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Hunter [PSC2017]

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posted on Jul, 8 2017 @ 03:22 PM
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Hunter



"Whereya goin', mister?"

Nim sighed, squinting out into the sunshine. Above the mists in the hollows and depressions, the sky was a brilliant, pure blue today, and high cirrus clouds trailed fall streaks downward like tentacles as their ice crystals sublimated.

Photo Credit: Fir0002, Wikimedia Commons License, CC BY-SA 3.0

There was a light breeze, flooding his nostrils with the scent of darklilies and bloodorchids. Bluish-purple vines clung to tall palm-like trees and quivered as he walked by, as if they wanted to wrap themselves around his neck like a constrictor. Calls, hoots, and whistles echoed throughout the tangle of strange plant-life, unfamiliar and haunting. Flowers in all sorts of colors were everywhere. But besides himself and the boy following him, there was no one else around.

He turned to look at his inquisitive shadow, and rubbing his stubbly jaw with a calloused, tanned hand, he considered his response.

"I'm heading home, boy. How come you ain't?"

"Don't have one. Didn't like it there anyways."

"Well, mine's a long ways off, an' I don't want some noisy kid on my tail, so git on with ya, hear?"

"You're not very nice, mister."

"No, I ain't, so stop following me."

Adjusting his wide-brimmed cowboy hat, he turned away from the brown-haired boy and started back down the path, his dusty leather boots grinding the reddish-brown gravel. Used to be he would kick up dust walking down a path like this. Used to be. But there was much more moisture than before, back before they showed up. But then, a lot of things had been different back then.

He could feel the boy still behind him, hear his ragged shoes on the path.

"I ain't much for company, boy. Most folks who spend time near me end up dead."

"I can look out for myself."

"I'll bet," he grunted.

The path wound through the jungle, around giant boulders covered in moss and vines, over small streams racing over reddish sand and yellowish rocks. Occasionally there would be a pool where a stream filled a depression or a level spot, but for the streams crossed the path perpendicular to it. He kept the rock wall to his left, working his way along the ridge.

Finally he stopped, then looked up at the shoulder of a tall rocky hill. Turning off the path, he climbed, his footing solid and sure as he negotiated the steep slope.

Up on the top, it seemed almost as he had remembered it. That small spot, at least. The soil was sandy gravel, the plants up here low scrub. The wind whistled and ruffled his shirt. He could still smell the jungle, and the great canyon below stretched on for miles, all blue, burgundy, and green. It seemed to be in constant motion, unlike how he had remembered it as a child, all still and serene. They had made everything hotter, melted the ice caps, and now water flowed almost everywhere. Still, this vegetation was not native, he knew that.

"Hey mister, ya got anything to eat?"

"Nothing you'd like. Go away, kid."

"I gotta wee, I'll be right back."

"You do that."

He waited, watching the clouds drift lazily. How he hated the blasted jungle. It was a damn shame, is what it was. It'll never be the same, but you knew that already. Don't much matter what you do, either, you can't change it.

He heard faint hoots and shrieks coming from the jungle, some near, some farther away. It was always that way here in the jungle, some things were the hunters, some were the hunted. But he knew. He knew.

"Why are you still up here, mister?" The boy was back, his piping voice cracking through his reverie.

Nim exhaled. Time to go. Always on someone else's schedule, not mine. He climbed to his feet, adjusted his hat, and took one last look at the green-blue expanse.

"I'm still up here because I remember how it used to be, kid, before they came. Used to be this was all dry. The river down there, 'course, but mostly dry. You could see the bands in the rocks, the layers, red, brown, tan. There were trees, sure, but not this stuff. And no mist, like is there down in the valley. The Navajo called it Tsékooh Hatsoh. It was pure. Clean. I showed my son this view once, him and my wife Ella. Then they came, and destroyed it all," he said, turning to look the boy in the eyes. Raw anger simmered in his heart, and he knew his voice growled at the child. He didn't care. "Won't never be the same, boy. You remember that." He pointed menacingly at the kid.


