Part 1 of Antlers can be found here.
Deep into the woods, a hush fell over everything. The footsteps over pulp, leaves, and sticks became hushed in the thick pack underneath. Thin, yellow pillars of sunlight created the impression of holding up the evergreen canopy above. The rusted out oil barrel slowly being consumed by moss was the only thing that stopped it from looking like a forest primeval.
Chrome was lost. Far away from the limits he had traveled before, the trail was gone. A retreating turkey suddenly took flight, the frantic sound of feathers crashing through the tranquil quiet, and making Chrome jump as the bird flew away. But flight was becoming familiar to him. As an exile now, it would be something he would have to become more and more used to. His antlers, of a more considerable size everyday, hit a low branch, causing him to stumble. He could remember all of their faces—solemn, stern, unforgiving—as they told him he had to leave, king’s son or no. “We can’t have demons around. Those like you, with those things on your head,” they said.
He checked the direction of his compass: still going east. They’d only allowed him to leave with the compass, a bow and five arrows, and an empty knapsack to gather with. Given his current state of hunger, he lamented not trying to take aim at the turkey. Stuffed in his knapsack, He still had an apple and a couple contraband carrots he had taken from a farm outside the forest.
He took the apple, which was slightly soft and bruised from being in the bag, and began to eat it. As he did, he came across a rabbit lying down on the ground. It was breathing heavy, exhausted. Not wanting to miss an opportunity this time, he readied one of the arrows to fire. But before he did, he noticed how small and thin the rabbit was. He understood it was starving. He also had trouble finding something to eat in the thick woods. So instead, in a moment of comradely compassion, he took out a carrot and placed it near the rabbit. It noticed, began to lurch toward the food, then ate in in slow, tired bites. As it ate more, it gathered more strength, eventually sitting up. Chrome was about to walk away, but as he got up, the rabbit seemed to take notice of him for the first time. It began to tilt its head in a direction to the south, where Chrome saw another rabbit lying in a similar state.
He knew the rabbit wanted Chrome to feed the other one as well. But with only one carrot left, and no clear indication when he would be free of the woods, he said “I can’t. I’m sorry. I don’t have enough. But I can end its pain.”
Chrome readied the bow again and shot the other rabbit. He took it to eat later and adjusted himself to once again head east. Before he left, he looked back at the other rabbit again, but it did not look at him.
Later that night, he made a fire and cooked the rabbit. The next day, more well fed than the last several days, he made great progress across the forest. He passed more husks of barrels and some car skeletons long left in the brush. Eventually, the hush of the woods began to hum. The new sound was slow to develop, but he soon recognized it: powerlines.
Taking a quicker pace, he got to the top of a ridge and saw the great trench cut into the woods for the powerlines. He knew if he followed them, he would find some civilization and could stop worrying about food. He bounded down towards them and stepped out from the shade of the canopy into the glaring, unobstructed sun on the path of the wires.