Chapter 1: The Hunt
The rifle was sighted. The bullet was loaded. One shot just waiting to hit its mark. That was all he needed. One shot. Keanu Esir looked through the scope, and waited for his prey to walk in his sight. What is taking it so long? He thought. He took out a piece of paper and scribbled on it. A random fact. Keanu loved the facts. The numbers that equaled history and success, or showed failure and death. Or the words that just told sweet facts of the past. The way they were, or how the future will be shaped. This bullet was going to change the future. Every little thing you do changes the future. The tie you put on, the shoes you wear, the people you sleep with. Everything. But the facts tell it all. The interesting group of words and numbers that make you wonder about the past or the future. The dates, the events, the men who died...very refreshing.
He looked through the scope again. Nothing. When an animal dies, nature feels it. When an animal comes to life, nature feels that as well. Keanu checked the wind. It was a little breezy, and a little chilly, but that would not affect the bullets flight path that much. He made sure he was well out of sight of any animal he may spook. Keanu looked down at his Rolex. The gold hand ticked. Tic, tic, tic, tic. Tic. Tic. Tic. 9:27 A.M. Tic. Tic. Tic. Tic. 9:28 A.M. History. Time passing by second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour. Day by day. Year by year. Amazing how time works. And someday, the time will just stop. Maybe the world keeps turning, but someday your internal clock will just decide that time is not worth keeping anymore. The gears will stop, the hands on your clock will stop turning, and no more cuckoo bird will chime. It will be silent, dead. Much like this animal. When the damn thing gets here. Keanu thought. And then, you will just be a fact. Words in a book, or a newspaper’s obituary. A number in a death toll to a disease, or a statistic. He died of drugs, she died of war, and they died from the flu. So, why do we just wait for the clock to end itself? Why don’t we just stop watching the clock and then smash it with a hammer, force that damn clock to stop? Because we are scared of the end. The pitch black that will envelope us in the end. The silence, where the ticking of our brains stop. Oh, people have ended their clocks. A gun, a knife, the white powder...all good ways to end the ticking. The ticking can be maddening. Keanu knew. He knew too well. But, alas, ending the clock was not the best idea. There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide, as Albert Camus once said. What happens afterward? Does Valhalla exist to accept the warriors? Or does God, Allah, or even Buddha come down from their thrones and collect the poor souls? Will hellfire descend from the heavens and burn every evil soul to a crisp? Keanu did not know. He looked through his scope again. Nothing.
Keanu checked his watch again. 9:30 A.M. So, the animal was still sleeping, or was it just slow? He didn’t know. He hadn’t hunted for a long time. When you live in a city, there isn’t much to hunt. He finished scribbling down his fact and stuck it under a rock he had brought with him. He checked and double checked if his rifle was good to go. Ten bullets. Way more than what he needed, but it would get the job done. The slide was as smooth as silk, and the barrel was clear of obstruction. Funny how man always thought of ways to kill other things, even their own species. The Maxim machine gun, the Sherman tank, the British Challenger, the atomic bomb. Sweet weapons of destruction. The wrath of a god thrown together in a shell and awaiting the wielder to unleash its holy fire upon anyone. Bombs, bullets, and other tools of war, do not hesitate to kill. Sure, the human who controls the item may stop the gun from firing, but the moment he pulls the trigger, the laws of the world decide the fate of what lies on the other side. Maybe that is why humans love guns and hunting. Watching as they rip the life out of a deer’s soul. Watching as life leaves a woman’s or a man’s body. Watching as they tear down what years of life had worked to build, only to fall in three seconds. Hiroshima and Nagasaki leveled thanks to a scientific breakthrough. Torture so cleverly thought out, you would wonder what inspired it in the first place. The Brazen Bull, the Iron Maiden, the Heretic’s Fork. Nasty tools, but they were unique in their own way. Keanu pulled his gloves on a little tighter. Brisk weather. He had studied what soldiers through the timeline of the world must have felt. Fear, anxiety, depression, and so many other emotions. The knights would ride into battle, get wounded, and then stab themselves in the eye with a metal misericorde to stop themselves from suffering. Soldiers in the trenches cowering down in fear, afraid the next artillery shell will hit where he is sitting and make him into a red paste, before taking out his side arm and blasting himself in the head. The kingpin, who is a soldier of fortune, will sit behind his desk in his mansion, knowing one of his men had ratted him to the D.E.A. After some hard drinking, his thoughts are scattered to the wind. He faces the death sentence, so he pulls out a .45 revolver and puts it to his head. And so, he fulfills his own death sentence. Signs the check and cashes in his life. Back to the subject of suicide. Some end it all just to stop the pain. Some just want to stop the ticking. Some just want to know what is on the other side. All questions, but never answers.
