The Shadow Hunter: A Portion Of An Original Work In Progress
It has been a while since I posted anything truly "original"; something not based on the news, not based on an incident, not based on something I saw, heard, felt. Something completely and uniquely me: original. So I perused my vast plethora of unfinished stories that are currently underway and decided to post a portion of one I work on occasionally. Please let me know if I need to continue with it or if I need to give up on it.
Don't pull any punches; let 'em fly!
Jerry Williams woke to the click the clock made just a few seconds before it sounded. Reaching over, he shut the alarm clock off before it went off. Doing his best to not make the old bed squeak he made his way out of bed without waking his wife before stumbling his way through the darkened house. Arriving in the kitchen, he switched on the light over the sink and got the coffee out of the cabinet. As he measures out the grounds, he thought ahead to the day. This was his day; he looked forward to it every year: October 1st, the first day of Archery Season in Mississippi. Even though he hadn’t shot a deer in several years, it was a chance for him to get back out in the woods, far away from his nagging wife and their screaming kids; back to the quiet and solitude of the outdoors. As he waited for the coffee to perk he ambled around the kitchen making himself a lunch, before fixing a bowl of flavored oatmeal for his breakfast. The coffee finished, so he poured a cup and settled in to eat. As he ate he browsed through a deer hunting magazine, trying to find one last tip that would change his luck.
After he finished breakfast, he poured some of the coffee into a travel cup and the remainder went into a thermos for later then he made his way to the door, shutting it quietly as he left the house. He’d loaded all of his gear into his truck the night before so he wouldn’t have to worry about remembering everything in the early morning hours. He opened the door to his old Chevy pickup, sat down and started up the truck. He backed out of the driveway before turning on his headlights and then pushed in the clutch and shifted into first gear before he made his way down the driveway and out onto the highway. Sipping on his coffee, he turned on local country station and settled back in his seat. There wasn’t much traffic out at this time of day and he made the hour long drive to his hunting spot in silence, thinking about possibilities the day would bring.
Up ahead, in the glow of the headlights, he saw the sign for the conservation area and slowed down to turn in to the parking lot. Shutting down the truck and getting out to get his back pack and bow, he pulled out his flashlight and looked around for the trailhead to begin what would be a short, half-mile walk through the dark woods to his stand. In many of the hunting magazines he subscribed to he had read that the majority of hunters stayed within 200 yards of a road so he always tried to get farther back into the woods with the expectation that the deer wouldn’t be ready for him. Even though this had rarely worked for him he was convinced it was just a matter of time before it proved itself true.
Williams carefully made his way along the trail towards his stand, the same stand he had used every opening day for the last fifteen years. It was about 5:00 in the morning, and he knew he had get into his stand before the deer started moving his way. As he traveled along the path he occasionally brushed aside a spider web that was hanging head-high. He never could get used to having one of them clinging to him; gave him the willies. Looking ahead, he saw the beam from his flashlight reflect off of the marker on the base of his tree up ahead and made his way towards it. He arrived at the base of the tree and slipped off his pack, placing it and his bow onto the snap of his pull up rope. After putting on his safety harness vest, he began to climb up the tree. “God, I hate climbing trees in the dark”, he thought; but he finally reached the level of the stand before settling into the seat and attaching the safety harness to the tree. Only then did he bend over to pull up his equipment. Getting everything into position took a few minutes but finally he was set. He sat back to savor what was one of his favorite times of the year: that first sunrise of the new hunting season. So full of hope and promise, nothing to dispel the feeling that maybe, this year, this would be the year he finally made good on his promise to himself: he would get that chance at a real wall hanger. Something that would shut his wife’s mouth about how much time and money he wasted every year hunting hard and bringing nothing home to show for it.
Settling in, he listened to the woods surrounding him. He looked up through the tree limbs, trying to see the night sky. He saw a meteorite streak across the sky only to flare out as quickly as it had arrived. Other than the streak of light, everything was still and so very quiet. It almost seemed as though the world itself was asleep; then, slowly it began to wake. A bird began chirping; then another. Far off in the distance he heard the first tree calls of a hen turkey trying to locate her brood before flying down to feed. He closed his eyes in order to better focus on the sounds and the smells of the woods. He more thought than said, “this is the best time of the day. God, I love it out here.” With that, he settled back and waited.
Back out on the road another truck slowed, and then turned into the parking lot of the conservation area. Turning off the engine and lights, a silent figure clad entirely in camo emerged from the truck and reached into the back of the truck to gather up a bow before starting into the woods. It moved over to the other truck in the parking lot and eased carefully up to it, peering inside the cab and looking closely at the items remaining both inside and in the bed area before moving over to the trail. Looking up, the figure could see that the sun was just beginning to brighten the darkness. Making a decision the hunter began moving very quietly along the trail; pausing to look around every few steps. Though it moved quietly, it moved with dispatch. Within a matter of seconds the figure had become so indistinct as to be invisible.
