Read The Hunt Online

Authors: Andrew Fukuda

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

The Hunt (36 page)

BOOK: The Hunt
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“And then what?”

The Director leans back like a wolf howling at the night sky, scratching his wrist with rabid delirium. “Did you realy say, ‘And then what?’ What does it matter to you? You’re dead!” He pauses, studying me. “Oh, are you concerned about your heper buddies?

THE HUNT 267

Don’t you worry about them. We’l get to them eventualy. Even in this large desert, we’l fi nd them.”

They don’t know where the other hepers are,
I think.

“And then we go back to your girlfriend and tel her what we did to you!” Gaunt Man sneers, drool now leaking out of his mouth.

“We wil do that,” the Director cuts in, shooting a cold look at Gaunt Man with the irritated expression of a man deprived of the punch line he’s been chomping at the bit to tel. “And, eventualy, we wil do the same to her. Limb by limb. The Savoring Game.

Oh, I quite like that name, actualy, I think that’s the name that’s going to stick.”

The circle encloses on me even more. Their bodies percolate with ravenous excitement now, heads bobbing up and down, arms twitching at their side, weird nipping sounds escaping their lips.

“Who do you think wil scream louder, you or her? She’s got a lot of passion, that girl, so perhaps she’l scream louder. But then again, she’s got quite a bit of spine, wouldn’t you say, what with that stunt she puled? Not at al like you, running away like a squirrel and leaving her al by her lonesome.”

Abs cries out in frustration and impatience, “Enough talking, let us have at him already!” Her tongue darts across her scabbed lower lip, hard and insistent like a calus fi ler. “Let me in on him!”

She crouches low, readying herself.

The Director lifts his head, scans the scenery, an establishing shot for the viewers back home. “Very wel, then, remember to take for the viewers back home. “Very wel, then, remember to take only the left leg and nothing else. Everyone else stay in line,” he says, tapping the FLUN. “You’l have your turn. And now, for the plea sure of the Most Excelent Ruler and for the delighting of his good citizens, I now—”

And even before he’s fi nished speaking, Abs is bounding toward me, on al fours like a rabid hyena, her hair streaming behind her 268 ANDREW FUKUDA

in impossibly straight lines. And though she is moving with lightning quickness, everything seems to slow down. I see everything: her lips puled back, her face nothing more than a yawning black hole of sharp teeth, her eyes burnished with a red glow.

And I see the other hunters, a split second later, leaping forward as wel, their bodies unable to resist, their rear legs uncoiling like a cheetah’s, propeling their streamlined bodies through the air, their nails and claws fi nding traction in the desert gravel as they land and then push off again, sailing toward me with a grace that belies their violent intentions.

I see the Director, his face bland but eyes fi led with seething anger, lifting the FLUN at Crimson Lips and Abs, his hand shaking with rage and surprise.

And Abs launches herself at me for the fi nal time, arms stretched out, soaring through the air, saliva and snot fl ailing behind her, her opened mouth turning sideways as it homes in on my Adam’s opened mouth turning sideways as it homes in on my Adam’s apple.

A harsh beam of light, then a brief white blindness. A scream pierces the night. The stench of burning fl esh fi ls my nose. A second later, I see Abs curled on the ground, screaming, a hole burning where her colarbone is. Used to be.

The Director, staring dumbly at his FLUN, does not understand.

Another beam of light shoots out, from
behind
and
above
me.

From someone standing on the boulder. This one hits Crimson Lips in her upper thigh just as she is taking off for me.
“Cha!”
she yels, reaching down uselessly with her hand. Smoke shoots out from her thigh.

“Gene! Get down!”
screams Sissy.

And I fal to my knees just as Frily Dress soars toward me, her momentum carry ing her over me, her nails ripping the back of my THE HUNT 269

shirt. She lands on my other side with an effi cient somersault, starts coming at me again instantly.

Another shot from above, this one wildly off target, hitting empty desert ground.

From the periphery of my vision, I see a dark shape— Gaunt Man

— leaping up the boulders. “Jacob!” I shout. “Watch your side, he’s fl anking us on your side!”

Frily Dress is leaping toward me, her snarling mouth like a smile.

Someone screams behind me— David? Ben?— naked fear ringing out.

