Here, a twig broken on the ground. One single twig, laying in the white snow. Easily missed, to be sure. Easily fatal, too. One must be thorough.
The forest sat still on this cold winter's night. Not exactly tense—because, after all, what does a forest have to fear—but crisp. It was not in the mood for games, not tonight.
Which is why this twig, broken upon the still-freezing snow, showed so clearly. A trail of broken and bent branches led deeper into the forest. A patch of bark here, a leaf imprinted into the ground there, and a painting was coming into focus now.
And suddenly a track like a star on the ground, burning hydrogen in insipid darkness. It was not a perfect print. The wind, snaking through the trees, had filled it with snow, leaving only a small valley, a brush stroke against the canvas. Ahead, twisting and loping were more, each more distinct than the last. The path, shrouded in darkness, exuded a terrible assurance of both direction and purpose.
Rearing up from the snow, a small flame, some distance ahead, threw dancing shadows through the shifting trees to create a spinning kaleidoscope of light. Its warm glow illuminated the pawprints leading up to it, the shuffle of snow near it, and the now twin set of prints lancing away into the darkness. A dash of almost offhand colors, and it is forgotten.
But now a shadow, skimming over the snow deep down the path. It, an oiled ghost, stood black on black on the white forest floor, darkness creeping along its edges. A silent, whispering flatlander, passing effortlessly over tree, rock, log, bush. It sped forward, leaving streaks behind it.
A muscle now, sleek with snow, loomed ahead. It rose and fell precisely, its movements hinting at an essence much more than a coiled tangle of fiber and pigments. It froze, tension shooting through it like the moment the hammer hits the chord, before the sound has time to escape.
It sprang, driving forward, snapping into focus.
The wolf leapt ahead.
* * evening snow * * by Apple Crisp (source image)