The dog saw it first. A deer. Sitting in the grass by the edge of the woods.

Had it been alive it would have bolted long before then, and the angle of its head was all wrong, throat and chest thrown back in such a way that the horns had stuck in the ground behind it. The withered eye-hole hadn’t lit up with alarm at our approach and the busyness of ants and flies only increased the sense of stasis, of death, the horrible head transfixed in death like a tree struck by lightning.

It’s fur had come away in large patches, as though torn from its flanks, and the bald skin, taut and leathery, was a hideous purply-black. Some of the flesh had rotted away from the head, so you could see the animal’s teeth and its jaw.

The process of death had not yet destroyed the image of life. Blackened though it was by putrefaction and repulsive to behold, the animal’s form was just as beautiful as it had been when living, and the position in which it lay – no, sat – was purely graceful, deerlike, – ladylike, I’d almost say – its shapely legs laid out to one side as though it were taking a rest in the clover.

There was no way of telling the cause of its death, but the ailing creature must have settled quietly in this spot and waited quietly for the end to come, which it had, suddenly it seemed, like the falling of an axe.

Gers, December 2016