Read The Hunt Online

Authors: Andrew Fukuda

Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Survival Stories, #Dystopian, #Science Fiction

The Hunt (30 page)

BOOK: The Hunt
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I was sleeping this whole time in the hornets’ nest.

Trying not to panic, I survey the room. The room is turning from black to gray by the second, the columned light concentrating into a sharper, longer beam. And then I see the pile of equipment by the circulation desk, SunCloaks, pairs of shoes, packs of the circulation desk, SunCloaks, pairs of shoes, packs of SunBlock Lotion, and syringes fi led with adrenaline boosters.

Equipment and accessories for the Hunt.

They’re here for the Hunt. To sleep during the day. To be safely away from the Institute as it goes into lockdown. The library is the starting point.

THE HUNT 221

But of course it is. How could I not have realized this before?

The sunbeam intensifi es and lengthens; a dread sense of inevi-tability encloses around me like a noose tightening around my neck.

And then, just like that, I realize what wil happen in the next few moments.

First, the slumbering hunters wil feel a slight burn, an irritation that wil intensify as the light begins to singe their eyelids.

Perhaps the effects of the light is already upon them, a nausea taking over their insides, a burn on their skin. They wil awaken and fl ee from the light, frothing at the mouth. They wil run screaming and hissing to the other end of the library, far from that light.

And there they wil remain, cowering from the stil bothersome sunbeam. They wil wonder—

for they wil have hours to talk

for they wil have hours to talk

among themselves before nightfal— about the young male hunter who lodged in here, how he was able to survive. The young hunter who never complained about his lodging, about any problems with the lighting, who always seemed to carry about him the odor of the hepers, come to think of it.

I shake my head, snapping myself out of my morbid thoughts.

Because there’s stil time for action. I just need to plug up the hole.

And quickly. I step carefuly away from Abs’ dangling body, walk down the length of the room.

“Ah, there you are.”

I spin around. The Director is gazing at me, dangling upside down, halfway down an aisle. “We were looking for you earlier.

Couldn’t fi nd you. Or the lovely girl. Needed to let you know that the hunters were assembling in the library for the Hunt. Anyway, looks like someone was able to tel you.”

“We were—”

“No, no, no need to explain to me. Just glad you were able to 222

ANDREW FUKUDA

get in here before dawn.” He stares at me, then behind me, gazing get in here before dawn.” He stares at me, then behind me, gazing around. Bemusement creeps into his eyes. “Did you leave the door open? Awfuly bright in here.”

“No, I—”

“You seem ner vous. What’s the matter?”

“No, no. It’s not ner vous ness. I’m just excited, is al. It’s the Hunt, after al. Starts in just a few hours. Five, six hours? Not sure what time it is.”

“More like four hours. Heard that a vicious storm’s coming.

Wil be darkening earlier than usual.” He looks at me. “Don’t lose your head. Keep your wits about you.”

“I know. But it’s hard not to get excited. People would kil to be in my spot.”

“Would they now?”

“Yes. I suppose they would.”

“Good,” he says, nodding. “That’s the mind- set you need.” His eyes fl ick downward to my left. “The FLUNs are under me.

Thought it best to keep them away from the others.”

“Of course.” The attaché cases sit a couple of feet away. Next to

“Of course.” The attaché cases sit a couple of feet away. Next to them, the Scientist’s journal.

“Couldn’t sleep earlier. So I started to read that journal I found on a table.” His eyes pour into mine. “Tel me, one thing I don’t understand—”

Right at that moment, a feline howl shatters the quiet. It’s Abs.

The beam has suddenly sharpened with a violent purity, striking her dangling hand and gouging a hole in her palm. The smel of burning fl esh, then an eruption of ful- throated screams and howls around me as the others awaken. Abs’s eyes are snapped open in raw pain. I turn around. The Director is stil dangling, his eyes looking right at me. His eyes fl ick to the side; he sees the beam shooting straight and pure behind me, and me standing right in front of it, THE HUNT 223

unfazed. Something else enters his eyes besides searing pain: a suspicion, a realization, an accusation.

