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The hunter knew that he was not going to make the same mistake twice.
His hands were covered in blood. Saucy Calf was lying at his feet with her life pouring out. Her eyes were wide, full of a knowledge that scared him. She coughed, and her lips were stained red with her blood. Her eyes were shining with a kindness that he knew would slide away from him and be gone.
“I’m never gone,” she said. But her lips hadn’t moved. Her voice was piercing, and unspeakably beautiful. “You just can’t see me. Open your heart to me, beautiful one. All I want is for you to see me.”
Red Crane screamed. The night swallowed his cry.
She was dead.
There was no compromise. He had seen death so many times. The rocks around the cave entrance glowed with the light of the moon. His eyes found Grasping Raccoon.
“What have you done to your lover? Look at that. You did that.” Grasping Raccoon jumped up and down, laughing. “Now you’ll know the pain you caused me.”
Red Crane felt himself coiling to strike. But the Ukteena struck him first.
Grasping Raccoon screamed and was tossed high in the air. The Ukteena shook him in his jaws and flipped him almost playfully into the air.
Then it turned to Red Crane, sinewy scales sliding past each other. Blood dripped from the jaws of the monster. When it opened its mouth, teeth as long as first year antlers gleamed at him. The Ukteena was death. Yet, there was an innocence in its lack of knowledge, a grace in the pure rage that spoke of deeper realms of pain, of deeper redemptions than he could see. The Ukteena’s light burst forth from the forehead of the beast.
And for the first time, Red Crane could see.
And it was all just as they said it would be. His world fell apart and his mind shattered like a mirror fusing into a shining surface from a million tiny pieces.