Monday, January 28, 2013

Killman the Hunter

Regal Killman was hot on the trail of what he believed to be the only quarry he'd not yet slain. Their tracks were few and far between, but he'd managed to track them from the forests of Washington state up into the heart of Canada. It was getting so that he believed he could smell them on the wind, and had long ago abandoned his hound in favor of his own senses.

Thow it was growing nippy, Regal was unconcerned. He had brought himself on this journey, and what more could he need to survive any hazard? A tent and a bag full of weapons were all he traveled with. For him food was easy to come by. Rodents littered the world, and made for fine dining in any situation. And for Regal Killman they were an easy catch.

A single strand of hair draped on a low branch some ten feet away called out to him. Its slight orange tinge was like a beacon to his eaglic eyes. At once he stopped, listening intently to the wind. He inhaled deep and slow, wincing when the musky oder hit his nose, but letting a smile play on his lips. This was his moment, he was certain. At last the wolf would fell his prey. And so pray he did.

Steady and solemn, like a statue, he waited. Ever careful not to shift his weight, not to snap a single twig or ruffle any leaf. After half-a-minute he would inhale, taste the musk in his nose, then wait again, holding his breath.

Then it appeared. Rather, they. From the bushes of the forest emerged beasts barely shorter than a school bus. They displayed a wide variety of shaggy hair which dangled from almost all inches of their bodies. There were gold, and black, and orange, and red-orange, and brown, and most with more than one color patching and twining amongst each other.

They clustered around, just ten feet from him, at the spot where the orange hair waved from its place on the branch. Two of the beasts shot each other a glance while a third stood impatiently to the side. Then one reached forth with hairless fingers and plucked the hair from the branch. It brought the hair to its wide nose, inhaled deep and long, seemed to consider for a moment, and finally licked it from its fingers. The gulp was loud.

Killman grinned, quietly preparing his rifle from behind a tree. He took a step around, steadying his aim. There was a tiny click as the gun tapped his fingernail. At once the creatures were off, crashing through the trees like a herd of rhinoceros, and Killman barreling close behind, swearing loud and carrying little.

Suddenly it hit him. Like a wall. One second cold, the next second warm. Tropically warm. The winter forest had changed in the blink of an eye into a dense jungle with all manner of ancient-seeming tree which had, Killman thought, no business existing anywhere near to Canada.

But this bothered him not nearly as much as did the knowledge that he had lost his hunt. And that knowing these creatures as he did, he was soon to be the hunted. He paused to think this over. Perhaps it would be an advantage, he reasoned, to have the beasts come to him. The memories of his past victories flashed across his mind. Hippos, elephants, tigers, water buffalo, an entire pride of lions twenty-strong. None had been his maker. He was Regal Z. Killman, the most powerful hunter in the animal kingdom! With fingers alone he'd put an end to Big Pete, the man-eating Nile crocodile.

Still, he'd seen what these creatures were. What they could do and how terrifyingly awesome their power was. He hadn't started this journey alone.

Two came for him, gold and black bolts in the trees. He readied himself, gripping tightly to the hunting knife strapped to his chest. Teeth grit, muscles tight. He held a deep breath and waited for victory.

A force yanked him up into the trees. Away from the angry creatures which shouted and howled, hopping in rage and beating their burly chests. He gasped, swore, twisted out of the shirt as he spun. He found himself in the trees, high off the ground. The branches were mostly covered in a slimy moss, and he found it difficult to hold his footing.

Expecting one of them to have sneaked around behind, he let fly the knife without looking, merely sensing his assailant's place from their breath. Instantly he knew he was wrong. There was no musk to this being. There was something familiar about the scent. It was not unlike pork, though somehow sweeter. And then he knew.

It was human.

He tried to grab the knife as it spun away, but it was already too out of reach. The handle slapped just barely on the tip of his finger, and then was gone, kartwheeling through the air. Leaves were cut away, drifing slowly away to die. There was a sickening sound, like the dropping of raw meat, and a mighty, pained howl. Something fell from the trees. Something fell hard.

Killman hadn't even caught a glimpse of the man before he was gone. The hunter spat, as guilt washed over him. He shoved it off, telling himself the death was justified. Whoever the mystery man was, he had ruined the hunt. His death was well earned.

Positive that the man was dead, Killman prepared to head back and begin his search anew. Now that he knew of this secret jungle, this place where the creatures undoubtedly hid, he knew he had them. They were little more than game for his leisure now.

There came suddenly a whipping sound, and many snaps and clips and something like tearing. From the branches below emerged the steel blade. Thrown straight like a spear, it sliced the air close to the hunter's nose before burying into the strong branch above him. Blood slipped along its edge, splattering at Killman's feet.

The man emerged then, the Savage Savior of the Secret Land. Rage burned in his brown eyes. His head was low, his shoulders high. Legs spread, toes wrapped tight on the branch. There was something ferral to the way he stood and the way he spied Killman. Like a predator cornered. His whole body heaved as he grunted strong breaths. A wound in his shoulder spat blood upon the foliage.

There was something which was to Killman exciting about this unexpected man. Something about the look in his eyes. The pure, untamed hostility with which they stared him down. It was something unseen among humans, who had grown so weakened by their society that Killman found them drab company.

The hunter laughed, clapping himself across the chest. He grinned and summoned the wild man with a gesture. So Brrda came, leaping from the trees with agility unlike anything Killman had ever seen. He was barely out of the way before the savage's mighty fists landed upon the branch, splintering it a thousand ways.

Laughing madly, Killman reached into his shirt pocket. There he kept many shards of glass, which he scattered through the air. They cut leaves, small tree limbs, and Brrda's flesh with simple ease. Defending his eyes, Brrda soon found his arm filled with jagged shards of all lengths.

Crazy with the pain, Brrda lifted the mighty branch he had recently splintered. With a loud grunt he hoisted it up over his shoulder, made a check of where his laughing target was, and launched the mighty limb. It met with Killman's leg, snapping the bones with no problem. The hunter fell away, tumbling through the trees. No longer laughing. No longer smiling. He had been beaten. Beaten by a savage!

This is my end, Killman thought as his head collided with a branch and everything turned black. The air whipped around him as he blindly hurtled toward the jungle floor.

There was no pain. There was no end. When vision returned to the hunter he found himself again in the arms of the mighty Brrda, whose expression was angered, but no longer burning with hate.

"No!" The hunter screamed. "You can't do this! You can't."

Words which made no sense to Brrda. It was near the edge of the Secret Land, in a tree with branches too high for most things to reaach, that he left Killman the Hunter to mend his leg.

It was an act that assured no mending of his pride.

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