The Hunt: The Aftermath

This is a rather lengthy story for a blog. This is the fifth of eleven parts. I never intended on adding onto it or making into something more. Perhaps your enthusiasm will change my mind.

 

the aftermath

 

The patrol of day three was uneventful, bland even. No one was killed, or even saw a hint of danger. We were silent, as it seems we were all stricken with a rather contagious strain of solemn emotions. It was like Napoleon’s specter had seized our voices and cast them into the dim haze of the woods. We could not retrieve them, as we were nearly lost ourselves, or so it seemed. Oliver led with courage, not ceasing and not falling ill to the sickly convulsions that ravaged my spirit in the wake of Napoleon’s death. Perhaps he is so accustomed to death that he has grown numb, and disavowed all attachment in this world. Could a man be so uncaring and cold? I hope not. The day ended at the foot of a mountain, where we came to rest under a faux sense of safety.

We were to sleep beside the rocky walls of the massive structure. I welcomed this, as I felt somewhat safer with something solid, and sturdy on one side. Napoleon’s absence was heartbreaking; however, it also brings about another tough subject: security, and the success of our mission. I am not a combatant. Now, I am armed only with a dagger. The youngster, Gregory, is near useless in a fight. His nerves shake his arms violently when he has to draw his sword. He is not a fighter, it is obvious to anyone. Yet, our leaders have selected him to be a soldier, and their word is final.

Besides myself and Gregory, there is only Oliver and Benedict. Essentially, these two men must find, and then slaughter whatever remains of the beasts in which we seek. These murderous creatures will surely put up a fight. Doubt is circling my veins as I think about this battle. Oliver and Benedict will lose, and then it will be up to myself and Gregory. As I wrote, neither of us are experienced in fighting, nor are we truly prepared for the battles that lie ahead. These revelations terrify me, as I know that I must now fight when the time comes, even though I only have a silver dagger.

The brief, or should I say false, sense of safety that flashed in my mind as we set up camp has vanished. Left now, is a stain of vulnerability. This cool feeling has wound itself around my body, and wiggled into the pores of my skin. Without masking my sight, or stealing my ability to move, this feeling has obscured my mind with chilling ideas. While crippling, I can live, even with the constant stirring of ugly notions in my being.

The night was no different than our first. Our fire cast spirited fingers of shadows into the forest. These ghostly tentacles hovered without purpose, and swam through the air with precision, kissing the many natural objects. All the while, as these blacken tongues of the fire danced, an eerie glow illuminated our surroundings. The entire area shone in this reddish yellow film shifted according to the fire’s rhythm. It ambled this way and that, coloring the world as it saw fit.

Beyond the fire’s reach, the world was draped in the thickest, and cruelest tone of black imaginable. The darkness was not fine, or crisp. It was noticeably thick, and almost tangible. Like honey runs in gooey rivers, the night moved and shifted in bulky shapes, just as a curtain moves in the wind.

“Why are we not allowed to have rifles again?” Gregory whispered in the gloom. I rolled over and looked into his eyes. A deep blackness stood between us, nearly blocking my view. But through this dense veil, I could see his eyes were laced with pain, glossy with fright.

“Oliver said they were saving them, and the bullets for a military campaign,” I answered softly.

“But that makes no sense!” he said harshly, straining his voice to keep it soft. “Why would we need those weapons if the beasts are all dead?”

“Maybe there are other cities, more than the ones we know about,” I offered. “Maybe some are hostile.”

“Surely there are, but I have not heard of any hostile cities,” Gregory answered bluntly. “What if they have other motives?”

“Such as?” I asked after thinking a moment. “I cannot think of why they would not offer us guns on this mission.”

“Maybe they’re hiding something,” Gregory said quietly.

“What would they be hiding?” I asked, still unsure of what he was trying to say.

“I don’t know,” Gregory sighed. “But why not give us firearms? They would make this task easy. Also, why would they not send in the army?”

“Maybe they are training more troops for this impending campaign,” I answered trying to find an end to the conversation.

“Maybe,” Gregory said rolling over so I could not see his face.

“You two!” Benedict’s voice pierced the darkness with ease. It sliced through me, shattering something within me. “Hush before you draw out some other monster.”

“Why don’t our leaders allow us to use guns on these trips?” Gregory defied the order. Benedict undoubtedly forced himself to remain on the ground, as he didn’t want to move about in the dark, and attract more beasts.

“The Scribe and Oliver already explained it,” Benedict answered after a few minutes. “You know why.”

“But,” Gregory begged. “Those reasons make no sense.”

“Hush!” Benedict ordered, this time louder.

“Why can’t we have the tools for the job?” Gregory restated his question.

“Didn’t you hear the stories in boot camp?” Oliver’s voice boomed in the night, shaking me even more. “When our soldiers went looking for the beasts, they killed many of them. They slaughtered the fuzzy creatures like they were cattle. They wasted many bullets on them. So, they wasted resources on killing them. That cannot happen anymore. There really is a military campaign coming, and we will need as many troops and bullets as possible.”

“Where?” I squeaked, unable to hold my tongue.

“To the other cities,” Oliver said without rage in his voice. “There are other cities, as you guessed, and some of them are very hostile, but first the leaders want us to expand our city. They want towns erected in the woods, and on mountains.”

“They need more soldiers for war,” I muttered.

“War?” Gregory asked. “More war? More killing? That’s how the world ended.”

“It is,” Oliver said from his sleeping roll. “And that is why we must be the ones to strike first, that way no one else will obliterate us. We have to be in control so the world is safe from self-destruction, because we won’t let that happen.”

“No, we would never let that happen again,” Gregory said a little more cheerful. “Thank you for the answer, and thank you for not chewing us out.”

“Sleep now,” Benedict ordered, speaking for Oliver.

I lie in the ebbing firelight, thinking about the exchange I just heard and waiting for sleep to come upon me. I tried to store Oliver’s words in my mind so I would not forget them. I didn’t want to forget them. I had to record them so everyone could know what was to come. The citizens of the city needed to know, they deserved to know.

I jotted the conversation down in my journal as it happened. Around me, as I now write, the entire world seemed to rise and bend according to the fire’s pulse. It was relaxing. Soothing feelings traced my veins, biting into my skin and bones as my eyes surrendered to the power of sleep.

Continue to part six here

Go back to part four here

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