Hunting the Hunter
Thunder rolled while I perched my boot against a boulder. A crooked smile crossed my lips when I looked down at the bloody beast in the ravine. The white wolf pulled itself up, its legs shaking with the effort it took to stand. I took a few steps back, as the creature looked up, making sure to stay hidden among the trees. Pulling a silver bullet from my pocket, I rolled it between my fingers before placing it into the cylinder of my revolver. Slapping the cylinder closed the wolf’s ears perked up before it began limping forward. Turning on the safety, I quickly put the gun back in it’s side holster.
Taking a few steps forward, I adjusted my sling, bringing my main weapon front and center. Patting my crossbow, I fought off the itch in my trigger finger, by putting the wolf in my sights. ‘I could take this monster out right now’ I thought, tapping the trigger. I sighed, lowering my weapon. The kill almost wouldn’t be worth it. I needed the rush. Needed to chase the thrill that hunting the hunter would provide.
My smirk grew while I watched the creature hobble into the mini forest on the ravine floor. Leaving a thin trail of blood behind. The tops of the bushes swayed as the wolf pushed passed them, making tracking the beast that much easier. When the wolf disappeared from sight I began to follow, not bothering to step quietly. It was too injured to run, and at this point it would be like shooting a fish in a barrel.
Twigs snapped underfoot as I followed the wolf farther down the ravine. I almost laughed at a particularly loud snap of a decaying branch as I pressed forward. I hoped the monster heard me. I wanted it to know I was coming for it. I wanted the beast to be good and scared. Wanted it to taste death with every step, until it was a snarling, frantic mess.
I wanted this abomination to feel how my little sister felt the night that she had died. Unlike the other hunters in my group, I wasn’t here for an expensive pelt, or an impressive head to mount on my wall. I was here for revenge, for validation. Growing up in Bare-Tree Hollow, I had grown up listening to the howls of wolves. The howling was just as much a soundtrack to my childhood as the forest was a backdrop.
We were taught that the wolves never journeyed close to town, that they were harmless. If only I had seen it. The way the townsfolk never wanted to discuss what may live in the trees outside our homes. The way their heads tilted to and fro around each other, as if they were in the midst of a silent conversation. The way that boy stared at my sister with a hunger that made my blood boil.
Leah had been 18, and a senior in high school. She was loud and outgoing. She loved going out with her friends and you could never find her at home. Suddenly, she changed. She became jumpy, and stopped going out as much. She started asking me to walk her to her car at night and in the dark hours of the morning before cheer practice.
Thinking she was in some kind of trouble I reached out to her. I’ll never forget how her voice shook when she told me there was something in the woods. That something was following her, watching her. She said she heard growls and howling outside her bedroom window at night. At first I shook it off, but that night, I heard it too.
A week later, she went to a football game and never returned. We put together a search party and we scoured the town. We found her bloody jacket in the woods, but we never found her body. I never gave up searching, not until I was approached by a man in a bar. A man who told me all about the monsters that inhabited my town.
At first I didn’t believe him. Werewolves belonged in horror movies, not in sleepy little towns, walking around in broad daylight. Then he showed me the pictures. People ripped to pieces, and half human, half animal corpses. My stomach turned faster than my brain could and I had emptied the contents of my stomach all over his boots.
Then he told me that there was a chance that I could save my sister, and that he could help me. He told me that werewolves had mates, and that sometimes these mates were human. He told me that these monsters established bonds with their human mates, clouding their minds and judgement with lust. That they would brainwash their mates into loving them by tying them together with a mating mark. That they would trick these humans into bearing their young.
I was horrified. The man offered his help again, but it would come at a price. The price of his help was for me to join his clan as a hunter. I agreed immediately. The next couple of months he trained me. He taught me how to spot one, how to pick them out of a crowd. He taught me how to track them, but more importantly he taught me how to fight and kill them.
When the time finally came to go after my sister, he warned me that there was a chance that we couldn’t save her. That she would be too far gone to bring back. I told him I understood, but that had been a lie. I would save my sister no matter what it took. I had failed her, and I would make up for that.
When we finally found her, she was living happily with the beast that had taken her. When I caught her mate, I had dug my knife into his chest, repeatedly. Once for every month my sister had been gone. I still remember the cold hand of horror that had clenched my heart when my sister dropped to the floor, writhing in pain with her mate. He begged me to stop hurting her. To kill him, to end her pain.
I had aimed my rifle at his head, mad that I couldn’t continue to take out my family’s pain on this abomination. I was about to pull the trigger when my sister threw her body over his, begging me to spare him. She told me she loved him, that he would never hurt her. That she was happy and that she was sorry for the pain she put us through. As she sobbed at my feet, I knew I had to save her.
Her salvation came in the form of a bullet. I made it quick, and painless. She was dead before her body even hit the ground. I could still taste the tears that ran over my lips, and feel the fine spray of blood as it covered my face and hands. My sweet Leah. My mother’s little angel and my father’s pride and joy, was gone.
Here mate howled, back arching, as he writhed in pain at the loss of his mate. Now that she could no longer be punished by his deeds, I continued to avenge my family. The bastard just lay there while I tortured him. His eyes lifeless and his body limp. It became clear that he had lost the will to live when my sister died.
When I finally ended him, he went without struggle, and my anger still burned in the pit of my stomach. I buried my sister, but I decapitated and burned the body of the beast. My mentor, seeing the un-quenched blood lust had laughed. “You got the hunger boy” he had said looking in my bloodstained face. I had never heard a more true statement.
I was insatiable. Over the past 36 years I had been stationed in tons of different towns, and I had accumulated kills in each one. When I was moved to this one, I had a hard time finding a suitable target. That was until I got in with the locals and they started talking. I soon discovered that there were werewolves living and working all over town.
