She thought of the hill she was traversing as the spine of a decision neatly splitting the country into before and after, either/or. As she mentally tossed a coin (ruins or civilisation: which should she choose?), her attention was drawn to the only movement in that divided landscape, a raggedy flapping figure running fast out of thick woods on the uncultivated side of the hill. About two kilometres away, perhaps less, the figure was barely identifiable as human, and what humanity it had was contradicted by the pack of dogs that appeared out of the same woods a few moments later. Straining against long leads, they dragged behind them five hunters with guns protruding stiffly from their silhouettes like the broomstick arms of scarecrows.
The baying of the dogs carried across the valley on an updraught of wind, so faintly that it seemed unconnected to the scene below. Charlotte at first imagined she was watching an Italian version of the mock hunts that took place near her parents home in England, where the trail for the pack was laid by a sprinting man rather than a fox. But as the gap between the hunters and their prey closed, she saw the runners movements become jerky, more inhuman; they conveyed a sense of urgency that negated any suggestion of play. The wedge of russet-coloured dogs and the hunters in loden green and brown were moving forward relentlessly, like part of the forest shifting itself, or a natural upheaval of the unforgiving earth.
Excerpted from Waking Raphael by Leslie Forbes Copyright© 2004 by Leslie Forbes. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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The Angel of Losses
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