It was a cool morning, and patches of mist still clung to the ground and drifted beneath the trees, so that solid shapes seemed to be insubstantial and dream-like. A young boy walked slowly at the edge of the wood, as he often did. It was a favourite place.
Something just inside his vision made him stop. He looked between the trees, searching for what might have caught his attention.
He saw it indistinctly at first, and then gradually it became clearer to him. A deer was standing next to the bole of an ancient oak, and was looking steadily, directly at him. She was motionless. Only the occasional twitching of an ear betrayed her.
He was afraid to move. He hardly dared to breathe, in case he disturbed her. She remained as she was, silently watching him, her soft eyes giving no sign of what she was feeling.
He could hardly believe what happened next. It contradicted all of his knowledge and experience. She started to move towards him. Her progress was slow and cautious at first. She stopped often to sniff the air, but she placed her delicate feet noiselessly on the leaf-strewn ground, and she moved gradually nearer.
He would never know why he did it, but he held out his hands to her, palms uppermost. She saw the movement and paused. He was sure now that she would go. After a long and nervous delay, she continued in his direction, until she was standing in front of him. She lowered her head and nuzzled his hand.
He could feel the velvet of her skin and the hesitant warmth of her breath. He sensed a comforting peace, a homecoming, begin to well up from his core. He knew. He understood. He was falling through the resonant years to the forests of his ancestors.
It was then, as he felt that he was about to connect to a benign and all-encompassing unity, that a distant sound startled her. Fear overcame her fragile trust and she was gone, absorbed back into her dark and misty world.
He was bereft; his grief was a sweet and piercing pain. An exquisite truth, which he had no power to describe, had been abruptly snatched from his grasp.
He knew at once that it was lost beyond recovery, and, worse than this, that it had never, for a moment, been his.