambered up over the top of the wall I had been hiding behind and emerged into the open near the campfire. I made every effort to remain as quiet as possible. Confident that I had succeeded I cautiously moved towards the fire and looked around.

There was no tent, no provisions or refuse lying around to indicate that anyone had used the area as a campsite. In fact, aside from the fire itself, there was nothing to indicate that a human being had even entered the area for years.

Realizing with horror that one of my speculations had come true, I froze where I stood. I was standing near to a large tree, and I hoped that it combined with my darkened appearance would shield me from site.

I knew I could try to put the fire out and make the surroundings dark again, but I knew that any attempt to disturb the fire would be noticed from a great distance away.

To Be Continued……..

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