I’ve always loved the outdoors. Whether it was playing or working or just taking a walk, I much prefer the outside. I guess that’s why I became a hunter. My father took me first when I was five. I owned my own gun by seven. Nothing much more than a glorified BB gun, but for a seven year old, that’s pretty spiffy. My Uncles hunted, still do those left alive. My mother even went out a time or two, but the gritty details of the kill went beyond her tolerance for her husband’s and son’s actions.
Hunting is the bonding of men. Women are too soft. Too delicate for the burst of bullet and blood. Theirs is the cooking and the cleaning; babies.
Don’t hate me for the truth. It’s a hard life here what with all that’s gone by. I am the only son, the only one suitable to follow in the footsteps of my elders. I loved the stealth of it…. the patience, the sometimes hours of waiting: researching the best places to strike. I love every moment. I will hunt until I die.
Tonight is no difference than any other night,yet it is. Tonight starts my life. We spread out in the forest, moving in the rough proximity to a straight line, driving the prey before us toward their end. It’s end, rather, for there is only one we are allowed to take tonight.
Cold breezes ruffled my collar, poking about in my pockets like a child for sweets. Dark surrounds me, broken only by the sliver of the moon. I can hear my father’s, Uncles’, footfalls crunching in leaves, but I can’t see them for the dark. Ahead, I hear the wallow and crash as the prey rushes headlong in the dark, desperate to escape. It won’t happen, of course. We’re too good to allow that.
I glimpse the ghost white of it’s skin and my heart begins to pound. So close. So far. Another yard, two, and I crouch, raising my gun to pierce the darkness.
Suddenly, it’s right there, right in front of me. I read panic and fear and I can almost taste the kill. Steady, tracking it’s floundering flight, my finger slowly tightens on the trigger. If I don’t take this shot, I’ll lose the the opportunity. My father or an Uncle will get the kill.
But not tonight. Tonight is mine.
A flash. A sound. A white shape crumbles to the ground.
It’s done. Another moment and I’m surrounded by my men, my father, my Uncles, all clasping me on the shoulders, congratulating, happy voices, proud voices filling the space around me.
All of a sudden, I’m tired. I want to go home, sit in front of the fire, drink with the men, know that, finally, I belong.
First, I move through the woods to the carcass. Smile when I see I took it clean through the head. A good shot in the dark. Grabbing my cords, I bind it’s legs and start dragging it home. The head will be sent tomorrow as confirmation, but tonight we celebrate the night of my first solo kill.
I glance back as the body slides across the leaves, a trail of blood behind. Once it might have held some resemblance to a man, but after all the testing, the experiments, it is no longer. Human formed, achingly thin, eyes sunk deep into a misshapen skull.
Ahead, I am drawn by the flicker of red flames through dark bars of trees.