Saturday, September 26, 2015

Short Story - Sitting on a Rocker at the End of the Day

Sitting on a Rocker at the End of the Day
words: 2099




“How do you pack a bag that light?” Paul asked.


“Easy. only take what I need.” Edward didn’t even glance back, cresting a rocky embankment.


“That may do for a short excursion, but it’s lacking for this trek.”  Paul cinched his hood under his neck, a barrier to the mist.


Edward wheeled around. “Ya think just because you’ve caught so many animals it makes you an expert, but we both know you’ve never even seen animals as  big as I’ve brought down.” He flicked the wide brim of his hat, shaking rain droplets loose.


“What? I don’t want to get soaking wet. What’s the problem with that?” Paul’s scrambled up the embankment.


“Didn’t say anything. If I had, it would have been along the lines of you’re the only outdoorsman I know who doesn’t like nature. I don’t understand it. A bit of rain on your brow might do you well.” Edward increased his pace, his long walking stick moving in tandem with his gait.


Paul thought about arguing quantity and consistency over size, but decided to save the effort. They were both acclaimed hunters, despite differing techniques.


Paul paused, examining foliage for clues.


“Come on, you know it’s not going to be this shallow. We need to go farther.” Edward called.


“I will find it, but I want to know what else is out here.” Paul replied.


Edward wasn’t brash enough to think he should trek into the woods alone, but Paul was just too stuffy. He didn’t seem like a big game hunter. He was more like a suit. “Where are we going to camp tonight Mr. Consistency?”


“You haven’t divined a spot?” Paul set his backpack down, retrieving a notebook.


“Come off it. I never said you couldn’t hunt, I just said you couldn’t pull the big game.” Edward chuckled. “If it’s alright with you, I say we head fifty yards that way.”


The sun was beginning to set, casting long shadows across the deep green grass. “It will do.” Edward said.
“Not bad at all.” Paul responded.


Paul staked his tent and Edward unrolled a blanket before gathering wood for a fire. Paul unfolded a shovel from his bag for the pit.


Paul fell asleep quickly despite his excitement. Visions of a giant beast bubbled into his consciousness. The body distorted, arms growing long, then the legs. The head inflated with bulging eyes, like in a fun house mirror. Paul snapped awake. He blinked a few times, realizing it was morning. He felt he had only slept a couple of hours. Exiting his tent, he saw Edward sitting near the fire, chewing on something, two arrows protruding from the ground nearby. “Got one for you when you’re ready.” Edward motioned to a skewer. “No sense in doubling up duty.”


Paul’s eyes shifted from the arrows, failing to find a bow. “You’ve got a bow?”
Edward tapped the walking stick. “Inconspicuous and always nearby.”


Paul crept into the woods until he found a suitable spot. Visions of the fabled Sasquatch still danced in his head. A branch caught his eye. He looked to the camp and back. They hadn’t come this way.


“Ed, which way did you go out this morning?” Paul asked.


“Struck due North, circled around a bit. Why?” Edward ripped a piece of meat from his skewer.
“Something in the woods. Probably nothing.” Paul responded.
“Anything worth noticing, I would of heard.” Edward sipped from a battered metal cup.


------
“Finally getting into the thick of it.” Paul hacked foliage with his machete. Rocky terrain and forest undergrowth had forced their path into winding shapes.


Neither had been sleeping well, due to sleeping in trees the past few days after waking up to their supplies scattered about camp. Neither could figure out how they had slept through it. No markers provided clues in determining the the animal or origin.


Silence hit the forest. Edward looked into the sky, seeing nothing but clouds. “That’s odd. I’ve seen a place get quiet, but this is beyond quiet. You could choke on this silence.”


Paul slid the machete into the sheath. “No sign of anything. Even a mountain lion would leave a trail. If we’re in the silence, it can’t be far.”


“Mountain lions at least make noise.” Edward cocked his head, listening.


Much of their trip was in silence, both had shared stories of big hunts and game. Edward’s stories had been surprisingly funny, leading expeditions of inexperienced hunters. He had the scars to prove it.
Paul had impressed Edward with clever traps he had set to catch snakes for a zoo.


“I’ve never felt like this in the wild.” Edward started. “I just have this nagging feeling like someone’s setting up a joke.” Edward lifted a full bottle from the stream. “It’s unsettling.”


Paul nodded. “I know. It’s almost eerie. I tell myself it’s just my mind, but you’re right. I can’t tell if I’m hearing things at night or dreaming.”


“Still haven’t found any definitive tracks either… of anything” Edward shook his head. “There should be tracks.”


“I’m guessing we’re going to run into caves with this terrain.” Paul gulped the stream water. “Might live in the caves.”


“Nobody’s ever gotten one. We’d be the first.” Edward’s eyes were closed, his head tilted up to catch the sun.


“Every day we get deeper, means harder time getting it out.” Paul poured water onto his hand and patted his neck.


“We get the thing, I’ll get it out.”


---


“Ed? You awake?” Paul asked, perched in a tree while crickets chirped.


“I am now.” Edward chuckled. “Yeah, you hear that too? We’re not in Kansas anymore.”


Edward’s limbs hung limply, the tree branch supporting his body. His bag hung from the limb with rope. “You’d think we’d sleep light with this set up, but almost every night, something is coming into our camp. I don’t now what could be that quiet.”


“Have you thought about heading back?” Paul asked.


“Not one to leave empty handed.” Edward responded. “I’ll… we… will probably get our mugs on magazines. I’ve never bagged a beast like this.”