"I was taught all things change. It's the only thing that doesn't change, that all things change."

"Shut up, kid."

Nim shook his head and walked past the boy, sitting on his haunches and looking out over the jungle. He worked his way down to the path below and started forward again. He was almost there.
edit on 7-8-2017 by PrairieShepherd because: (no reason given)




posted on Jul, 8 2017 @ 03:22 PM
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The sun was sinking toward the horizon an hour later when he found what he was seeking. The path broke out into a cleared area, patches of low grasses interspersed with sandstone and other crushed rocks making a kind of oasis, an island of rightness amidst the foreign, invading jungle behind him. Incongruously, an old church stood in the middle of the clearing, almost as if it was trying to hold the creeping jungle back.

It all seemed so familiar, and yet, he knew he'd never been here before, only heard about it, long ago now. He passed over grasses that appeared almost manicured, and even a small patch of crysanthemums - the remnant of someone's attempt at a flower garden - struggling to flourish against the onslaught of the jungle.

Smiling grimly, he marched up to the entrance below the bell tower and pushed open the heavy oak door. It creaked on hinges that badly needed oiling, but it wasn't locked. He paused at the threshold, noticing a small stylized eagle etched into stone next to the doorframe. Good, he thought. This was a place he could trust.

"What's that?" Came the boy's voice, still behind him.

"What?"

"That symbol up on top." The boy pointed, and he noticed dark reddish-brown grime under his fingernails, and around his cuticles.

"It's a cross, kid. Didn't they teach you nothin'?"

"I know what the shape is, but what's it mean?"

"Nothin' you would understand, kid. Didn't I tell you to go away?"

"I'm just curious where you're going, is all," he said defensively.

"Fine. Suit y'self."

He headed through the door and into the area beneath the bell tower. Looking up, he could see all the way to where the large bronze bell hung, still and silent. A heavy rope ran from a thick iron cleat mounted into the wall, up the side of the tower, to a pulley where it was routed to hang the bell. It'll work. If the rest is there.

Off to the side a passageway led to the narthex. He walked through and found a stairwell leading to the basement. Old, worn stair treads creaked as his boots clomped down onto them, raising puffs of dust. He crossed to the far side, and found the kitchen. Across from the enameled iron sinks, to the left of an antique oven, white shelves built into the wall stood, packed with jars and bottles of all kinds.


"What're ya doin?"

Nim looked at the urchin with a tight smile. He knew what was coming.

"I'm going to have a drink, kid. Ain't been decent whiskey hardly nowhere since they arrived." He moved the bottles and jars on the top shelf around, checking each one that had liquid in it, looking at the labels. He paused for a moment, smiling. There it is.

Pushing a couple bottles aside on the middle shelf, he pulled a bottle off. The yellowed, aged label proudly proclaimed, "MADE FROM A FORMULA OVER 100 YEARS OLD" in white writing on a black stylized ribbon. The front said, "Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey," and a small white sticker on the bottle had "1.79" in purple printing. Nim gently twisted the cork top out, sniffed, smiled, put it to his lips and tilted the bottle back. The liquid burned as it went down, and tasted of caramel and vanilla. He savored the aftertaste, then corked it and slid it into his satchel. He looked down at the boy, still as curious as ever.

"Ain't you gone yet? Quit taggin' around behind me like a lost pup." He walked off, up the stairs and into the sanctuary. He sat down on the first pew in the front of the church. Pulling out a fat cigar, he struck a match on the bottom of his boot and put it to the end, puffing until the tobacco lit.

"How come you're so angry all the time? Is it 'cause of your son?" The boy came to sit down next to him. Nim inched shifted slightly away, and looked askance at the child.

"You wouldn't know anything about it, kid, so shut up."

"It's cause he's dead, isn't it? It's 'cause they killed Davy, right?"

Nim waited for a moment, then swore silently, Damn things. Ain't nothing sacred anymore.