Another beam shoots out, this one from the far side of the boulder, a complete misfi re into the sky. I hear Epap—“Sissy! Help me over here”— his voice whittled with fear.

Then a series of fl ashes creates a strobe- light effect: Frily Dress’s lunge at me is staccato- like and jagged. And then she is suddenly fl ying above me, descending with her terrible size and weight. Her eyes are fi xed on mine, intense and focused as a lover’s.

A circle of light fl ashes from above; her head is instantly haloed by a nimbus of light. Halfway down, her body goes limp.

Her body crushes over mine, sagging. I pry her off, the smel of charred fl esh rancid and nauseating. Smoke bilows out from the back of her head. I glance up. Sissy stares down at me, then turns to Epap at the sound of his voice: “I’m out, Sissy, I’m out the fi rst FLUN!”

I spin around, scan the scene before me. Only Frily Dress remains prostrate on the ground; Abs and Crimson Lips are leaping to their feet now, their bodies scorched with burns but adrenaline and anger and hunger propeling them off the ground. They’re running to the boulder, launching themselves up.

Jacob, atop one of the boulders, is bent over his FLUN, uselessly 270 ANDREW FUKUDA

puling and puling on the trigger. The safety switch, he’s forgotten to disengage the safety. He hasn’t fi red off a single round; that’s one reason the plan is failing so miserably. Yards away, Gaunt Man has crested the top of the boulder, is beginning to leap for Jacob.

Nothing is going as planned. Because of the hepers’ inability to use the FLUNs, al advantage is gone: a crisp ambush from the hidden recesses of the boulders— gone; the element of surprise— gone; an overpowering, coordinated attack— gone. My plan is now torn to shreds. As we al likely wil be soon, unless something is done.

And quickly.

“Jacob!” I scream at him. “Throw me the FLUN!” He turns to me, fear in his eyes. From the other side of the boulders, panic-ridden beams fl ash uselessly in quick succession— it’s Epap, sense-lessly wasting al the rounds in his second and last FLUN. In the fl ashes, I see tears streaking down Jacob’s face, his mouth twisted in I see tears streaking down Jacob’s face, his mouth twisted in panic. “
Now,
Jacob, throw me the FLUN!”

He fl ings it to me; it’s a perfect throw. It has to be. I disengage the safety, fi ring off a beam even as my arm is stil swinging upward. It shoots out, hitting Gaunt Man square on the nose. But the FLUN is stil set at its lowest setting. Gaunt Man is merely knocked off his feet, landing on his back, stunned. He’s already getting up, coming again at Jacob.

I reset the FLUN to its highest setting, look up. Gaunt Man is almost on top of Jacob now. I fi re off another round. The beam misses left of Gaunt Man by about a yard. He spins, snarls at me. I aim right between his eyes and shoot my last round. The beam fl ies just over his head, a few inches too high. But he’s blinded momentarily. For a few seconds, anyway.

“Get off the boulders!” I yel, tossing away the expended FLUN.

“Everyone, get off now. Regroup down here.”

And I see the hepers tumbling down, their faces taut with fear.

THE HUNT 271

Epap lands near me; I grab him by the colar, lifting him up.

“Where’re your FLUNs?” I ask.

He shakes his head grimly.

Sissy is right behind, leaping down from the top of the boulder, puling Jacob roughly down with her. They land in a pile; Epap and I are already hauling them to their feet.

No one has a FLUN.

We start retreating immediately, away from the boulder. Epap grabs the spear I dropped from the ground, then we start sprinting from the boulders.

The hunters are leaping off the boulders now. Gaunt Man lands on the stil- prostrate Frily Dress, letting her motionless fl accid body cushion his fal. Al three hunters are FLUN- wounded, but their pain only feeds into their blood thirst.

“Now, David. We need you now!”
Sissy yels into the air.

The hunters stoop down, then start racing toward us with ear-piercing shrieks.

“Where is he!” Epap screams, running to the right, searching.

“David!”

“We need FLUNs,” I shout.

“Screw the FLUNs,” Sissy yels, and reaches down to the dagger strap tied around her waist. In a heartbeat, she’s slid out a dagger; in one motion she pushes me aside, whips her hand away from the strap, and fl ings her arm out, across her chest from left to right.

Just as her arm reaches ful stretch, the dagger fl ies out from under her hand, palm facing down. The dagger shoots out, a blur of light.