As the sun began streaming through the treetops signaling the new day, Jerry started awake. He had evidently been dozing and woke to hear a small sound, just a rustle really, a gentle movement in the leaves. Slowly,= he turned his head towards where he thought he heard the sound. Try as he might,= he could not see anything. He quietly stood partway up, anticipation causing his heart to accelerate, bending over slightly to better see anything which might be moving through the woods. As he shifted his weight on the stand, an almost indiscernible sound issued from it.
The figure moving through the woods heard the sound, and halted immediately to determine the reason for it. When it continued it may as well have been a ghost, so quietly did it move. One step, then another; a pause to examine the woods and locate the prey; never stepping on a branch or dry leaves, never making a sound, the shadow moved to a position in close proximity to the hunter in the tree. Little did the hunter in the tree know but at some point he had ceased being the predator, unknowingly becoming the prey. Reaching into its pocket, the new predator grasped a small stone, and with a subtle gesture tossed the stone beyond the hunter in the stand to land in some brush on the other side of the tree. Then it raised the bow, and connected the release to the string. Quietly and firmly, the hunter drew back the bowstring. Coming to full draw, it aligned the sight onto the figure in the tree stand. Breathing slowly, the killer waited.
There; another sound of something in the brush behind him; sharper, more distinct. Bow in hand, Jerry turned towards that sound and strained to see anything. Peering in the direction the sound came from he failed to hear what approached from behind. Suddenly he felt a sharp pain in his back, like a powerful wasp sting. He tried to straighten up and realized the pain shot all the way through his chest. He couldn’t breathe and he was beginning to lose consciousness fast. Looking down he saw something protruding from his chest. As the light in his eyes began to fade, he realized it was an arrow and with his last conscious thought wondered how he had managed to stick himself in the back with his own arrow. Tumbling downward, he came to the end of his safety harness and stopped about 5 feet below his stand. Snapping to a halt he hung there, gently swaying back and forth before he quickly lost sufficient blood to first pass out; then pass on. He would never know for sure what had just happened.
About thirty yards away, the perfectly camouflaged form slowly stood up and surveyed the area. Seeing nothing, the killer slowly made its way to the tree and climbed up to the body hanging there in the tree. Unscrewing the bloody broadhead carefully, and then pulling the arrow backwards from the body, the killer placed them into a pack and climbed back down. Moving about ten yards away from the tree, the killer pulled a digital camera out of its pocket and took a picture of the body dangling below the stand. The killer then placed the camera back into the pocket and without a backward glance turned around and made its way back the way it had come, quickly fading into the background as it moved into the surrounding woods.
Later that night, about 10:00 PM, Misty Williams looked at the clock for what had to be the hundredth time. “Jerry was usually home by now”, she thought. Still, she hesitated to call the sheriff. Maybe, just maybe, he had finally gotten himself a deer and was tracking it through the dark woods. Still, he should have called her. She knew she kept after him too much, and he looked at this time as time away from the constant bothers of the house, but dammit, he was the next best thing to useless at home. He worked steady, which was more than some of her friend’s husbands did, but when he got home he flopped into that damned old recliner and only moved when he had to take a crap, get another beer, or go to bed. It was enough to drive any wife to nagging! Stealing another glance at the clock, she decided that if he hadn’t the decency to call then to hell with him. He could stay out all night if he wanted. Enjoy that solitude she thought, the anger rising like bile in her throat before she stormed off to the bedroom.
Back out in the woods, the body suspended from the harness in the tree stand had bled out. Other, smaller predators had scented the blood and come to investigate. A fox, then later a raccoon, had come to sit silently and look up at the curious thing hanging there. Try as they might, there was no way they could reach it. Finally tiring of smelling something and not being able to reach it each in their own time had moved off, continuing their nocturnal quest for sustenance. Last to arrive, in the early morning hours, was a possum. Like the others, the possum could scent, but not locate the food. Hearing something moving in the woods had startled it enough that it, too, finally left the area.
Early the next morning Misty woke up and looked at his side of the bed. Nothing. Drowsily she realized he hadn’t come home at all last night. That was enough out of the norm to wake her fully and she climbed out of bed and headed for the phone. She called his cell phone first but only got his voice mail. As usual, when he went to the woods there was never any reception. She turned back around and hung up the phone, pausing with her hand on the counter. She stood and thought about whether she should call the sheriff or not. Finally deciding better safe than sorry Misty picked the phone back up and called the sheriff’s office. Explaining what she knew she gave directions to where Jerry usually hunted and hung up after first getting a promise from the dispatcher to call her as soon as they found him. Then she settled down to wait.