He pulled the weapon out and fingered it.

"How'd you get that? Isn't that one o' theirs?"

"I pulled it off a dead one," he said, then pointed the gun at the boy.

"Hey, watch out, those things are dangerous, mister!"

"How'd you know my son's name was Davy?" he growled.

"I," he stammered, hands up defensively, "I - you said so! I swear you did!"

Nim shook his head cynically.

"Y'know, there used to be a book, before they came and started burning 'em. It was called the Bible, but we jus' called it the Good Book. Was a warrior in it named Nimrod, the great-grandson of a man named Noah. He was a great and mighty hunter." His voice was low, soft, but it echoed through the stone and dry wood of the church. "I used to be named Jacob. But when they came, my da' told me, 'Son, you ain't no Jacob no more. I'm callin' you Nim.'"

Nim pulled the trigger, and a bright blue beam erupted from the end straight into the boy's chest, burning a smoking hole through his shirt. The boy's eyes went wide in surprise, and his face seemed to shimmer like a desert road on a hot day. Pale, soft cheeks shriveled into to greenish, pebbled skin, sharp teeth and inky black eyes. The boyishly dirty hands curled into black-taloned claws, stained red with the blood of whatever it had killed in the jungle for lunch. It let out a soft keening as it died, falling off the church's pew. The holo-projectors on its limbs and torso blinked furiously in a sickly green, and one red light began flickering in the band around its head. They would be coming.

edit on 7-8-2017 by PrairieShepherd because: Adding part 2.



posted on Jul, 8 2017 @ 03:22 PM
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Nim stood up, stepped over the smoking corpse of the alien Infiltrator, and headed up the aisle. Leaving the sanctuary, he passed into the narthex, then went through the old, dark-stained oaken doorway and down to the basement.

He hurried into the kitchen, over to the shelves. Finding the bottle on the top shelf he had located earlier, he pulled on the neck and tilted it on the hinge it was fastened to. The lever connected to the back linked to a latch behind the shelf, and he heard the click of it unlocking. He pulled and the shelf swung out like a door, opening up the chamber behind.

A light flickered on - an old solar-powered system with an LED lamp - revealing supplies of all kinds. Food, water, first aid, weapons. And explosives. He gathered several bricks and a handful of impact detonators, then dashed up to the bell tower. He had to hurry, they would be here soon.

He carefully placed the explosives on the floor of the bell tower, right underneath the bell. He needed to make sure, though, so he looked around desperately. A long, low bench in the narthex was perfect. Flipping it over, he kicked the legs out of one side, then kicked the others to loosen them. Running out of time! He checked the trajectory, aligned the bench with the long board propped up by the loosened legs over the impact detonators.

Nim double-checked everything. It looked good, so he headed to the side where a narrow stairwell led upward to his left, and he climbed.

He stood on the catwalk underneath the massive old bronze bell, hiding between the narrow, tall windows. Down below, he caught movement at the edge of the jungle. He waited. Can't let 'em know too soon.

They came then, a full squad of Enforcers, cautiously slithering out of the thick surrounding undergrowth. He waited until all six were in sight. Then in the fading light, he opened fire - one, two, three down in rapid succession. They scrambled for cover and his beam took another in the back of its head, burning through the thick armor plating to leave a smoking hole in between its dorsal spines. Four down, two left.

They had retreated to the trees, but he knew their tactics. Silently, he slipped down the stairs, all the way to the basement, raced across the old, musty green carpet, and back up the stairs under the quire. He stood in the darkness, waiting.

A shuffling sound, then the hissing, popping, and clicking noise of their bizarre language. They were so arrogant they never bothered to even try to stay silent. Of course, they had a right to be. No human city stood, anymore.

The fading light of the sun shone through the stained glass windows. He knew the beams of sunlight would interfere with their vision, hiding him from their sight, and their sense of smell was worse than drunk pigeon. He was right, they slithered up the main stairs, their huge killing talons twitching in anticipation. He waited as they worked their way up the stairs, then silently stepped out into the quire. He would only get one shot.

