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The Hunter at the End of the Day photo

We had no idea what Erotica Week would look like when we dreamed it up, over Twitter, months ago. And now that it's finally here, I'd describe it like this: the stories and poems on the site this week touch on what erotica can be—funny, uncomfortable, sensual, and violent. 
—Jess Stoner


I’m rambling through a dense forest, on the dark side of intimidating. None of the picnic-and-pine appeal the woods used to have in my youth. This territory is primitive and full of perils. Bats hunt in the early dusk.

With each step, I trample mulch, flatten toadstools, crush worms between my toes. I walk barefoot, barelegged, despite the thorns. Summer is at its tipping point, spoiling into fall.

It wasn’t my intention when I set out this afternoon to penetrate these woods, but I am here again, tracking a deer, a tanned phantom slipping in and out of the shoots of fern. The animal seems heedless of my pursuit, unthreatened, yet it never falters long enough for me to catch up. I can smell where it has passed. The deer leaves its musk on leaves and bark. The scent draws out my longing. Only the warm soft bristles of its fur against my palm can calm my gnawing gut.

I begin to trot. Low branches maul at my limbs, daubing my skin in mold. The chase feels predestined until I trip over a log and fall between the gnarled roots of an oak. Nightshade and thistle scratch my arms. Black adders slither away in a swish of dead leaves. A stab of apprehension: something is coming for me.

I dig in the soil, its murkiness, as if anchoring myself, trying to find firm ground. Through the trees I spot the moon, its mournful face, rising, reflecting the distant light of the sun. But it’s too far, too late. Why do I repeat this experience? My body is losing its shape, my hands changing into hooves . . . a pelt grows down my back. I’m transforming into my quarry.

I lose my bearing and when I snap to, fear is all around. Who or what is breathing down my neck? Shadows thick as tar leap toward me as I sprint. Now it’s me who’s being chased, running for survival. From the mossy undergrowth, I hear my ancestors cry out. Primeval warnings of thirst and lust. There’s a secret beating in my blood; the old whispers urge me on.

I run and rush and gallop until the forest thins and clovers and violets lift the ground. A suspicious calm descends from the sky like an anodyne cloud. The horizon seems on fire. Stratums of smoky gray above bands of red. The day is at its end.

At the margin of the bush awaits a camouflaged man, savage-faced, a hat on his head, a shotgun over his shoulder. I freeze and sharpen my gaze. His eyes are fierce, predatory, his shoulders powerful. He watches me with malicious pleasure as he grabs his gun and takes aim.

For a moment: terror. There is no escape. Biting my tongue, I taste iron, the taste of courage. I must transform my fear into determination. I prance and shudder. Before the hunter’s eyes, I change shape once more.

The man lowers his gun, squints, unbelieving of what he sees. There’s a kind of absence hanging about him, an attentive dark. When I look at myself, my body is human again. Naked.

He holds my gaze. Silence festers. I feel my cheeks turn hot.

He edges closer to me, then stops. I take a step toward him.

We are not in a forest anymore, but in our own world, a timeless twilight of desire.

He leans his gun against a tree trunk and sizes me up. Am I to be trusted? He rips off his shirt and unbuckles his belt. I bid him to advance. He glances back at his gun, unsure, but does as I command. He enters my realm or I enter his: skin against skin. The grimness of the woods fades to a long forgotten past. His fingers trace the lines of my back, stroking the horror away from me. Claws that cannot scratch. I sniff up his wolfish scent, leather and cardamom, and something lighter, flowery almost, bittersweet.

This is what I have been after, to be pulled into the dominion of night.

He lifts one of my knees up to his hips, holds an ass cheek in his palm, teases me with a thumb. The ease. He knows the way between my folds as if he’s always known. I stand there, on one leg, pressing the warm soft bristles of his balls against my palm. My stomach no longer gnaws.

We unlock, unite, unlock, in endless repetition. Hushed sibilants escape my lips, stifled gasps. In my chest, love and death become two shadows, overlapping, merging, one.

But the tension grows too strong. It mounts from my crotch up through my spine and swaddles my throat. I feel as though he’s suffocating me, holding a rag against my mouth. I try to push him away in vain. Heedless of my agony, he presses on.

I gasp for air, can’t stand it much longer. His dominance is killing me.

Another push. Darkness breaks into me, gaining control. I reach down and take hold of the gun. My finger on the trigger. The nuzzle in his ribs. The shot comes as a surprise to him. Too stunned to scream, he falls back in a spray of blood. I dart and gallop. From a hoarse throat, I fling out the high-pitched sounds of a deer.


image: Ian Amberson