Read The Hunt Online

Authors: Andrew Fukuda

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

The Hunt (34 page)

BOOK: The Hunt
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Be quick.

More intensely than ever, I search the plains, hoping to fi nd movement in the diminishing light. But there is nothing. It doesn’t seem to matter how far we ride into the Vast, the blank slate of land is never- changing.

“Keep going, boy!” I shout. But it grows more frustrated, de-railing, its breathing labored, its galop less fl uid. It slows to a stop.

I jump off the bench, grab the clothes. This time, it’s even less re-ceptive, pushing the clothes out of my hands with its muzzle. It stomps its hind hooves into the compacted earth, frustrated. The skies darken. Before too long, the clouds wil cover the sun and the 252 ANDREW FUKUDA

land wil be plunged into darkness. It’l be even more diffi cult to spot the hepers.

“We’ve got to keep tryin—”

The horse lifts its head. A sudden movement; it’s caught something.

Its nostrils, strings of saliva hanging across them, are like dark eyes suddenly seeing. The horse lurches forward. Just in time, I grab a rail and swing back into the carriage, the heper clothes dropping to the ground.

Not that the horse needs them anymore. It galops hard and straight, not a doubt left in its direction. Resolve and urgency thump in the pounding of its hooves, as if to make up for lost time, as if knowing thickening bands threaten to darken the skies.

Ten minutes later, I see them. A tiny line of dots, like ants. “Over there, horsey! Over there!” But its needs no encouragement or direction.

By the time we reach the hepers, they’ve clumped together defensively. I slow the horse, then get off some distance away. I don’t want to come on them too hard or fast.

They look worn and fatigued, and their faces are lined with angst.

When they speak, it is to one another, not to me.

“I told you we should have checked the stable. A carriage would have helped, oh, I don’t know, maybe about six hours ago,” Epap says snidely.

“I did,” Sissy says. “While you were busy gathering up al your

“I did,” Sissy says. “While you were busy gathering up al your precious drawings. The stable was locked. Like it always is.”

“Wel,
he
found a horse and carriage.”

They are al staring at me now, Epap and Sissy with suspicion.

Each of them is carry ing a heavy knapsack, sheathed knives and spears tied to the side, water bottles slung over their shoulders.

And attaché cases, fi ve in al. Dust and sand cake their hair and faces and clothes.

THE HUNT 253

“You must come with me,” I say. My voice is high- pitched with the deceit that lies in my heart.

They stare wordlessly at me.

“Now,” I urge. “There’s little time to waste.”

Epap steps forward. “Where?” he says, his voice barbed.

“Back. Back to the Dome.”

Epap’s mouth drops, then curls into a sneer. “This letter,” he says, reaching into his back pocket, “we got it through the Umbilical this morning. It says that the Dome’s malfunctioned. The light sensor’s damaged. The Dome won’t close at dusk.”

damaged. The Dome won’t close at dusk.”

“So they told you about a shelter. Gave you a map and told you to make haste. That it’s about six hours away.” I pause. “What if I tel you that’s al a lie? The Dome’s not broken. There is no sanctuary.” It’s easy to speak with conviction— everything I’ve said so far is true. And they sense it, too. Panic fl oods their eyes, tightens their shoulders. I see little Ben look with worry into the distance. No shelter in sight, although by now they should be on top of it. They al know it.

Sissy, who’s been quiet up until now, speaks. “Why are they doing this?”

“Get in the carriage. I can tel you as we ride back. But we have to hurry.”

“I’m not getting into that carriage— which might very wel become a coffi n— until you tel us what’s going on,” Epap snarls at me.

So I tel them. Al about the Heper Hunt. Why they’ve been given weapons. The reason there’s been so much activity over the past few days at the Institute.

“Bolocks,” Epap says. “Would you listen to the nonsense this guy’s spewing?”

Sissy, staring intently at me, says, “Go on.”

“We have to go back to the Dome. It’s not broken.” And now 254 ANDREW FUKUDA

begins the lie. “You’l be safe there. We get there before sundown, the wals wil come up. Imagine the surprise on their faces when they rush out for the Heper Hunt and you’re al right there roast-ing marshmalows, safely cocooned inside the Dome.”