Keanu checked the scope, and when nothing appeared, he pulled out a cigarette. He pulls out his custom Zippo out of his custom coat, and flicks it to light his fancy cigarette. Money is what makes the world go round, is what they say. They also say that money can’t buy happiness. But have you ever seen a man crying on a jet ski? Money can buy happiness, but it can buy other things as well. Love can sometimes be found through money. Friends can be found through money. But that is like saying war is good for making friends or finding love. It is the wrong path to take if you want it to be true. Money just isn’t the right answer, just as war is not the right answer for seeing the world or meeting interesting people. So, Keanu thought, money can buy happiness, but it is not foolproof. That means that money can also buy sadness. The bottom of a bottle, the siphoning of one’s soul as he tries to buy happiness when he is already in too deep. Keanu took a deep breath, the smoke going down into his lungs. Smoking was bad, but so was love, alcohol, money, and everything else in the world. Even Christians were bad. Just take a look at history. The Spanish Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials, and everything else that was said to be in the name of God. This sword racing through that man’s heart was in the name of God. The strangulation of a whole family was in the name of God. What God wants men to kill and devastate? Doesn’t make much sense that a loving and kind god would tell someone to kill a hundred children in the name of religion. He took another drag, and looked down at his watch again. 9:39 A.M. Man, Keanu thought, what is taking it so long? Keanu wasn’t one to judge the animal kingdom, but this was taking forever. He had studied this animal’s behavior, and it had shown a pattern, only to have some element disrupt its cycle. Oh well. It will come. Unless it was dead, but Keanu doubted that.
He looked under the rock that had his fact. It was a solid fact, and he enjoyed the simplicity in it. The simple things in life were the best things in life. Well, not all simple things, but most. He secured the small scrap of paper under the rock again, making sure some of it stuck out. Keanu looked through his scope, and when he saw nothing, pulled away. But before he pulled away completely, his eye caught something. He checked again, and sure enough, there it was. The animal, standing in all its glory. Glory wasn’t the right word, nor would any word. It wasn’t glorious, nor was it totally ugly. It was....normal. Keanu guessed that would be the best word to describe it. He watched it walk around a bit, interacting with its habitat, noticing its quirks. Interesting how special something so small and insignificant can bring to the world. How intriguing that something so ignorant and caught up in its own planet has such a large impact on the big picture. Like a small leaf on a tree, or a brush stroke on the Mona Lisa. Keanu watched it do its cycle, and go to its resting area, where it acted important, safe, and it probably felt like it was contributing a huge deal to the world. Like it was not a brush stroke but the painting itself. The moment was captured in Keanu’s mind. It didn’t know it was being watched. He could watch it all day, the rifle sighted, ready to send the bullet to the animal. He could watch the animal do its thing, go around, and finally head back to its den to sleep. And the next day it would do the same thing. It would probably fix its small time error that it had today and resume an uninterrupted pattern. It would probably do all the same motions as the day before, and the day before that, and the day before that, and the month before that, and year before that. If Keanu was the animal, every day would feel special. But, since Keanu was the hunter, he knew that all he saw in the animal was a mediocre gear in the big machine.
