The Hunter

The rain strikes the earth softly tearing away the ground in a growing deluge. The clouds overwhelm the sky: there is no moon nor stars, there is no light. The world is worn away in the flood. With each step they sink lower. Ahead, a dying lantern strives through the shower to burn, the light almost fading in terrible, heart-stopping flickers. Still, there is light, a sad, pathetic light, but enough to see the next step. For now, it is enough. They wade towards the orange glow, the baby in her arms close to her breast, the son at his father’s side, the mud nearly up to his waist. They go towards the light. The man shouts above the din; no answer returns. Closer the family comes. He shouts again. Closer again. They’re nearly there now, the wife thinks, and the ground may be firmer here. Closer, through the muck they go.

And in one swift motion the angler’s jaws close about the father, catching him up at his center. Before going limp, the arms reach out, desperately clawing at the air; the body is penetrated by the long sword-like teeth of the monster. And the son runs toward his mother as the rain washes the blood away. And the mother is tired, and broken, and hopeless; she hands the baby to her son, and stands between her children and death.

“Run,” she says, but the children dare not run. And she screams, “Run.” The children will not run. And she screams as the angler takes her up, catching her body in its giant maw. She screams illegibly. The orphans run. But a shadow stands before them, and in his hand, catching the angler’s light, a gleaming sword. The sword is washed in the rain, in the countless tears of that great tragedy. The angler turns, shifting one of its black, pupil-less eyes upon the hunter. Still dangling in its teeth are irrelevant bits of flesh. The monstrous creature pulls its body through the mud with its flippered appendages, its dangling jaw taking up swaths of earth as it comes closer. Knee deep in mud, the hunter comes forward. The gaping mouth could swallow him whole, and he walks forward.

Closer, the monster comes, its glowing trap going before it. The hunter stands still, his feet outspread. The sword, in both hands, he raises above his head. The monster’s light bobs before him, and he cuts. In the darkness, the monster howls with pain, its cries echoing through the night. But in the rain, no one can hear the splashing feet of the hunter. The dumb beast feels the terrible pain of the sword as it again laughs at the monster’s flesh, tearing through it viciously. Bits of the angler fly into the air as the hunter, in total abandon, hacks and hacks at the side of the monster.

It slowly tries to turn, but already the weakness of death overcomes the brut. Yet, one last bit of light enters its eyes before death can overtake it, the pale figures, the handmaidens, coming for their right. The hunter stills, watching the phosphorescent women, the thin, translucent spirits, come to take the monster away. In their light, he sees the terrified, half drowned orphans. He leaves the hunt, sheathing his sword. It was washed clean in the rain.

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