In spite of his adrenaline fuelled sprint, the boy soon found himself in the claws of his predator. His once calm stroll through the park had backfired entirely on him. Moments meant to be spent reflecting on his newly developed self-loathing and pity. Instead, he found himself hurtling towards the ground with fear scorched in his hot, streaming eyes. He stopped short before wet blades of grass, his assailant’s rough hand grabbing at the collar of his jacket and yanking him upright.
“Monster,” the considerably broader and more aggressive man spat into the poor boy’s face. Defensively, the prey lifted his hands up to his face; just in time to see the glint of metal from the leather man’s glove. Eyes widening, he tore away from his grasp, the fibres in his sweater stretching and tearing as he made yet another attempt to flee. However, leather snatched him up by the arm effortlessly and expertly. He twisted the skinny boy’s arm behind his back and held the blade to his throat, pinning him in place.
“Oh God,” the boy whimpered, sounding rather pathetic to the leather gloved attacker, “please let me go, I-I don’t even know who you are.”
The man rolled his eyes and lifted his blade up to the boy’s lips, nicking at their corner and brushing against teeth. “But I know you,” he hissed hatefully into the boy’s ear. His breath stunk of alcohol and decaying food jammed in his gums. “The whole town knows you – and nobody wants you here.”
The blade pressed harder against the boy’s trembling lips. His previous wriggling to free himself stopped instantly, in fear of slicing his mouth open. Tears stung his eyes and his chest quivered. It was true, though. The violent attacker was right; nobody did want him.
Anxiously, March waited in line for his turn. There was a little grin on his face and he twisted the sleeves of his shirt slightly. Dressed in a clean vest, shirt and straight black trousers; he was looking very prim and proper – as he felt he should at an audition. As he heard the girl before him step onto the stage in the small establishment, singing her little wings off before receiving a gaggle of comments from those working for the upcoming music show. This show was something the aspiring dancer and singer didn’t have much information on, but that happened when he moved from town to town in search of the spotlight; it was his passion, and though the work he did have was only enough to get food in his belly but no roof over his head, it was so worth it.
Before he knew it, he was guided up onto the stage himself. Adjusting his hat over his strawberry hair, March took a deep breath and powered out into the dim spotlight with his head held high.
Before him in the auditorium sat a small gathering a stern looking folk, and in particular his focused landed on the two in front of him. One short, fat man without any hair and strange, icy blue eyes. He scoffed instantly at March as he wondered on stage, folding his arms and creasing his cheap suit. Next to him was a leaner man with greasy blonde hair, dressed in burgundy and tapping a pen to his lip idly.
Regarding him for a second, the blonde cleared his throat and addressed the boy. “March Smith, am I correct?”
“Yes sir,” March said politely, clasping his hands behind his back in effort to try and look of professional mannerism as well.
Soon the boy had found himself getting used to the friendly producer, Darren, speaking with him and was welcomed to the “master behind the show” Winfred. The pay, he knew, would be going to most of the slimy rats gazing upon him and judging every breath and shift he made, though he did his best to pay no mind to it.
“Give us your best shot, Mr. Smith”
Now the stage belonged to March. He eased himself softly into his song of choice, his eyes swallowing up every stereotyping glance and ears twitching upon every mumbled comment. Though this did little to stop him, he drowned out the judges and took the stage to his own. His eyes closed and chin tilted upright as he belted his heart out. His dreams were sewn into each lyric and flick of his skilled tongue, painting his aspirations and passion into the air like a tapestry; he wanted his story to be told and, more importantly, wanted to allow others to become aware of their wishes too and to pursue them. The possibility of changing lives were sung into the air, and portrayed in his small dance motions he unconsciously committed himself to in the song. Gosh, it was warm on the stage as well, and sweat beads collected at his cheeks, making his hair cling to his skin. But he didn’t care at all, with a deep breath he expelled the final note and his performance concluded.
Taking another breath, he sighed and opened his eyes: what would be given unto him now?
The friendly producer opened his mouth to speak, when his bald and miserable colleague interrupted. “Mr. Smith, would you be so kind as to remove your hat?” he asked in a sure snap. March brushed his fingers at his smart flat cap. “My… hat? How c-“
“Just do it.”
Uncertain, March hesitated for a second but whipped off the accessory as instructed. It was then that the jaws dropped in the room – as opposed to his performance, as he’d hoped. Sticking out of the top of his strawberry locks were short, pale horns – sure to be growing into antlers soon enough. Awkwardly, March rubbed at his arm and left his eyes wonder down to the chilling stare of the man before him. “Is there…” he gulped, “Is there a problem?”
It only took seconds for March to find himself being wrestled down from the stage by two, hefty security guards and was then thrown out onto the street. The abuse that the team were screaming at him echoed in his mind; all because he resembled an animal? That was ridiculous. But, then again, he’d faced similar issues previously. For some reason, almost every town he passed in his travels called him a “demon”, “witch” or just plain out “animal”. Granted, the antlers would be coming out more as he matured, but that made him no different from everyone else and it certainly did not affect his talent for passion for the stage.
Gathering his belongings, and nestling his hat upon his head again, March began to make his way towards the gloomy park he spotted earlier in his travels.
“Why can’t people understand?” he breathed as he passed the low gate, soon being swallowed by the overgrown shrubbery. “All I want to do is be up there with them!”
The disappointed deer held his arms up towards the gleaming moon. He just wanted to join those who would truly grasp his desires, who would invite him to join in on their own drive as he would them. It was not about fame or glory for him; that was saved for those who were more narrow-minded. He just wanted to find his soul mates out there, who would all dance and sing and perform alongside him; give him more of a purpose.
Soon, the little strawberry found himself gliding through the tall grass. He spun and swayed, his feet moving with swift elegance and landing in perfect position. Arms were held out and loose, poised almost as though an invisible being was partnered with him and dancing alongside him. His dreams, his hopes, he just wanted them to--
“LISTEN TO ME!”
The shriek from the attacker snapped the boy out of his daze. Yes, for a moment he had been clearing his mind and dancing with the woodland sprites – but now he was pinned and with a blade cutting into his mouth.
March whimpered, he wanted to scream for help; but nobody would ever hear him. And by this man’s words, nobody cared either. He had to fight. “Get OFF!” he screamed, jamming his elbow harshly into the man’s gut.
This caught the leather gloved attack by surprise and he stumbled back, crushing his tailbone on the pointy, rock ridden soil. The blade in the strawberry boy’s mouth sliced. It was butcher’s work, slipping that metal so cleanly through the thin and weak meat. Red spurted and oozed from the wound, but the agonising pain was numbed by that second push of adrenaline.
To slow down his attack, and for good measure, March spun around and once on his feet stomped the man harshly in the groin. In that instant, the deer boy took off and tore through the shrubbery, heading towards the streetlights overhead. Tears streamed down his face and hiccupped cries clawed up his throat. He cupped his hands around his bloody cheek, helplessly trying to pin the two slabs of flesh together as he fled the scene. The shouts of profanity and curses upon the boy’s name soon grew faint as he made it out onto the road.
He needed someone right now. Anyone. He needed help, a hospital, a counsellor. But more importantly in his action fuelled mind right now, he needed a saw; he wanted to hack off those wannabe antlers that caused him so much trouble.
Just as he stepped out in a frenzy into the middle of the road, he failed to catch a glimpse of two headlights powering towards him. Not until he heard a frantic cry from within the vehicle, the panicking horn and the screech of tires breaking into the concrete. March looked up and his eyes widened at the two, gleaming orbs hurtling towards him. “Shi—“