The Same but Not
It emerged, radiant, from the shadows of the surrounding trees. I stared at it, utterly still, as it nosed at the deep green shrub before it, nostrils flaring delicately as it scented the blood red berries growing in abundance.
The creature was dazzlingly white, seemingly shimmering with an ethereal glow in contrast to the dark forest around us. Its lips quirked back and a grey tongue snaked out, tasting the berries before stepping forward to pick them from the bush.
It was a stag, I thought, with two great, rust brown antlers reaching high above its head. Where it differed though was the second, thicker set of horns that protruded just below the first, and curled down the side of its face like those of a ram.
It gave me an odd sense of reality, seeing something so familiar and yet so foreign. Like so many things in this world, I supposed. The same… but not.
My fingers gripped the rough bark of the tree I hid behind, and I craned my neck slowly to peer around a little more. A strand of ash blonde hair fell to tickle my face, and I hastily brushed it back.
The stag raised its head suddenly, one velvety ear tweaking in my direction as it tilted its head. We both stood frozen, neither daring to move. I held my breath as it turned its head, jet eyes searching.
Without warning it bolted, staging a huge leap that took it easily twenty feet across the mottled browns and greens of the forest floor – an impressive feat from standstill – to land with a thump of hooves before crashing through the underbrush.
Magnificent. It was magnificent, and I felt a pang of… something, as the sound of its hooves disappeared, leaving me in silence once more. Loss, I thought, I felt loss.
I was alone once more, in this alien place, with its strange creatures and that odd sense of being adrift. I sighed heavily, feeling uneasy. At least now I knew the berries were safe to eat though… and probably wouldn’t kill me.