1. The Job

Darkness grows like spidery legs crawling through the window lattice, long black shadows invading the cabin. The night’s spreading tentacles cross the face of the sleeping man. He stirs and wakens. Outside, the dying sun, barely lit, pathetically fades away like drowned embers. Rising, the naked man drinks in the last rays of life giving day. Twilight sinks into night as the glowing red of the moon ascends over the horizon. Quickly, he plucks his tattered garments off the floor.

Ancients tell of a war, a forgotten weapon, and the moon’s changing to blood. It’s a good epic, something for old men to sing to little children by the safety of the flames. But the reasons why, the misremembered past the poets tell, do not trouble the cabin’s occupant. The world turns red with the ascending moon, displacing the brief black interim of night. Already, he has finished masking his face with a long and dirtied scarf, winding it up from his neck to the top of his head.

He fights with a glove, trying to fit it over his hand. The moon’s foreboding rays reach toward him as the life giving sunbeams had. He backs up against a wall. Along the floor the bloodied light creeps, slowly filling the cabin. The first glove finally slides over his wrist, but the second rests on the counter, already claimed by the red of the moonbeams.

He hugs his bare hand under an armpit and steps into the deadly rays. Outside the moon trees begin to bloom, filling the air with their dusty pollen. The window’s light dims within the cabin, blotted by the clouds of moon ash.

In the almost darkness, Richard seizes the glove, yet, even in the bleak shadowy room, his naked hand blisters before its covering. Finally, secure from red death, his heavy footsteps carry him to the window. Outside, the fog of pollen enfolds the world in mystery denying far seeing eyes any insight down the paths they tread. Below the square frame of glass, leaning against the wooden planks of the wall, rests a different kind of security than tattered wrappings.

Both hands gently reach under the crossbow and cradle it into his chest. Without thinking, Richard’s fingers curl about the handle. The butt and shoulder meet, fitting better than puzzle pieces. A moment is taken to look down the faithful instrument, aiming at his paraphernalia.

He takes sight of the pillow where the indent of his head lies. Click, the empty mechanism sounds. A duffel bag lies in the corner by the door. Click. A chair. Click. Looking up into the ceiling, he focuses on one of hundreds of flat strips of bamboo dangling from invisible strings, his stars, his conquests, his history. Click. Lowering the weapon he lifts one hand and runs it through his life’s work. They softly tingle in the moonmorning.

Knock, knock, knock. A caller interrupts the morning chimes. He looks over to the disruption. His wooden stars settle and end their song as he straps the crossbow behind his back, and, sighing, walks across the room.

The wooden lock scrapes against the thin boards of the cabin as Richard opens the door. In the redlight a figure, covered in moon ash, holds out a flat strip of bamboo. The visitor wears the dark clothes of a fellow hunter, but, without face or weapon, hides in anonymity.

Richard reaches from the shadowy cabin and takes the proffered job. They salute, and the messenger turns on his heels and walks away. He fades into the red mist, the clinking of further deliveries playing long after him into the moonday.

Abomination unknown, reads the first line, countless slain. He skims over the list of chieftains who have pledged to pay the hunters’ due, and finds the name of the besieged town. In a little drilled hole at the top of the bamboo he threads a bit of string and ties the wood over his heart. Picking up the duffel bag lying by the door he treads down his chosen path.



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