“Has anybody? I see no need to whip the horse after it’s dead.” Paul shot back. “If it existed somebody would have proof.”


“You never know. It could be a clever thing. Might be time to set up a base camp. Explore the area. We’re in far enough. Might be we need to just find a cave. that’s where they live, right?”


“I’d be more confidant with tracks, any kind of tracks.” Paul’s uncertain statement hung in the night sky until they both dozed off.


---


A clap of thunder woke them both. Edward scanned the horizon, but they sky was clear. “Sounded like thunder, right?” He asked. Edward undid the rope, letting his bag fall to the ground.


Paul scanned the treeline before scaling down the tree. The traps he had set the night before had been smashed. “I don’t like the look of this.”


“Could a been a predator after prey. Something in the trap. Mashed it getting to them.” Edward lacked his usual cockiness.


“And we don’t hear a thing?” Paul knelt to examine a trap. “That’s not even possible. I barely sleep as is. I don’t like this.”


“We came here for the same thing. Don’t be so quick to give up. This is the thrill of the hunt. We’re up against something smart.”


“We’ve been here weeks. I’ve got a time limit.” Paul kicked the trap in frustration. It would have contained breakfast.


Edward got in Paul’s face. “You want to go, then go. I came to hunt, and that’s what I’ll do.”


Paul raised his hands, stepping back.


---


“Let me see the map again.” Edward grabbed a corner. “I think we should head up this way. There’s got to be a cave opening that way.”


“There’s no reason to double over. We’ve been there. We fan farther out.” Paul rubbed his stubbled chin. He hadn’t shaved for a couple of days.


“Fine. Do that. We’ve got to be close.” Edward’s voice was impatient. Both men had become ill company. Edward pushing to search no matter what, and Paul willing to retreat.


Paul searched for a broken limb, something to give him a direction. He could hear Edward slashing at brush. The machete created a melodic rhythm. Swish… swish… THUNK.


“Paul! Hey Paul!” Edward’s voice exclaimed.


Paul raced to the voice, and soon saw the source of excitement. In front of Edward was a group of limbs that had been tied together. It wasn’t fresh binding, but some… thing had made it.


Edward pulled the banded limbs back to reveal a cave opening. “This is it. We’ve found it.”


“This could be nothing.” Paul attempted to subdue glee. The branches promised nothing would be inside, though maybe that something had been inside.


“You want to go first?” Edward asked. Paul could tell it wasn’t really a question. He was more than happy to let Edward go. Paul whipped his bag around and gave Edward a  flashlight.


The white beam of light revealed a rounded room carved from dirt. Roots protruded from the walls. Decaying leaves matted the floor..


Edward lowered himself into the opening. “It’s a lot cooler.” The light bounced around the room. “Something had to have been here.”  He kicked sticks and stones, poking at the wall. His foot went through the vines. “An opening.”


Edward hacked at the vines. It was a small opening, but big enough. He looked back at Paul before switching his light off and stepping into the opening, hunched over. Paul’s eyes took a moment to adjust to the dim room.
“If he’s in here, I don’t want him seeing the light.” Edward whispered.
Paul crouched and followed. All he could hear was Edward’s boots contacting the dirt floor. Paul wanted to talk, to ask if he saw anything, but new he couldn’t. The tunnel wound deeper. Paul couldn’t see anything. Then, the footsteps stopped.


Edward’s breaths were short and ragged. He could tell by the echo of his last footstep that the tunnel had opened into a larger cave. He felt for a wall to balance himself. He could hear water dripping, Paul’s footsteps creeping into the cave. Edward breathed in and out, slowly. He pulled the end of the flashlight to his stomach, clicking it on. A small illuminated ring appeared on his abdomen. He could see the light reflect off Paul. He slowly directed the light at his feet and then around the room. Jagged rocks protruded from the floor, some taller than he. A shadow in the periphery, he swung the light and heard soft footsteps, but didn’t see anything.


Edward looked to Paul and swung the light across the room again. The rock outcroppings made it impossible to determine if anything was hiding. He heard movement in the shadows, but swinging his light revealed nothing. Again a sound caused him to redirect the light, but revealed nothing. Edward edged closer to Paul. He could feel something else in the cave.


“Go” he whispered. He heard a clatter behind him and pushed Paul forward. His light illuminated  crude stick figures on the walls. His eye lingered too long on the images and he lost his footing. He scrambled to pick up his flashlight, but then didn’t see Paul. The path branched/ He ducked right. His light bounced wildly as he tried to escape. Sounds reverberated in the tunnel. There was a break in the floor ahead, a chasm. He wasn’t sure how deep it was and didn’t want to find out. He could hear something in the tunnel nearby. The flashlight had been pointed at the floor. He slowly brought it up, afraid of what might appear.


Something smacked the light out of his hand. Pain shot up his arm. He could hear it breathing, and saw a faint glow from a pair of eyes, and now feel its breath on his face. Edward backed up slowly, until his heel hit the edge of the chasm. The beast had moved even closer.


Edward grabbed the thing around the waist, pushed backward and kicked. His feet left the ground as he began to freefall. The beast wriggled out of his grasp. Despite the fall lasting mere seconds, Edward thought about the hunt, Paul, this beast, and the story it would make. The next thought was a rush of pain. Edward winced, pain stabbing his leg. He could hear gasps of breath from the beast. He reached out but couldn’t feel it.
“I did it.” Edward whispered. “I killed Bigfoot.”
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