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“Go on, prove yourself.” The smooth surface of the rifle brushes against my skin. At this moment, I say nothing, words being held back like prisoners.

“Neo, we don't have all day. What the hell are you doing? Just shoot it like I taught you.” His firm hand travels to my shoulder with a steady grip. I close my eyes and breathe; the smell of pine trees eases my stress while the birds laugh at my fear. The forest stands still around me, yet somehow still speaks words of wisdom and struggle against my gun. My dad's gun. Not mine. I swallow before seeing it right before me. A deer, in its mighty glory, guardian of the forest. A sight only seen by the most humble. Its eyes sparkle with innocence while its horns stretch high to a world beyond me.

“Kill it.” Kill, that one word my dad could say over and over. Every time he would come home with blood on his hands, he let the water wash the guilt off. Except he didn't feel any guilt. His eyes were only hungry for more. I feel my heart beating faster as sweat from my palms leaves the rifle unsteady.

“Aim,” he says as the gun is forced further into my arms, every word of his echoing and adding more pressure. The deer stands lost, unknowing of the danger. “On my mark.” His voice is quiet and low.

“One.” The stream nearby runs from the intruders of its land.

“Two.” The trees stand tall and still, judging me.

“Three.” I think of my mother. She's hungry and hoping, waiting for me to come home. Empty handed? No. Not for her.

So I shoot. And my father drops dead.

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