fiction Thrills

The Hunt

The mysterious protagonist of Tallulah Knowles’ dark short story becomes both hunter and hunted.

by Tallulah Knowles

The dictionary definition of ‘hunt’ is as follows:

hunt
verb
1. to pursue and kill (a wild animal) for sport or food
2. to search determinedly for someone or something

In the case of Red, both apply.

She sits in her office. She sits quietly for that is what she has learned and she sits gracefully for that is what she teaches. (Red is a ballet tutor, for the record. ‘Tutor’ is a key word here, for she cannot stand the masses of students, their high-pitched voices echoing off the hall’s domed ceiling. Rather, she singles out one petite girl and pulls her down the corridor to her private studio, fingers digging hard into the still-fat flesh of childhood. She picks a girl with talent and she raises her to be graceful. Teaches her how to capture an audience with a turn of her head and a stretch of a leg.)

Red sits in her office and she does not check her watch. She has become well acquainted with the passage of time. It courses through her veins and runs along the undersides of her fingers, up her arms and down her legs, pooling between her toes. Red knows time and she feels time and she sits in the office, quietly and gracefully.

“She picks a girl with talent and she raises her to be graceful. Teaches her how to capture an audience with a turn of her head and a stretch of a leg.”

Some may say it is hard to do something static with grace. How can one sit gracefully? Surely grace references the fluidity of movement and the elegance of arms and legs and clean, versatile motion? Red finds this ridiculous. Movement is relative and as the Earth spins, so do we. Movement is perpetual. The vibration of the atoms that make up Red’s body is simply far more poised and proper than most. The fluttering of her hair in the wind as she sits on the chair in the office casts a new light on the meaning of grace. Red knows that meaning; she formed it, the language thick on her tongue. Sounding out the vowels and clicking the consonants, she created something true and whole and unutterably beautiful.

And now, she sits.

The tattoo of her heart is gentle against the curve of her chest. The drumbeat rises and rests in the hollow of her collarbone and she blinks twice to the rhythm. Then she blinks once more and the door opens.

‘Oh, I wasn’t aware anyone was in here.’

Red does not smile but she looks up and with a crook of her finger she beckons the man into her office. (The office in which she is sitting, quietly and gracefully.) He enters and he smiles and she thinks him a fool.

And now she stands, drifting just as gracefully to the cabinet next to the window.

‘Brandy?’

‘Beg pardon?’

‘I am offering you a glass of brandy,’ she says sweetly, but still she does not smile. He watches as strong, slim fingers remove the glass stopper and pour a generous helping into a crystal glass. She hands it to him and cocks an eyebrow. I dare you, it says, and he takes it.

‘Sober?’ he asks, gesturing to her clasped hands resting against her abdomen, second glass nowhere in sight.

‘Ballerina,’ she answers. The question of why she owns an expensive glass container full of expensive alcohol remains unasked (and therefore unanswered).

She stands quietly and he sips. It is not dark, only six o’clock in a summer evening, but the sun is low in the sky and the gardens outside the window are packed densely with large oaks that block the light. She is fond of this almost-dark and fond of the quiet. The gardens are void of birdsong.

‘Mack,’ he says.

‘Red.’

‘A nickname?’ (He lies, lies, lies. Feigning interest, feigning ignorance.)

‘No.’

He finishes the brandy surprisingly quickly and the silence between them becomes demanding and meaningful but Red cannot find the meaning. She cannot find the meaning but she knows it is there. Lurking in the shadow beneath the desk? Hidden in the breast pocket of Mack’s suit? Or perhaps it has slid through the gaps in the window pane (damn that single glazing) and disappeared into the atmosphere?

‘Beautiful, isn’t it?’

He is looking out the window and Red turns to look too. The light filtering through the trees is almost amber; molten copper seeping through the leaves and staining their retinas with an orange tinge.

‘Yes.’

She turns back and the light glints off metal like the shine of a star.

He has a knife.

(The predator catches his prey and the hunt is over.)


Tallulah Knowles

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