A hunter, Charlie thought as the sound of footsteps approached in the dark, crushing fallen limbs and leaves on the ground, skik-frump. Yes they were close to the subdivision, any hunter caught in this area would certainly be fined, but if he’d been tracking a deer from deeper in the forest . . .
“Hi there.” Charlie’s call was loud and distinctly human, like he’d been told to do when encountering a hunter in the woods.
skik-frump, then the footsteps stopped suddenly. Charlie held his breath, listening intently, his eyes focused on the darkness in front of him.
The footfalls were much closer. And directly behind him.
A second hunter? Charlie turned sharply, called out again. The footsteps stopped again, and a moment later skik-frump, off to his right, closer still. Whoever was out there was out there was making no attempt to hide their (his?) approach, but seemed intent on not identifying themselves (himself? itself?), or revealing exactly where they were.
“Hey, do me a favor.” Charlie knew he wasn’t hiding the fear in his voice, but if that admission brought this encounter to an end, he was all for it. “Just — say something, OK?”
He guessed the footsteps were only a few feet away now. Charlie squatted down, got down on his knees and searched the ground for a rock, or stick. His hands found a log, a little thicker than a baseball bat, and he picked it up, guessing in the darkness it was two, three feet long. It felt solid in his hands, not rotted. Still on his knees, Charlie held himself still, listened.
Almost on top of him, and behind. Charlie bolted upright, and grabbing the log with both hands, turned and swung violently.
He stumbled, his blow hitting nothing but air. He set his feet for another blow, but he was hit suddenly in the back of his head, and what little light was present in the clearing vanished as he collapsed.