Epap spins around at the others, looks at Sissy. “We can’t believe him. If he’s lying and we go back, then we’re dead. The sun goes down, the Dome doesn’t come up, we’re toast.”

“And if I’m teling the truth, and you don’t go back, then you’re dead out here.”

“We can’t trust him!”

“How do you think your parents died?” I explode. “It wasn’t on a fruit expedition. It was the Heper Hunt, they were sent out to be hunted! Just like you’re being sent out right now! Can’t you see?

Isn’t it obvious? The very same thing is happening again. A letter sending you out into the Vast, out of the safety of the Dome. How can you be so gulible?”

Sissy’s face is torn with confl ict.

“Sissy, don’t listen to him!” Epap cries. “He could have told us

“Sissy, don’t listen to him!” Epap cries. “He could have told us about this supposed Heper Hunt yesterday, but he didn’t, did he?

Why should we believe anything he’s told us? I bet he’s not even the Scientist’s replacement!”

At the mention of the Scientist, an idea springs into my head.

“Wait here.” I run back to the carriage and fetch the journal. “This journal was written by the Scientist. It’s al about the Heper Hunt.

Now you tel me if I’m lying.” I hand the journal to Sissy, who turns it over in her hands, shoots me a suspicious look, then opens to the fi rst page. The others huddle around her.

They are quiet as they read, their bodies tensing as the minutes go by. Sissy’s expression turns from horror to disbelief to anger.

“Now do you believe me?” I ask softly.

THE HUNT 255

None of them speaks. Finaly, David steps forward. “I don’t know who to believe: you or this letter. But according to the map on the letter, the shelter is within reach; and now that we have a carriage, we’l be able to cover a lot more distance quickly. If we can’t fi nd it, then we’l head back to the Dome.”

“That map’s a crock. There is no shelter.”

“That map’s a crock. There is no shelter.”

It darkens, suddenly. I spin around, look at the sun. A thin cloud, like intestinal entrails, drags across it.

Be quick.

“C’mon, let’s go!” I say, my voice rising.

“No!” Epap says.

“Look at my map, then! In the journal. There’s no sanctuary in there. It’s got every fl ora and fauna and stone and rock, but doesn’t it strike you as odd that he’d miss something as obvious as a shelter? You go if you want, I’m done arguing with you, that shelter is nothing more than a mirage.” It’s a total bluff— I need them to return with me— but I’m out of options at this point.

Sissy lifts her head from the journal map. “We do what David said.

Go look for the sanctuary, then head back if we can’t fi nd it.

That way—”

“There’s no time!” I exclaim. “We have to make haste right now.

Do you see those clouds? It’s going to be as black as night within the hour. And you don’t need me to spel out what that means.”

I’m not bluffi ng here. Ominous bands of dark clouds are racing across the sky, threatening to pul darkness down prematurely, across the sky, threatening to pul darkness down prematurely, hours before dusk.

“You shut up!” shouts Epap, his face red with fury. “You have no say here!” He steps toward me, his bony arms stiff and crooked at the elbows.

“Take it easy,” I caution him.

256 ANDREW FUKUDA

But he keeps coming. “We don’t even need you.” He fl ashes a look back at the hepers, waves his arm beckoningly to them.

“C’mon, let’s just take the carriage for ourselves.”

I reach out for his arm, but he brushes my arm aside.

“Stop it.” Spoken quietly but with command. “We al stay together.

Every one of us.” Sissy is looking past us, west, back to where the Institute lies.

“We can’t trust him,” Epap says.

“We can and we wil. He’s right. There’s no time. Those clouds mean business.”

Epap spits into the ground. “Why are you so quick to believe him?”

She looks at him for a long time, as if giving him a chance to come She looks at him for a long time, as if giving him a chance to come up with the obvious answer on his own. “Because,” she says, walking to the carriage, “he didn’t have to come out here, did he?”

Ben sits next to me on the driver’s seat. The other four squeeze into the carriage as we race back to the Institute. They are quiet in the back, gazing out the windows. Sissy is nose- deep in the journal, studying it intensely.

“What’s the horse’s name?” Ben asks.

“I don’t know.”

“Maybe you and I can think of a name together.”