He lined up the target - the iron cleat where the heavy rope holding the bell up in the tower was secured. He inhaled, then smoothly squeezed the trigger, a bright ray of blue lighting up the dim quire. His aim was true, and the beam melted the cleat, releasing the rope. A moment later the giant bronze bell crashed down onto the bench, the loosened legs easily giving way. The bench plank slammed down, setting off the detonators. With a deafening roar, the explosives blew out the bottom of the bell tower in a billow of angry orange flame, toppling the entire structure - including the two remaining Enforcers - down to the yard below.

Nim stood and calmly walked up the quire toward the burning wreckage of the north end of the church. He jumped to the grass of the church's lawn and walked around to where the entrance used to be, admiring the smoking hole that it had now become. Movement came from the charred rubble to his right. He turned to see one of the Enforcers struggling up from underneath the stone blocks and broken wood planks. It bared its fangs at him and hissed.

Emotionlessly, he lifted the weapon and vaporized a hole between its eyes.

He turned westward, to head into the wilderness beyond the Transformation Zone. Maybe he would have a bit more of that whiskey tonight, to celebrate. Then it would be time for another hunt.

THE END


edit on 7-8-2017 by PrairieShepherd because: Adding part 3.



posted on Jul, 8 2017 @ 03:23 PM
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Whoops! Didn't need all the placeholders. Hope you enjoyed reading!
edit on 7-8-2017 by PrairieShepherd because: (no reason given)



posted on Jul, 8 2017 @ 04:11 PM
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a reply to: PrairieShepherd

Damn that was good!

Makes me want to pop a bottle of Beam today.

regards,

bally




posted on Jul, 8 2017 @ 06:57 PM
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A great submission that showcases your high attention
to detail!

Nice work!




posted on Jul, 8 2017 @ 07:20 PM
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a reply to: PrairieShepherd

Very well done



posted on Jul, 10 2017 @ 10:10 AM
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a reply to: bally001
Thanks bally! I finished posting it and thought the same dang thing. "Hm, wonder if there's any Beam in the cupboard...?"


a reply to: shlaw
Thanks shlaw! I giggled my way through 101 Ways to Cook a Yoga Mat - thanks for entering it - really fun read.

a reply to: UncleSoze
Hi Soze! Thanks for that - I think your avatar is hilarious because it's like an exclamation point on your post.



posted on Jul, 13 2017 @ 07:27 PM
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a reply to: PrairieShepherd

After readin' that, I got a thirst!

Good and engaging writing.




posted on Jul, 14 2017 @ 11:34 AM
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Very interesting read Shep!


Just realized I had starred and flagged before ever commenting.
edit on 14-7-2017 by Night Star because: (no reason given)



posted on Jul, 14 2017 @ 11:57 AM
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a reply to: chr0naut

Thank you, chr0naut! "Engaging" - I'll take that as high praise - exactly what a writer hopes for.


a reply to: Night Star
Mayor Night Star - I always get nervous when folks use "interesting" for my writing.
See, in Minnesota here, when someone says "That's interesting" it usually means "I didn't like that but I'm too polite to tell you to your face."


I'll take you at face value, though, seeing as you're not a Minnesotan 'n everything.
I admit, it's a bit different tone than my other stuff, isn't it? As I was writing it, even knowing the "boy" was not really a "boy" but an alien Infiltrator, I thought to myself, "Shep, are you seriously going to write a story where the main character seems like a jerk, and ends up shooting a kid in the chest? Hm. Yes. Yes I am..."



posted on Jul, 14 2017 @ 02:24 PM
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a reply to: PrairieShepherd

Oh my, noooo, I really did find it very interesting and loved the twist of the alien infiltrator!




posted on Jul, 14 2017 @ 05:18 PM
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a reply to: PrairieShepherd

Very cool story - nicely done!



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