The Hunter

by "Splatter" Joe Solmo

                The darkness seemingly crept closer around her the longer she stayed her... Stacy shivered, but she wasn’t sure if it was from fright, or the cold night air. Hiding in an outhouse on the side of a mountain may not be the dream date she had pictured on the long ride up through the high peaks region of the Adirondack Mountains.

                The ride up made her think of Brad, which made her begin to sob again. She wondered if he was still alive. They had to split up when the man appeared with the shotgun. The man with the red flannel and angry look on his face.

                At first they thought he was a lost hunter, neither of them knowing when the various seasons started and stopped, but the man acted…weird. He was always looking over his shoulder as if expecting someone at any time. They let him warm his self at their campfire, even offering him a hotdog.

                He didn’t tell him his name, he really didn’t say anything other grunts or nods in reply to their questions. After a while he stood and nodded to them and walked off into the darkness, without a word. They waited at least an hour for him to return, but they didn’t. They even thought of going to look for the strange hunter.

                “He must have continued on back to his truck,” Brad said with a shrug and a yawn. Are you ready for bed, babe?”

                “It’s just strange he didn’t say goodbye,” Stacy said.

                “He didn’t say thanks, either,” Brad said pouring his bottle of water out into the fire, all but putting it out. Coals still shone angry orange at the bottom of the fire pit. They rolled up into their two person sleeping bag a few minutes later and fell asleep under the stars. The trip up here was too spontaneous for them to being everything they needed.  A lantern, sleeping bag, some hotdogs and a cooler of water and beers were all they brought.

                That was why she loved Brad so much, he was always spontaneous and had the energy of a two year old child. It kept her young, she thought. She wrapped her arms around his chest and put her ear over his heart. She could spend a month just listening.

                Stacy didn’t know how long she laid there, just listening to her lover’s breathing and beating heart, before she noticed the shape in the darkness. It took her eyes a few seconds to hone in with the small amount of star light. At first she thought her eyes had to be playing tricks on her, but the man itched his nose.

                The hunter had returned after all and was watching them sleep from the tree line. Stacy squeezed Brad and when he didn’t respond she pinched him. He woke with a snort. “Brad, he’s back,” Stacy whispered into his ear, never taking her eyes off the hunter.

                Brad turned his head to see what Stacy was talking about and noticed the man right away. He leaned on a tall white pine with a hand in his pocket, and the other wrapped around that shotgun he had brought earlier to the camp.

                “Welcome back,” Brad said and sat up in the sleeping bag, making it slide down over Stacy. She quickly pulled it back up to her neck, even though she wasn’t exposed. The hunter didn’t react. Brad sighed. “Yo, I can see you there, do you need a place to sleep for the night?” he asked climbing out of the bag. He took a step towards the hunter.

                Stacy climbed out the other side and headed towards the fire, she didn’t like the dark. She stoked it, but the wood was too wet for large flames, even though it still burned.

                “You’re creeping out my girlfriend,” Brad said reaching to his waist to make sure his knife was still there.

                “Brad?” Stacy called out.

                “What is it?”

                “Brad, what is he doing?” she asked and pointed towards the hunter. Brad turned his attention back to the man and notice his arm moving. His hand was in his pocket, but Brad didn’t think there was a pocket in those pants. He saw the rhythmic pattern and instantly knew what the man was doing.

                “Dude, come on!” Brad said pulling his knife from his pocket. “Stop it!” he said. Stacy moved back towards the sleeping bag. There was a stick there that she had used to cook her hotdogs on earlier, it had a sharpened end.

                The hunter shifted his weight off the tree, but didn’t take his hand out of his pants. He took a step closer to Brad.

                “Seriously dude, stop being a pervert, this is your last warning,” Brad said and raised the knife to show the hunter what he had. The hunter took another step closer and raised the shotgun up. Still he didn’t saw a word, and that sent a chill down Stacy’s back.

