The weight of the heavy cat hammered him into the mud. Jaws would have clamped his jugular, holding him in place with two large paws until his last breath escaped from his body, but Buck had ducked and pivoted, the beast’s claws raking only his back. Having no other weapon, he grabbed a double handful of mud, thrusting it into the panther’s eyes.
Some primeval instinct guided his hands, the panther howling in outrage when struck in the face with the globs of sticky mud. The ruse worked for only a moment, but long enough for him to dive down the ledge to the creek. The fall should have knocked him silly, except he landed in shallow water. Plowing ahead, his heart beat double-time as his mind raced for answers, knowing the panther would be on him in a flash. The water wasn’t deep, but flowing rapidly and he let the current carry him forward.
He couldn’t hear the big cat but somehow knew it was bounding after him. When he reached solid ground, he sprang to his feet and began running toward light, maybe from the moon, in the roof of the arboreal tunnel. He didn’t make it very far.
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