“I don’t think so. Let’s just be quiet, okay?” I say tersely. I’m not in the mood to talk. Something about leading a boy to his death kils conversation.

He’s quiet for only a little while. “So glad you came. As soon as I saw the dust cloud, I knew it had to be you. Everyone else was freaking out, they thought it was one of them. I knew it couldn’t be, not with the sun out.” He gazes awestruck at the horse. “So awe-THE HUNT 257

some that you came by horse. We’ve been trying forever to steal a horse from the stable.”

Despite myself, I’m curious. “Why’s that?”

Despite myself, I’m curious. “Why’s that?”

“Sissy wants out. She hates the Dome. Cals it a prison.”

“Why didn’t you al just escape years ago? Dome wals come down, you get away, as far as you can.”

Ben shakes his head with too much sadness for a boy his age.

“Wouldn’t be able to get far enough. Even in the summer, when the sun’s out fourteen hours, we’d only be able to travel forty miles, tops.

Once night comes, they’d only take three hours to cover that distance. Besides, there’s nowhere to go. It’s al just open land, endless.”

The wind has picked up again, stirring the clouds into a more ominous hue. More plumes of sand sail across the plains, ghosts scurrying as if afraid of their own shadows. At times the wind catches the carriage at an angle, whistling through it with an eerie jubilation.

An unbroken swath of clouds moves across the face of the sun.

Sunshine peeks through the gauzy haze, then disappears altogether.

The Vast plummets into the gray darkness of a day gone dead.

Ben places his hand on my thigh, afraid.

I look down at his hand, chubby and guileless. We hit a bump and he scoots even closer to me.

“It’s okay,” I tel him.

“What?”

“It’s okay,” I shout, “everything’s going to be okay.”

He looks up at me, his lips drawn tight across his face, his eyes tearing up. Two streaks cut across his face, across the caked dirt.

He nods once, twice, his eyes never leaving mine.

Something breaks inside me. I tear my eyes away.

Be quick.

It’s one thing to plan for something like this, another to execute it.

258 ANDREW FUKUDA

Never forget.

I pul up on the reins, stopping the horse. Ben looks quizzicaly at me. “Hey,” I say, staring straight ahead, “you need to go into the carriage.”

“There’s no room.”

“Yes. There is. I need to be alone for this last bit, okay?”

“Why have we stopped?” Epap says, leaning out of the window.

“He’s joining you al,” I say matter- of- factly. “There’s no room up here.” I jump down, indicating to Ben to folow suit.

“There’s no room in here,” Epap replies. “Seems like you’ve done plenty fi ne so far.”

“Why don’t you shut your trap?” I yel.

They pour out of the carriage at that, tension fi ling the air between us. I look at David and Jacob standing by Epap. “Do you always need their help in your fi ghts?” I ask.

“Shut up!” Epap yels.

“Easy, Epap,” Sissy says, climbing out the carriage, “he’s just trying to provoke you.”

“And do you always need her around teling you what to do?” I ask him.

He’s gathering his body to throw himself at me— I see his legs He’s gathering his body to throw himself at me— I see his legs bend, his mouth downturn— when a horn sounds across the plains.

Coming west, from the direction of the Institute.

For a moment, we’re so completely stunned that we simply stare at one another. Then, slowly, we turn our heads.

We see nothing across the plains. Just a gray band of darkness, sitting on the horizon.

Then another blast of the horn, a forlorn, meandering sound.

“What’s happening?” Epap asks. “What’s that sound?”

Al eyes turn to me.

“The Hunt,” I say. “It’s begun. They’re coming.”

THE HUNT 259

“It’s just our ears playing tricks on us, wind hitting those boulders,”

Epap says, pointing to our left at fi ve large boulders piled messily on one another.

Nobody responds.

“There,” Ben says, standing on the driver’s seat, his fi nger pointing out like a weather vane. Directly ahead of us, in the direction of the out like a weather vane. Directly ahead of us, in the direction of the Institute. His voice is neutral, almost casual.

“I don’t see anything, Ben,” Sissy says.

“Over there!” he says, his voice getting more excited now, afraid.

And then we al see it. In the far distance, a cloud of dust, puff-ing upward.

BOOK: The Hunt
12.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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