The raindrops are fat, cold and plentiful today, The Hunter thought as he wiped the wind-propelled rain from his face. Just adds to the challenge of the hunt. He surveyed the ridge across the canyon. Something moved. It begins.
The soil refused to absorb anything more. The frenzied flow of rain pooled up under the shoots of grass and unkempt shrubs that grew into the narrow path atop the canyon ridge. The muddy surface of the path surrendered under the pressure of The Hunter’s boots and caked onto the sides of the soles like barnacles to the hull of a ship. He stopped and looked at the tree line across the canyon.
It’s going to get away, he thought.
It was unusual to be hunting alone, but Randy’s normal hunting partners decided not to join him. Don’t want to go out in the storm, he recalled them saying. They’re just a bunch of pussies afraid of their own shadows. He didn’t believe the myths and wasn’t going to let local superstition stop him from filling his tag. Their loss. I’ll fill my tag this year and that’s what’s important.
Randy followed the set of tracks in the deer trail through the trees. The branches of the old fir trees provided a welcomed canopy from the rain and kept the tracks from ruin. The trees didn’t completely stop the rain. Instead, the rain collected on the branches to form huge drops. Damn water bombs, he thought as he wiped a strike from his cheek.
Randy heard a rustle up the trail and drew his rifle up to a ready position. His veins strained against the blood flowing at a furious rate. He stopped for a moment to calm down. Basic instincts are not what I need controlling me. Now calm down.
He held his breath and listened for more sounds. I wonder if it has moved on. He turned around and surveyed his surrounding. A scraping sound pierced the otherwise rain muffled air and he flinched. Over there, he thought turning towards the break in the trees. His heart thumped against the rhythm of his lungs as another shot of adrenalin flooded his saturated body. What the hell is going on? I’ve been doing this for years. I don’t get buck fever. He closed his eyes and shook his head. Calm down and take your prize home.
Randy inhaled deeply. The light scent of pine trees and decaying needles reminded him of home. He held the cold moist air in for a moment and released it. That didn’t work; he thought. He looked around, expecting to see something. There’s nothing to see dumb ass. I’m the only one here and I have the rifle, he thought, as he looked at the Winchester in his hands. He moved towards the sound, released the safety on the rifle and raised it to the ready position.
Randy broke through the trees and looked down for tracks. The rain all but destroyed the unprotected prints in the muddy soil. Still warm, he thought bending down to look at a pile of steaming deer droppings. Must be close, he thought. He stood up and continued the stalk.
He rounded a sharp bend in the trail and there it stood a trophy buck with two doe grazing in tall field grasses. One, two, three, he counted the points of an antler. Six point buck. Today is my day! He crouched down and moved to a bush for cover. The buck and doe faced away from his position and the wind blew rain in his face. My advantage, he thought.
Randy stopped breathing suddenly as his flesh crawled. He snapped his head left, looked, then right and looked. Quit being such a puss, he thought to himself. Concentrate on why you’re here. He closed his eyes and turned to face the buck.
I have all the time in the world, he thought. He raised the rifle, opened his eyes wide, inhaled deeply, exhaled partially and peered through the scope. He could not acquire a clean spot to place the shot. I can’t waste any meat with a shot in the ass. He lowered the rifle and finished his exhale. He looked for a better position, keeping one eye on his target.
Right there, Randy eyed a spot between a large fern and a maple tree. He rose to a stoop and stepped towards the fern. The buck turned and started eating a tall patch of grass. Randy stopped and watched. Today is my day, he thought. It doesn’t get any better than this. He turned back to face the buck, raised the rifle and crouched down to stabilize his aim.
Randy placed the crosshairs two inches left of the front-right shoulder blade of the buck. He inhaled deep and held it for a moment. He squeezed the trigger in unison with a slow exhaled. The ground in front of him exploded with a bright flash and thunderous concussion knocking him to the ground. A roar sounded from behind him and he scrambled to recover.
Randy got to his knees, disoriented and confused by the event. Ozone, the smell of electricity permeated air, was that a lightning strike? He looked to where the deer were. That figures. The buck and doe were gone.
Randy scrambled to his feet and looked up to the sky. He squinted as dark-gray clouds dropped rain on his face, but no thunderheads, he thought. What the hell was that?
Randy turned his attention to the direction of the roar. His heart skipped several beats as a flash of blinding light appeared from the end of a weapon in the hands of an unearthly creature. The light enveloped him.
Randy’s heart seized. His muscles contracted. His ears garbled with static. His vision blurred. His nose burned with the smell of electricity and hair. He collapsed to the ground as an explosive roar enveloped him and rattled his core.
Randy looked at the clouds, his eyes no longer squinting to keep the rain out. The clouds lost their marshmallow definition and blurred into a black mass as darkness settled in on him. The sound of static faded to silence and the smells of forest vanished with his last breath.
“If not for the rain in my face, it would have been a one shot kill,” The Hunter said.
He leaned over his prey for closer inspection. “It’s not a trophy kill by any means,” The Hunter said wiping the rain from his face. “At least I have something to take home.” He holstered his weapon.
The Hunter lifted his armored right hand and reached for a smooth pad strapped to his left forearm. His long, narrow finger drew an invisible, but ordered pattern on the pad. “Time to go home,” he said and waited for the arrival of his ship.
A moment later, the angular, black craft appeared through the clouds and landed in the grassy field. A ramp and door appeared and The Hunter snatched his trophy by the waist and carried it up the ramp of the craft. He stored his trophy in the preservation bay for the ride home. Hunting season was over now. He would be back again next year, for Earth is a plentiful preserve for The Hunter.