                “I have had about enough of this,” Brad said and began to close the gap between him and the hunter, but the hunter had another idea. He slammed the barrel of the shotgun into Brad’s stomach, doubling him over, then brought the stock down on his back, dropping Brad to the ground.

                “Brad!” Stacy yelled out, and took a step closer to her boyfriend. The hunter raised the gun at her. “You sicko. Get the fuck out of here,” she called out. A loud boom and a flash erupted into the night scaring the shit out of her. Somewhere just behind her she heard the shot hit the ground and underbrush. That was real close!

                She ran for the trees behind her to put cover between her and the hunter. She could hear Brad moaning. She tried to think what the best course of action was, run, and buy Brad time? She couldn’t decide. She heard footfalls getting closer and knew the hunter was coming for her.

                Another shot hit the pine tree she was hiding behind. A scream escaped her lips involuntarily. “Brad!” she called out and took a few steps deeper into the woods, finding a new tree to hide behind. There wasn’t a reply from Brad. A tear began to form in her eye at the chaos that had interrupted their camping trip.

                “Brad!” she called out again. This time she heard a grunt, then a few seconds of silence. A footstep near her sent her heart racing.

                “Run Stacy,” came Brad’s unsteady voice. He sounded so impossibly far away. Despair set in and she flinched at the thought of never seeing him again. She started to move sideways through the trees, trying to backtrack to Brad. That’s when she saw the hunter again. He was heading back towards Brad. She frantically searched in the darkness for something to help, even though she still clenched the hotdog stick in her hand.

                She took a step closer, almost to the edge of the trees and she saw the man smack Brad across the face with the butt of his gun. Brad went limp almost instantly. Stacy covered her mouth in horror. The hunter grabbed Brad’s hand and began to drag him towards the White Pine that he had leaned on when she first noticed him in the darkness.

                He set Brad up, with his back to the tree, in a sitting position. Stacy continued her way around the clearing, closer to Brad and the hunter. She watched in confusion then in horror as the hunter removed his belt from his faded jeans and walked behind the tree. With a whipping sound he sent the belt around and tightened it behind the tree.
                The hunter walked around the front and pulled the belt up and onto Brad’s forehead. Stacy did like the look of this so she charged out of the darkness ramming the hotdog stick into the back of the hunter’s leg. He let out a pained grunt, the first sound he had made, and smacked her with his free hand. She fell hard to the ground, hitting her head on a rock.

                The hunter pulled the stick out of his leg and looked at it with a smile. He hobbled around the back of the tree, out of Stacy’s sight. She tried to get to her feet, but felt groggy. Her eyes were suddenly drawn to Brad as he let out a scream. At first she couldn’t figure out what was happening, and then the moonlight caught the hunter’s movement. He was twisting her hotdog stick into the belt, drawing it tighter around Brad’s head.

                “Nooo!”Stacy yelled out and got to her knees. Her hand found a palm sized rock on the ground. The hunter stepped out from behind the tree and into the light of the night sky. She was horrified by the shadows playing on his face, and smile spread across it.

                She sent the rock sailing in the night, hoping the darkness hid her movement. Her aim was true and the rock struck him in the face, sending him to the ground. She let out a laugh, mostly due to the stress release than the humor of the situation. She rushed over to Brad’s side. She saw blood trickling from his ear.

                “Go, get help,” Brad said weekly. “Go while you can,” he finished. She shook her head at him.

                “No, no I can’t leave you,” she said between tears. Brad tried to push her away.

                “Go, while he is distracted,” he said.

                “Not without you,” she said and tried to undo the belt tied around her boyfriend’s head. Once she got it loose Brad slumped forward. “Brad?” she asked lifting his face towards hers. She gave him a kiss, but he didn’t respond. A sob escaped her lips.

