The arrow passed just a few centimeters away from the rabbit’s head. It wasn’t the day to die for him. But a wild turkey and a pheasant had not been so lucky. They hanged on one side of Karl’s waist, dangling around as he marched through the woods looking for more game. But he didn’t find anything else to bring back to his shack so he stopped wandering around and went straight back to his place. It was a small cottage in the woods, just a few steps away from the lake. He had built it there so no floods could reach it but close enough to the water to get his everyday ration to cook and bathe.
As he entered the house, he left the dead animals in a rough wood table. He took off his clothes fast and, with the sun setting in the distance; he came out naked of his house and walked to the lake. He didn’t even hesitate to jump into the cold water. He plunged deep and then resurfaced, scrubbing his skin with his hands. There was no soap and soap would contaminate the lake anyway so he just scrubbed hard, sometimes with a scourer but he only used that some times a week. He submerged many times, looking at the distance, to the sun, which was now glowing orange. As he cleaned his beard and every hair he had on his body, he thought about that decision he had taken a long time ago, the decision that had changed his life by putting him there instead of in the city, in a job with a family and so on.
He didn’t regret he hadn’t decided to stay with his family or just make a family of his own. It haunted him but he was sure he didn’t wanted to be one of those family men. He didn’t have what it takes to be one and he didn’t wanted to be one. He had always wanted to be free, as free as any human could be and this was the way he had found to be true to his desires. His family had not thoroughly understood but now that didn’t really matter. It had been three years now since he had decided to live in the forest and he knew it had been one of the best decisions he had taken in his life. Here, among animals and plants and fresh water, there was nothing that bothered him or made him feel like there was something wrong. Everything here felt fair and well done, because it was.
He had always hated the competition, the killing that people submitted themselves to in the “real” world. People used to use those words together to describe to him were their lives happened, as if hid daily life wasn’t real, just a figment of his imagination. Hunting was more real than any bank job he could think off. Swimming naked in a beautiful lake was more real than worrying every day if someone was going to hurt you or your loved ones in any given moment. His world was very real and he had chosen it because he couldn’t take what the world was anymore. It had been a done deal the day he was attacked on the street, mugged and stabbed. He had become disenchanted with the world so he decided to leave it for good and there was not a single day in which he regretted that.
In any case, it wasn’t as if he never talked or chatted with another human anymore. Many people came to the forest, in spring or summer, and the park rangers had designated him as an official guide. He got paid a small salary but that wasn’t the important thing, it was the fact that he got to share his experiences and knowledge with visitors which was the best part of the job. He would take them hiking or trekking for hours, compensating them with beautiful vistas, information about every plant and animal living in the park and would usually end up with a small “party” by the shore of the lake. Those who wanted could swim but they would all celebrate with a local meal.
He came out of the water and waited to dry off for a half hour by the shore. As the water dripped away, he threw small stones to the water, trying to make them skip. But he had never managed to do I correctly. Time passed so he walked up his cabin, showered by the orange light of sunset. Inside the house he cleaned up his feet and put on some warm clothes to feel some heat after his swim in the cold water. He decided to eat first and then skin his animals to be put away with salt to be preserved. He had no electric device, except a portable stove, so it was best to consume everything before it went bad. He would eat the pheasant in the morning and the turkey could last a little longer if he treated it well. He ate some vegetables he had cooked earlier and it was then when he heard the sound. He wasn’t sure he had heard it but there it was again.
The hunter walked up to the window and stayed there. It was already dark outside and he had turned on a gas lamp he had but he decided to turn it off and wait for the sound to come back again. There it was… It was like a moan or a scream that was silenced. He was worried as there was no one else for the next ten kilometers. Maybe he was imagining things, maybe it was an animal or maybe some people had just decided to come into the park and get busy. It wouldn’t be the first time. He decided to stop worrying and walked away from the window but then there was a scream, a piercing sound that broke the silence of the woods in two.
The scream came from deep in the woods, in the opposite direction of the lake. He didn’t know very well, but he though the scream was from a male. He decided to take his bow and arrow, a rope and his best boots. That person could be trapped between rocks, in the formations that existed in the park in that direction. Or maybe some animal had attacked him and he needed assistance before bleeding to death. There were a few wolfs and they could be very violent, as well as black bears who roamed around the forest for food. Once he was ready, the hunter came out of the cabin and started marching rather fast in the direction he had heard the scream.
He walked and walked but he didn’t seem to get anywhere. He didn’t usually come out so late at night and his senses were not as accurate in the dark than in the light. But he was sure where he was going and pressed on, worried for the person that had yelled earlier. After some twenty minutes, he finally arrived to a rocky formation and he noticed, with his solar flashlight, that the rocks were tainted with what appeared to be blood. He turned off his light and decided to be still and hear. There were no screams, only crickets and other animals making sounds. But then, he heard panting and someone else, breathing heavily. He ran towards the sound and, without thinking, jumped right onto one of the persons there.
Apparently he had done correctly, because the voice that had screamed earlier was begin for him to help him. Somehow, his voice felt strange, as if it had changed in less than an hour. But the hunter was a strong man and he was able to submit the man he was fighting with ease. Once he turned on the flashlight again, he gave it to the victim, who happened to be a young man, covered in blood. He was trembling but was able to hold steady long enough for the hunter to use the rope to tie the hands of the other guy, an older man who had his nose broken and seemed to be in a fit of rage. He wasn’t fighting anymore but his eyes were filled with hatred, filled with blood and pure rage. The hunter made him stand up and he told the young man to follow him, so they could call the rangers who would then call the police of whoever had to be in charge of this.
It wasn’t long before they stepped into the hunter’s house. The tie man was sat in the hunter’s bed and the boy sat in one of the big chair by the only table. The hunter looked for the walkie-talkie he rarely used during this time of year and started talking into it, to no response. As he waited, he asked the young guy to tell him what had happened but the guy refused at the other one seemed to be preparing for another assault. When one of the rangers finally answered, he couldn’t hear a word because the kid had jumped from his chair, with a knife the hunter had not seen, and stabbed the man in the chest. The man screamed and the hunter realized it was him who had screamed earlier.
He attempted to grab the young guy from behind but now he flung his knife towards him, cutting the surface of his chest. He took advantage of this to turn around and finish off the man in the bed, who bled out just there, looking at the kid with horror. The hunter avoided the kid’s next attack and just punched him hard in the head. The kid was groggy for a minute, time the hunter used to grab his bow and arrow. He told the kid the rangers would come soon, as they never received communications from here and they would be worried to know if there was something wrong. He suggested him to surrender and let him tie his hands.
But the kid launched himself at him and he just let go of the arrow that pierced his chest deep. He fell to the ground, where the hunter grabbed him and tried to understand what he was saying. Because as he spitted blood, he tried to say something but it wasn’t clear. Then the hunter lowered his head and he understood a couple of words: “got revenge”. Then he died and the hunter never knew what those words meant.