Around 8:30 AM, the kids woke and came in wanting breakfast. Misty readied their cereal and watched as they settled in to eat. She herself was not hungry and as the time went by she grew increasingly worried. “The cops should have called by now,” she thought, but she hadn’t heard a word. Around 10:00 AM she couldn’t stand it anymore and called her mother to tell her she would be dropping the kids off for a while. She didn’t say why just gave a vague excuse of needing to get a few things at the store and that it wouldn’t be for very long. She corralled the kids into the car and headed that way. As she pulled into the driveway of her mother’s home Misty dropped the kids off without even getting out of the car and then started towards the area Jerry liked to hunt. The entire drive there she waffled between hoping nothing had happened to him while promising that she would beat some sense into that thick skull of his for scaring her so; and fearing the worst: that he had somehow injured himself to the point he was unable to make it back to the truck to call her. About an hour of this torture she turned off onto the dirt road that led to the area. Up ahead she saw the flashing lights of emergency vehicles surrounding her husband’s truck. As she approached the sheriff’s cars, her heart stuck in her throat, fearing the worst. “Oh, God” she thought, thinking that he had had a heart attack. She braked hard to a stop and slammed the car into park jumping out onto the dirt almost before the car had come to a stop. Misty ran towards the nearest deputy and began shouting to know what was going on, and where was Jerry? The deputy asked Misty to stand by and eased his way a short distance away before making radio contact with the Sheriff. After a short conversation he advised Misty that the Sheriff would be along shortly.
Sheriff Nate Pearson was a longtime law enforcement officer who had risen through the ranks over the years. He was in his 30th year as a peace officer and had seen just about everything mankind had to offer. Or at least, he had thought he had. This was new; something so completely different from anything he had ever experienced. He hadn’t even read about anything like this in all his years. Shaking his head he looked back towards the tree. Nate had overseen the removal of the body from the tree and now the Coroner was in the process of bagging it before taking it away. Pearson sure wasn’t looking forward to calling the next of kin but he knew he was going to have to do it, and soon. Reaching into his pocket he pulled out his cell phone. Flipping it open he noticed that he had no service here. Grumbling, he closed it and replaced it into his pocket. Nate raised his head then took a deep breath and looked around again. He decided that he may as well head back to the road. As he turned to go, his radio crackled to life. It was his deputy advising him that the wife of the deceased was at the scene and was requesting to speak with him. “Well,” he mumbled, “this made it easier in some aspects, but worse in others.” He really did not want to break the news to the widow at the scene but it may be better to get it over with and have his deputy take her back to the station. Calling out to the Coroner, he asked him stand by for a few minutes and headed out to the road. It wasn’t a long way, and he covered it in about 10 minutes or so.
Once he reached the parking lot of the conservation area, he saw the deputy standing with the wife. Coming out of the woods, he made his way to her and then took her aside. Taking a deep breath, he said “Ma’am, my name is Sheriff Nate Pearson. Could you please tell me your name?”
Misty looked at him, and tried to focus. “Misty Williams. Sheriff, is my husband alright? Where is he? Where is Jerry? Tell me!” she yelled, losing control.
Nate looked at her with pity in his eyes, and quietly said, “Ma’am, I’m sorry to say that your husband is dead. We found him in his tree stand, hanging from his safety harness. At this point, all I can tell you is it appears as though he was shot by something; we’re not sure what. When did you last see Jerry?”
Misty struggled to contain her tears. Much as they fought, she still loved him. Even in their most heated arguments, she had never wished that he would die; it just wasn’t something that had ever entered her mind. “I talked with him the night before last. He left early yesterday morning to come out here. He always looked forward to opening morning. He didn’t come home last night but I just thought that maybe he had got something, and was trailing it or something. His cell phone never works out here, so I couldn’t call him. Tell me, what happened? Who shot him? Why?” At this, she finally broke down, realization beginning to settle in that he wasn’t coming home again; not now, not ever. She fell to the ground, and the Sheriff tried to console her. Calling the deputy over, they managed to get her into the squad car, and the deputy headed for the station. Nate just stood there, wondering what in the world had happened.
In a darkened house, the one person who knew exactly what had happened was downloading the picture onto a computer. Looking at the picture on the screen with flat, soulless eyes, the killer deleted the picture from the camera and plugged it in to charge. Clicking on one of the icons on the screen, pictures of other “trophies” marched across the screen; each more disturbing than the last. After a few moments, the computer was switched off and this hunter of humans made their way to the bedroom, tired after a long day of chasing the most intelligent game of all: man.
Well, what do you think? I've got a good amount more already written. Should I keep going or is this a lost cause? Interesting or painful to read? Thanks for reading and thanks for any comments, good or bad. Take care!