I’ve been found out, by this beam of light. Of al the things I imagined would be my undoing, never would I have thought it’d be a light beam. I always felt it would be a sneeze or a yawn or a cough that would inevitably expose me. Something beyond my control, a bodily betrayal.

But not this: not something so simple, so pure, beautiful even.

Funny how that is, how it’s the beautiful things in life that betray you in the end.

I pedal backward; my feet hit up against the FLUNs, and I trip over them, sending them careening across the fl oor. I glance up.

The Director is gone. More screams, the heavy thumps of bodies landing, furniture scraped roughly aside, the scrabbling of nails and claws on the wooden fl oor. Then silence.

I pause, waiting for some noise. Then I hear it: a long, meandering howl. From the east wing. They’ve al fl ed there, away from the beam. Then the sound of whispers, colective and intense, accusa-tory. A single pitched wail, now brimming not with fear but with craving, fused with a charged desire. It’s quickly joined by a chorus of others. Panic grips my heart, even as I start sprinting.

They’re regrouping; they’re realizing. I have to move.

I leap to my feet. The beam is now ful strength, a tightrope stretching to the far wal.

Something moves toward me— a fl ash of movement—leap-frogging over furniture and shelves. Just a blur, then it pounces from the top of a shelf with shocking speed. Abs, fl ying through the air with hideous speed. At me.

I close my eyes. I am dead.

Then a dreadful scream explodes out, folowed by the sound of sizzling, the singe of smoke. The sunbeam. She landed right on top 224 ANDREW FUKUDA

of it, and it’s burned a deep canyon across her chest. She’s on the fl oor, on the other side of the beam, arm pressed against her eyes, her mouth torqued in a twisted cry of agony, her upper lip writhing atop her lower lip.

I scurry to my feet, scrambling across the fl oor. An upended table trips me; even as I fal, I catch from the corner of my eye the hazy shapes of others running down the halway toward me, arms clamped over their eyes, their speed almost obscene. Their yelping, hissing screams stroke against my ear drums like razor- sharp fi ngernails.

I hit the fl oor, my head knocking against something hard and metalic. Blood pours out; instantly the snarls ratchet up to the level of the insane.

They leap at me, strangely synchronized, left arms splayed across their faces, right arms pointing at me, razor nails fi rst. And stil synchronized together, their snarls turn to screams as they fal into the beam. As one, they are propeled backward.

An awful, fetid smel of rotting fl esh and burned skin hits my senses. I think to move, but I’m blinded by the blood pouring into my right eye from the cut above my eyebrow. I swipe away the my right eye from the cut above my eyebrow. I swipe away the blood with my sleeve; and as I do, I see the hunters getting back to their feet, their actions herky- jerky with desire. My blood; they’re driven mad by the fresh, overpowering scent of my blood. They come at me again, but wiser now. Instead of trying to punch through the beam, they’re scaling up the wals and crossing the room by way of the ceiling.

That gets me moving, adrenaline surging through me so fast, I almost miss it. A FLUN attaché case. It’s what I banged my head on. And under the case, the Scientist’s journal. Without a thought, I grab it by its twine, the feel of it like the thin tail of an emaciated rat, and stuff it down my shirt. I can feel the wooden spine hubs THE HUNT 225

jutting into my stomach. Then I grab the attaché case and start hauling, the case swinging in my hand. The howls and yips are breaking al around me now, those of pain and those of hot desire.

I sprint for the doors, through the narrow corridor leading into the foyer.

And then.

One of them— Phys Ed— drops right in front of me, a falen icicle of black ice. I pummel through him a milisecond later, catching him by surprise. He reaches for me as I sprint past and brushes my shoulder (did he cut me? did he cut me?), spinning me around.

shoulder (did he cut me? did he cut me?), spinning me around.

And he comes at me even as I’m stil midair, my arms fl ailing, attaché case stil in hand.

The attaché case catches him fl ush, breaking his face as it snaps open, the FLUN inside fl ying through the air. The FLUN skitters across the fl oor.

The impact dazes him momentarily. I dive for the FLUN, grabbing it even as he grabs me by the ankle and starts puling me in, with enough force to almost wrench my leg out of the hip socket. I feel his nails puncturing through my jeans, piercing my skin.

