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Mercy

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Sarah bends down over the sling made from a pence of wood and rope, knife ready in her right hand – and hesitates. “It’s a baby rabbit”, she says.

She can hear the twig snap under Jago’s foot as he steps up to her. Usually he would try to move without a sound, but with one leg still barely capable of bearing his weight, he’s glad that he can move at all.

“So?” he asks, but he can already read it in her face. He gingerly tries to crouch down next to her, but then decides to just sit down on the ground, injured leg stretched out in front of him.

He takes a look at the rabbit and says: „You know that’s just a psychological effect, right? It’s called the scheme of childlike characteristics: big eyes, small nose, a head bigger in proportion to the rest of the body…it’s supposed to make us protect and nurture human children, but it also applies to a lot of young mammals.”

“I know”, Sarah says.

“It’s just another way our brains fall for deception.”

“I know”, Sarah repeats.

The small rabbit doesn’t make a sound, it just looks at them with big brown eyes, visibly shaking.

Sarah puts the knife down. “I’m not that hungry anymore.” In that moment her stomach growls and calls her out on the lie.

She waits for him to judge him, to call her weak, unfit to be a player if she can’t even kill to feed herself. But she should know him better than that, since he doesn’t say anything. Instead he sighs and moves a hand over his face, which only serves to spread the forest dirt from his fingers.

“It’s not enough to feed both of us anyway”, Sarah points out.

“Better than nothing”, Jago says. They haven’t had a decent meal in days, hiding in this place until their wounds have healed and they can play on. Hunting game has been impossible, so their diet has mostly consisted of plants and berries, and they’re both sick of it.

“We could try to find some more of those berries and cook the leaves to make a tea”, she suggests. Jago pulls a face at that. “Or maybe I can walk down to the river tomorrow and catch some fish.”

“Oh, this doesn’t apply to fish?” he says, but of course it doesn’t. A fish doesn’t look at you like that, it’s just that simple.

“Or you can do it.” She holds the knife out to him. She believes he can do it, will do it, he who has done so much more killing than herself.

But he doesn’t take it. Instead he slowly gets up, putting one hand on her shoulder for leverage, and says: “Fine. I don’t like rabbit anyway.”

Another lie, as transparent as the last.

She smiles.

It feels good, he muses as they both watch the small bunny hop over to a nearby rabbit hole and disappear. It shouldn’t, but it does. A small mercy in a merciless world.

Maybe it’s a stupid decision. It’s probably a stupid decision. His mother would certainly throw a fit if she knew they wasted such an opportunity. But his mother isn’t here, it’s just the both of them, and they play how they see fit.

And it feels good.