It had taken months of tracking to finally find their running grounds. Once I discovered where they were I got a group of hunters together to come with me to bag a wolf. Those poor sons of bitches had no idea what they were walking into, but I did. All I had to do was get one alone, and sure enough, this one had panicked and ran off on her own. Now that I had her, I would corner her and torture her until I had my fill. Then I would end it with a single bullet.
She would get the same salvation I offered to Leah. The only real salvation there was in this world.
Suddenly, the movement in the bushes stopped. Raising my crossbow, I started to scope the floor of the ravine, looking for my target. I shivered as the wind whipped around me, nipping the tips of my ears with it’s icy jaws. Thunder rang through the heavens, scaring the beast into motion. The wolf lunged forward, upsetting a nest of birds as it went.
Surprised by the pace the injured wolf was moving at, I ran after it. A single bush shook, as the animal stopped in its tracks. Shooting an arrow into the bush, I waited with baited breath. After a few agonizing seconds, something broke through the bushes at an alarming speed. “Fuck” I muttered chasing after it as it sped down the ravine.
With my eyes fixed on the foliage below me, a flash of white from between the trees verified that I was chasing my wolf. Picking up speed, I laughed when I saw that the ravine had caved in on itself up ahead. I would head off the creature here. With her injuries she would be trapped. Taking position at the end of the ravine, I grabbed another arrow, loading it into my bow, then I crouched down, waiting.
It wasn’t long before the creature I had been chasing burst through the brush and out into the open. My finger spasms on the trigger, before my whole body seized. A large white rabbit stood in the clearing. It’s ears raised high and it’s large eyes fixed on me. My hands actually started to shake as I realized what had happened. I had lost my target.
Getting up, I cursed out the rabbit before I looked in the direction I had come from. I could hear gunshots and growls in the distance. I was running out of time. I took a few steps towards the ravine, but stopped when a low growl sounded from the trees. Freezing in place, I place my hand on my gun, waiting. Another growl came from the trees to my left.
Spinning, I ran over the small land bridge that had formed at the end of the ravine. Jumping over rocks and logs, I darted through the tree line. Loud footfalls rumbled through the ground from behind me, but when I looked over my shoulder, I didn’t see anything. It must be using the trees to stay hidden from me. My head whipped from left to right, scanning for any sign of the beast.
Still not seeing anything, my heart started to beat into overtime at the thought of being caught unaware. Sweat poured through my shirt, mixing with the first drops of rain as I propelled myself forward. Seeing a large boulder and a wall of trees ahead I slowed, spinning while bringing my crossbow up. The forest up ahead was too dense to fight this monster in. I would have to make my stand here, where I could see and move freely.
Lightning lit up the dark sky and the snap of a twig had me turning and firing my arrow into the trees. Reloading my crossbow, I stood at the ready. The sudden upset of birds to my left had me panning that way, when a blur crossed in front of me and a piercing pain traveled up my right side. Yelling out, I stumbled backwards, whipping my weapon from left to right searching for the threat. Glancing down at the source of my pain, I felt the blood drain from my face when I saw my arrow lodged in my right upper thigh.
Blinking rapidly to clear the falling rain from my eyes I hobbled backwards, wincing with each step. I heard loud footsteps and a laugh come from my right. I tried to swallow, almost choking on air as my racing heart picked up a notch and my body flooded with fear. The taste of my own blood in my mouth took on a darker flavor, and I tried to spit it from my lips in denial. Another crunch of leaves echoed from the forest and spinning I fired another arrow, too scared to bother to aim. I heard the ‘thunk’ as it sunk into a tree trunk. My sudden movement had me seeing stars as the arrow bobbed in my thigh. I gritted my teeth, steadying myself by putting the majority of my weight on my good leg. Reaching into my quiver, I struggled to close my hand over the shaft of another arrow.
The sounds of claws tearing into bark made me jerk my arrow from the quiver, upsetting the bag and dumping my arrows around my feet. “F-fuck” I whispered, trying to load the crossbow. Successfully loading it, I started to bend at my knees, my injured leg shaking with the strain of my weight. Sweat was now competing with the rain for real estate on my skin as I sunk towards the forest floor to retrieve my arrows. My upper thigh had started growing cold from the blood loss, and the pain lessened as adrenaline started kicking in. My hand made contact with the dampening dirt, my fingers brushed up against the sharp points of pine needles. Rain started running down my hair and into my face.
I had gathered a handful of arrows and was straightening back up, when a blur rushed towards me through the now thick sheet of rain. Something hard knocked my bow out of the way. Squeezing the trigger my arrow whizzed into the tops of the trees. A fist connected with my stomach and I flew backwards, hitting the large boulder behind me before landing in the sticky mud. This time as I coughed and wheezed, trying to suck in a lungful of crisp air, I couldn’t deny what I was tasting. Two bare feet stepped into view in front of me, before a loud popping and cracking transformed them into large, dark paws. A snarl rivaled the thunder overhead. Crashing my eyes shut, I bit back the scream that wanted to flee my throat as I tried not to choke on the acrid taste of death.
I hope this chapter finds you all safe and healthy inside your homes. In my state our stay at home order has increased in length and counties are starting to mandate that people where masks when they leave their homes. It's a weird time, but I am so thankful we have platforms like this were we can connect and escape the real world, if only for a little while.
In case anyone was wondering, our hunter has something in common with my girl Holly, as they are both from Bare Tree Hollow. The setting for The New Lost Girl. This chapter is a fun crossover if you are reading both stories because it gives you background information for that book.
I really hope you enjoy it, even though it's a bit different. Trust me though, it's important later.