Keanu watched for some more time, and then he checked his watch. 10:01 A.M. He had been up there since 6:00 A.M. And he had watched the animal do its thing for quite some time. He could let the animal go on for another day, month, or even a year. But why would he do that? He was here, and he had a job to do. Keanu had to play his sport, the thing that made him happy. The thing humans love, but what most don’t want to admit. Death. Keanu wasn’t afraid of it. It was life. You are brought into this world, you experience the world from your eye, your feet beat a path in the timeline of history, and you fall over dead. You find yourself in the clearing, like Roland, as Stephen King would probably say. It will all end. And Keanu decided that this animal was going to die today.
He put his eye up to the scope, but far enough so that when the gun went off, the scope would not hit him in the eye. Keanu ground the bright cigarette into the ground. The sun was creeping over the skyscrapers. He put his eye back up the scope. And, sure enough, there was the animal, as oblivious as ever. It was kind of pitiful, really. Oblivious to the world, oblivious to the details, oblivious to the sudden end of its life. It probably hadn’t even thought of death today, if it had ever. He aligned the crosshair on its head. He took in a deep breath of the cool air. It felt good. The cold air cooled his throat, and chilled his lungs. Keanu held it in, before releasing it. He waited for the right time to shoot. Tic..Tic...Tic...Tic...Tic...Tic...Tic….. and the wind stopped. Everything seemed to freeze. Of course, Keanu knew this was not true. Everything was still moving at the same speed. The cars still sped at the speed posted on the signs. People still walked the same speed, birds flew at the same speed, and dogs still peed at the same speed. Nothing changed. But time still froze. The world seemed to breathe in the cold wind as it waited for Keanu to pull the trigger. Days of planning and studying had been all for this moment. One shot, one kill. Hunter and the hunted. The lamb and the wolf. The living, and the reaper. Keanu put his finger on the trigger and relaxed. His finger felt the frigid metal trigger. He heard his Rolex singing a song that few knew. Tic..Tic...Tic...Tic… The trees were beautiful, and the day was looking to be a pretty one. Orange sky, and birds chirping. Perfection. He took it all in. Best to take life in when you have a chance. Time still felt frozen.
Keanu pulled the trigger. He didn’t see the bullet. It was too fast, of course. It was moving at 2,500 feet per second, or maybe more. The sound split the silence like an axe through wood. The bullet sped across the space between him and the animal...and hit it in the head. Blood spattered a tree that was behind it, and it fell to the ground. Brain matter and blood painted the area around it, making a crimson halo. The bullet was embedded somewhere near the animal’s corpse. There were more of its kind around, and they were alarmed by this sudden change in their lives. They scattered, thinking that the hunter might hunt them as well. Keanu was already moving. He took his rifle and disassembled it. Keanu believed it was best to disassemble a gun in order to pack it around in a nice bundle. He set the pieces in a case and snapped it shut. He stood up, and wiped the area around him, so that it looked like no one was there. Keanu picked up the bullet casing that had been a part of the projectile that would end the animal's life. Except for the small piece of paper, which was still neatly placed under the rock. The paper that held a fact that sounded like something that would be told on a trivia TV show. Keanu put another cigarette in his mouth and lit it, taking in a deep breath. The chaos was satisfying, but it was too far to see with the naked eye. But he imagined it. The thrill of the imagination was there. Keanu brushed his pants off of any dirt or small pebbles, picked up his case, and walked to the entrance way to the stairs. The sun had risen even more, brightening the day even more. The animal was dead, and it would be taken care of in due time. It would be dressed, and its body would be taken care of. It was the way the world worked. Keanu walked, step by step, smoke drifting behind him from the top of his cigarette. He stopped when he felt like he was missing something.
Keanu stopped and looked around. His polished shoes glinted in the sunlight. Keanu lifted his watch to check the time. 10:01 A.M. Impossible. It should have at least been a minute since he last checked it. He noticed the watch’s hands weren’t moving. Sixteen seconds was where the second hand had stopped. He lifted the watch to his ear. No sound. No ticking. Dead silence. Keanu lowered his arm. His watch was dead. He chuckled and continued walking. It had died, like how many other things had as well. Keanu had to take care of business for the day. The only evidence that he was there, and that the hunt had taken place, was that of the piece of paper underneath that rock.