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Magnum explosion momentarily blurred the vision of himself falling gracefully, but hard, dead to the ground, the target of the bullet he had just fired. For he was the target, and the target was him.

Emmett fought to keep from trembling at the sight which now lay only a few feet away on the ground, twitching the last nerves of life from his body. He looked at the buck and saw himself, and watched as the animal's spirit left the creature still, and saw how it would be when the time came for him, and he waited silently and allowed the splendid buck to unsufferingly die in peace and in private.

The hollow-point bullet exploded inside the creature's brain and killed him instantly, but that instant was eternal for Emmett. He moved slowly toward the downed buck, after he was satisfied that the magic of his death had ended. Now kneeling beside him, Emmett sensed an overwhelming oneness with the deer.

He slit the animal's belly neatly open and gutted him like a young surgeon performing an abdominal operation on a live body for the first time. Then he tied first the front and then the hind legs of the deer together as he'd been told to do by Little Bird, using some stringy, cordlike sinew he removed from the stomach along with the rest of the entrails. He paused for a moment to look again at the strong beauty of the buck and to let the poetic harmony of the song he learned from his Pueblo Indian brother beat throughout his being.

The past month he spent stalking in the woods and climbing in the mountain forests had strengthened his body to a point where he could feel the difference in himself. By using all of this built-up strength and by exerting all of his pent-up energy, Emmett was able to hoist the slain stag onto his shoulders. He stood calmly for a moment afterwards to adjust the weight on his back and to achieve a snug one-to-one balance with the two-hundred-pound animal he now had to carry all the way back down to the cabin in El Rito. When he was satisfied with the way the deer sat on his shoulders, he picked up his .22 and slid it through both the pairs of corded legs, resting his forearms over the butt and barrel ends of the rifle to apply just enough easy pressure on the coupled legs which were folded over his round, bony shoulders and down against the upper part of his heaving chest. With his arms hanging loosely in this position, Emmett felt he would be able to keep the animal braced easily in place and maintain the even distribution of its weight across his back. [end page 374]


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