                A strong hand gripped her shoulder and flung her to the ground. She had no time to react before a large boot landed into her stomach forcing her to expend all her air. The hunter walked over to Brad and gave him a kick to the face. Brad dropped to the ground.

                “No,” Stacy sobbed on the ground and tried to clear her head. The hunter turned towards her once he was sure Brad wasn’t a threat. He unbuttoned his jeans and let them fall to his ankles. He smiled and cocked his head to one side, like a curious dog.

                A new level of fear crept over Stacy as she realized the hunter’s intentions. She kicked her feet trying to gain some distance from her would be attacker. Her hand landed on something cold. The Shotgun! She grabbed it and whipped it around, facing the barrel at the hunter.

                “Fuck you!” she yelled and pulled the trigger. A blast hit the hunter in the left shoulder, sending him spinning to the ground. The kick from the gun tore it out of her grasp. Stacy got to her feet and searched for the gun.

                She bent down towards the gun when she felt a hand grab her ankle. She fell onto the ground, landing on the gun. She tried to turn the gun on the hunter, but he was too close to her. She swung it instead and caught him in the side of the head.

                Stacy ran to Brad, who hadn’t moved this entire time. A boom sent her running into the woods behind him though. The hunter had gotten his gun back. She grabbed ran through the underbrush towards where the trail was leading back to their car. They had hiked a trail near the lake.

                She could hear the crash of the hunter through the woods behind her, seemingly only inches away. She was too afraid to look and ran on into the night. Occasionally she heard the grunt of her pursuer as he crashed into a tree or stumbled over a rock, something she had luckily avoided so far in the chase.

                Once on the trail she gained some ground, even though the hunter was never completely out of earshot.  She followed the worn path down towards the base of the mountain. It was dark, so she used the slight gap in the trees, directly above the path to guide her.

                She splashed into some water which surprised her. She must have gone off the main trail and headed down towards the lake. She remembered on the way up there was an outhouse not far from here, and she headed by memory in the darkness towards the only shelter in the area.

                She could hear the hunter behind her, she hoped there wasn’t enough light to give her position away as she climbed into the outhouse and closed the door softly behind her. If the forest was dark, the inside of the outhouse was the blackest midnight she had ever encountered.

                Stacy tried to hold her breath and listen for the hunter. She hoped Brad was ok, maybe if the hunter was chasing her, Brad could get away, she thought.  She heard a twig snap. Was that the hunter? She listened for another noise, but only heard her own heart racing. She wondered how long she could hide in here, once the sun was up the hunter would be able to spot her easily.

                The fright locked her muscles, she couldn’t make herself move. She sat on the wooden bench of the outhouse, next to the hole and listened. At some point she must have passed out, because before she knew it light shined through the cracks in the rough cut lumber walls of the outhouse.

                She didn’t hear anything coming from outside, and soon worked herself up to looking through the cracks. There was no sign of the hunter outside. Did he go back to Brad when he couldn’t find her? She thought.

                It took her almost an hour before she gained the courage to open the door to the outhouse. There was no sign of anyone. She looked at the trail that lead back towards the main trail from the lake. She began to make her way up the trail. After a few minutes she found the main trail. A quick glance up the trail made her duck. There was a flash of red.

                Stacy hid behind a rock and waited a few seconds but she didn’t hear any movement. Some more time passed and she peered over the rock. The red color was still there, but it wasn’t moving. She slowly raised to her feet and looked. Still no movement.

                She took a deep breath and made her way up the trail towards the red color she had seen. When she approached it she let out a sigh, and then a laugh. Soon she was shaking from the laughter. Laying on the ground was the hunter. He had bled to death from the shotgun blast that hit his shoulder. She kicked him in the face three times to make sure he wasn’t going to get up and attack her.

                Stacy grabbed the shotgun and made her way back to the campsite. An hour later she was helping Brad walk down the trail back to the car. When they passed the trail for the lake Stacy looked around. Only a pool of blood remained where the hunter’s body was… 

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