She doesn’t pause to see if she’s hit the mark; instantly she’s reaching down for another dagger, unstrapping and fl inging, then unstrapping and fl inging yet again. Three daggers in the air, slicing through the night toward the three hunters charging at us.

We need a FLUN,
I think.
Daggers will do nothing—

272 ANDREW FUKUDA

The fi rst dagger hits Crimson Lips in the leg. To my surprise, she screams in pain, tumbling to the ground, clutching her thigh, the hilt of the dagger jutting out.

The second dagger catches Abs in the shoulder. She spins in the air as if by a violent whiplash, then crashes ungainly to the ground, squealing. The dagger has pierced right through her body, the blade slicing out her back under her shoulder blade.

How is she doing this? How can the daggers be wreaking such
devastating force?

And then I realize what Sissy has done. She has aimed at the very And then I realize what Sissy has done. She has aimed at the very points on each hunter where the FLUNs have already infl icted signifi cant damage. In the X mark of FLUN- punctured soggy fl esh and disintegrating muscle and milky yelow discharge. In Abs’

colarbone, in Crimson Lips’ thigh. The only spots where a dagger could infl ict signifi cant damage.

But the third dagger. It’s headed straight for Gaunt Man’s nose.

And he’s already seen what’s happened to the other two hunters.

He ducks down in the last milisecond; the dagger sails over his head.

And without breaking stride, he stil comes at us. Specifi caly, he’s charging at Sissy, trying to reach her before she can throw another dagger.

And he’s going to make it, by a long margin. Sissy is fl uid and quick as she reaches down to her hip for a dagger, but not fast enough, not by half. She’s unstrapping the dagger, has her fi ngers on the blade, when Gaunt Man leaps at us. Sissy looks up; her face fals.

She knows she’s too late.

And right then, off to the side, Epap heaves the spear.

It hums through the night air, an awesome throw bereft of hesitation. It bludgeons right into Gaunt Man’s nose, dead- on.

hesitation. It bludgeons right into Gaunt Man’s nose, dead- on.

A horrible squishing sound. Gaunt Man’s head snaps back, his legs fl y out from under him; fl ipped, he hangs frozen midair, his THE

HUNT 273

body paralel to the ground, then crashes down. The spear has impaled his face, ridiculous as the fabled Pinocchio nose.

I grab Jacob and Epap and start hauling them backward. Sissy has bought us a short reprieve, nothing more. She knows it, too.

“David!”
she yels. “We need you
now
!”

And then we hear it, fi naly, the sound of hooves striking the ground, the carriage grinding toward us.

“What took you so long?!” Epap yels.

“The stupid horse,” David says, his face petrifi ed at the sight of the hunters sprawling on the ground, groaning. “It took off in the wrong direction, it was trying to get away.”

“Let’s go, please let’s just go.” It’s Ben in the carriage, smeared tears glistening on his cheekbones.

“It’s okay, we’re going to leave now, okay, everything’s fi ne,”

Epap says.

Epap says.

We’re al piling in. Something is wrong, though, something I can’t put my fi nger on.

“Wait,” I shout. I grab Epap’s shoulder to stop him from getting in.

“Get out!”

“What is it?” His eyes aren’t angry, as I thought they might be.

Instead, fear dots his eyes.

I spin around, trying to fi gure something out. My eyes catch Sissy’s eyes. They’re a refl ection of my own: a sense of impending danger, that we’ve forgotten something—

Someone.

“The Director,” I whisper.

I spin around, eyes scanning the darkness. Nothing. “Nobody move,” I whisper.

We al freeze, barely able to breathe. He’s out there, behind the wal of darkness, watching us. I
know
it. Waiting for us to expend al our weapons, to tire ourselves out on the other hunters.

Watching 274 ANDREW FUKUDA

and waiting for us to crowd into the carriage; once we’re packed in like sheep in a pen, he’l fl y in for an enclosed orgy of frenzied in like sheep in a pen, he’l fl y in for an enclosed orgy of frenzied feasting, his teeth and claws slashing wildly like razor blades, turning the carriage into a bloody coffi n.

Sissy knows it, too. Without moving, she whispers, “David, give me the FLUN we left with you.”

BOOK: The Hunt
5.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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