“Gah!”
I scream, hardly conscious that I’m unlocking the safety switch.

He yanks me toward him, has my leg puled up to his face, his mouth opening, fangs bared.

I pul the trigger and the light beam hits me right in the foot.

It’s enough, though, for him to drop me. He cowers back momentarily, then fl ings himself at me.

This time, I hit him square between the eyes. He fals back as if sledgehammered in the face.

Behind him, the others are sprinting toward me.

Behind him, the others are sprinting toward me.

Phys Ed, screaming in pain, leaps back on his feet. Creamy pus gushes out of his forehead. The FLUN needs to be turned up to its 226 ANDREW FUKUDA

highest setting. But there’s no time to fi dget with the settings now: the moment I do, they’l be on me.

Crimson Lips, screaming like a hyena, fl ies at me.

I fi re off the last round, hitting her in the chest. She fals back, clutching her chest, yelping in pain. But then she’s back on her feet, her face twisted awfuly in pain and lust.

“Who wants more?!” I yel.
“Who wants more?!”

They stop in their tracks, their fangs connecting to the ground by a waterfal of drool. Uncertainty in their eyes, mixed with keen lust.

Their heads fl ick sharply back and forth, their teeth snapping and grinding.

“Who wants more?!” It’s al empty bravado. I’ve fi red off the third and last round already. Al that is left is to bluff.

“You?” I yel, pointing the FLUN at Gaunt Man inching toward me. “How ‘bout you?!” I shout as I swing the gun around to the other side at Frily Dress. I’m stepping backward, toward the front doors.

doors.

For every foot I retreat, they advance a yard. Their chortling grows louder, more slippery, individual desire beginning to trump their colective fear. Phys Ed in the front crouches low, readying to pounce. They’re not going to let me retreat much farther.

“You’re the animals! You’re the hepers!” I yel as I spin around, throwing the discharged FLUN at them.

They scream as one, members of an insane choir.

In the end, what saves me is the very thing that threatens to kil me: their insatiable lust for my blood. As Phys Ed in the front leaps up for me, he is puled down by the ones behind. They surge forward, tripping over him. It gives me a two- second head start, and that is al I need.

I sprint toward the exit doors, and fi ve yards out— even as I feel THE HUNT 227

their hands grasping my back, their nails brushing the back of my neck— I leap for the handlebars on the door. The feel of the cool metal in my hand is something I wil never forget. My momentum pushes the handlebar down, the door fl ies open, and a blinding whiteness fi ls my vision. The sting in my eyes is a beautiful pain.

Their screams, once charged with desire, are now suffused with pain and agony. I hear them beat a hasty retreat.

pain and agony. I hear them beat a hasty retreat.

But I’m not done with them. Not by half. I reopen the door— I see a mad skittering away from the light like rats scampering— and prop it open with the attaché case. Enough light fl oods into the library, even to the far wings, to make the remainder of the day sleepless and painful for the hunters inside.

“Sweet dreams, you animals!” I shout as I begin to walk away.

But then I hear a voice, hoarse and brittle with rage, echoing down the foyer like rancid spit racing up a throat. Gaunt Man.

“You think you’re getting away?!” he yels from the darkness inside.

“You think you’ve got us beat, you stupid heper? You think you’re so smart? Hey, you sweaty, smely, singing heper! We’re only getting started! You better run! You hear me? Because come dusk, the Hunt starts. And we’l be pouring out of here to hunt you down, to rip into you, to shred you to pieces. You hear me? You came here for a Hunt?! Wel, a Hunt is what you’re going to get!

You
get
me?

You’re going to get a Hunt!

Everyone is stil slumbering in the main building. My footsteps echo down the dark, empty halways. I pass by the banquet hal. It’s like a bat cave inside. Scores of people hang asleep off the main a bat cave inside. Scores of people hang asleep off the main chandelier, their dark, dangling silhouettes like a putrid clump of clogged hair. Off to the side, hanging off some air ducts, is a group of 228 ANDREW FUKUDA

reporters, their cameras stil slung over their necks, almost touching the fl oor.

Ashley June doesn’t answer when I knock. I push her door open.

BOOK: The Hunt
13.99Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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