To you, solitude was a constant. The only true one you had, actually, though “solitude” sounded far too peaceful—maybe “isolation” was more appropriate. Ah, yes, that certainly fit more than something as gentle as solitude. Isolation came with the burden of loneliness, the reluctancy of it… ha, you wished that you had a choice in how secluded you were. Truly, you would probably give up anything for it—although that implied that you had something to give.
But that didn’t really matter. Even if it was better for everyone to never be involved with you, you were still selfish; company was the one thing you craved, and even with all your willpower, you couldn’t help but concede to it. And each and every time, some innocent person paid the price—the child that you had bought another ice cream for after they had dropped it on the chalky sidewalk? According to the news, he had gone missing just two days after. The old lady that you had helped across the street? As you had left her presence, the very second you were out of the way, a car swerved to miss a child playing in the street and killed the woman instead.
…And so, sometimes, to ease the guilt, to forget how selfish and how horrible of a person you were, you ventured into the forest behind your house; such a journey happened more often than you wished, but the beauty of nature was one of the few things that could calm you. And, maybe, you hoped you would be able to watch animals as they flitted about through the woods, see natural life bloom before your eyes… it was a gift, really, yet you still wanted more than that.
Birds always noticed you as you hiked along the path through the brush, high-pitched chirping announcing the presence of danger to its kin—you hadn’t truly expected anything but this, really. It always happened. Even if you continually hoped to maybe, just maybe, be able to interact with something living, it never worked out—at least the animals were intelligent enough to be wary of you. You couldn’t really blame them for saving their lives, but still, you couldn’t help but feel a surge of loneliness and disappointment every time it happened, as if you had expected otherwise.
But, foolishly, you still kept up hope that there would be a difference in their reactions, someday. Even as they still fled from you as you trekked through the forest, you kept your head high—you wouldn’t cry this time. You would keep your head high, heart strong, and you wouldn’t let this hurt you again. Firmly, you promised that to yourself.
Time passed—how much, you weren’t sure, but from the way the sun dipped in the sky, it seemed to have been quite a while since you first entered the woodland this time around. Really, you probably should have returned home a while ago, but there was a certain feeling pushing you forward, a sense of anticipation that you couldn’t ignore.
After a few minutes more of trudging forwards, you happened upon a clearing, a herd of deer resting in it; you froze for a moment, wanting to treasure the sight of animals before you, ones that hadn’t yet noticed you and the aura of trepidation you gave off. Despite that, one detected your presence, and jolted away, all the others following just after. A pang of sadness resounded in your heart for a moment, just a second before you forced yourself to shake it off, plastering a fake grin on your face; perhaps if you tried hard enough, you could convince yourself that everything was fine.
You closed your eyes tightly for a moment, thinking of anything but the loneliness; dwelling on it was pathetic, after all. But before you reopened them, you felt something nuzzle at your hand. You only just barely managed to restrain the instinct to swipe your hand away, instead cautiously opening your eyes to figure out what exactly was touching you—and, somehow, a young fawn stood next to you, curiosity in its bright eyes as it gazed upon you.
You began trembling a bit, unsure of what was happening—this was the first time that you remembered an animal ever willingly staying in your presence in years, much less interacting you without prompt. Actually, the last time was when you were seven, before your parents had died; you could still remember the soft fur that your dog had, how playful he was… but it wasn’t the time to focus on that. Not at a time like this.
Shakily, you removed your hand from the front of the fawn’s nose, and its gaze travelled with your hand; placing it on the deer’s head, you scratched a bit behind its ears, just how you had with your puppy. You were still consumed with fear, yet the small creature before you seemed to be pleased, pushing up into your hand more; and, for the first time in so many ages, you smiled. A genuine, quiet grin that could never be faked; a small laugh bubbled from your throat as you knelt down next to the fawn, pausing your scratching for a moment to pet its head gently.
The two of you stayed like that for what seemed like months, frozen in your own happiness, although it couldn’t have truly have been more than ten minutes before it nuzzled your palm one last time before scampering away, looking beautiful as it pranced into the brush.
And even after the loss of its company, your smile stayed on your face the entire trip back to your house. In the back of your mind, you had the fear that it would be harmed—but it seemed so full of life, so happy as it disappeared, that it seemed impossible for its life to fade away.
When you climbed into your bed, took off your glasses, and slept that night, you failed to have a nightmare, instead sleeping comfortably, one of the rarest things for you.
Three days later, when you took the same trail, you had the most off-putting feeling of dread, one that was uncomfortably familiar—you tried to ignore it, to pretend everything was fine, that nothing was going to go wrong… your anxiety never was eased, but at least you had managed to force yourself to stop trembling from the feeling as you walked along the path, snapping sticks as you went.
When you arrived at the clearing where you had last met the fawn, half-hoping she would still be there to interact with you, you found, instead, you found a corpse, eerily resembling a deer around the age as the one that had enraptured you days before, blood caking its light fur. Its eyes were dull, nothing but oblivion in them as it looked to the side, not a single muscle of it moving.
You stared at the lifeless body.
You looked at your hand, the same one that the fawn had nuzzled so affectionately.
You looked back to the bloodied animal.
The silence was deafening in its own right.
…What had you promised yourself, again? That you wouldn’t…let this sort of thing harm you anymore…?
You supposed that you needed to consider that pledge void, now.