Read The Hunt Online

Authors: Andrew Fukuda

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

The Hunt (39 page)

BOOK: The Hunt
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Gradualy they leave, just a few at fi rst, then, with a colective howl that lasts over a minute, fi led with the rage of unconsummated desire, they turn as one and sprint back. Back to the Institute, back to the cloistered darkness within its wals.

We decide to go on shifts throughout the day: two working the poles, one on lookout. When not on a shift, we sleep in the 290

ANDREW FUKUDA

cabin— or are supposed to, anyway— a simple shacklike structure built of wood, opened on the front end.

They let me have the fi rst shift off, but I’m too wired to sleep. I spend my time dousing my shirt in the river and letting the horse chomp down on the shirt for water. Like the others, I keep scanning the Vast for signs of movement, even though I know the hot and bright sun is protection enough. An hour later, my legs eventualy tire and I lie down in the cabin. Sleep fl itters in and out like a butterfl y with a missing wing: lightly, erraticaly.

But when I awaken, it is late afternoon. They’ve let me sleep through two shifts. Next to me, Ben and Epap are snoring away, Ben murmuring incoherently. Sissy is standing at the front on watch duty, and I join her.

“They’l be back to night,” she says.

I nod. “And tomorrow night. And the night after that, maybe.”

She runs her arm across her nose. “We better hope this river goes on. If it comes to an end today, tomorrow . . .”

She doesn’t need to fi nish her sentence.

We are quiet for a while.

“Wil they ever stop coming after us?”

“No.” I stare out at the eastern mountains. “So long as they know we’re out here, they wil keep coming. They’l never stop.

They’l build halfway sanctuaries to shelter in the daytime, use them like stepping- stones, gradualy make their way to us.”

She takes a drink from her cup. Looks out into the plains. “We can stop in the daytime,” she says, “for food. If we see any game, we can hunt it down. We need food.”

“We have weapons?”

“David grabbed a spear. I have my daggers. That’s al we have.”

“That’s al we had time for,” I say.

“That’s al we had time for,” I say.

“We could have done better.
I
could have done better. I didn’t THE HUNT 291

grab a single thing. Even Epap grabbed the Scientist’s Journal. And Jacob grabbed Epap’s bag. Not much in it, just some clothes and his sketchbook, but at least he grabbed
something
.”

“It was pretty crazy,” I say softly. “There wasn’t any time at al.”

The water laps against the side of the boat, a rhythmic knocking.

She stares down at her hands, shuffl es her feet a little. “Thank you for going back for Ben,” she says, then walks to the back of the boat.

And when nightfal arrives, they come again, even more in number, ravenous and fi led with a hatred I didn’t know was possible. With hordes of them crowding the bank, the river is transformed into a hideous half- tunnel of torment. We are up al night, watchful and afraid. I worry about the river, that it wil narrow or even end. But it never does, not this night, anyway. And when the moon dips and the skies begin to lighten, their shrieks come to an end. One by one, then in a colective cry, they turn and leave.

The sun arises, and the landscape has changed overnight. Instead of the dour brown silt of the desert, green patches of grass steal into the scenery. By noon, the landscape has evolved into a lush green pasture, daffodils and rhododendrons scattered here and green pasture, daffodils and rhododendrons scattered here and there.

Large trees clump together, and a prairie dog or two is sighted.

We dock the boat. The horse is the most grateful for the change, bounding so fast into the green pastures that we think it’s gone for good.

But it’s only hungry; it stays close to us the whole time, chomping away at the grass. When we leave an hour later, al of us eager to put distance between us and them, no matter how inviting the land here might be, it whinnies and trots back to the boat.

292 ANDREW FUKUDA

They arrive that night many hours after dusk. It is taking them that much longer to reach us now. And the group is reduced in number, only the youn gest and fi ttest among them, no more than a few dozen. They stay for only a couple of hours before they are forced to leave in the dark, hours before dawn, the moon and stars stil shining.

I’m on watch duty when the sun rises. A subdued orange, stil dim enough to stare at directly, peeking just over the eastern mountains.

“Is that it?” Ben, groggy- eyed, walks up to me. “Wil they come back? Have we seen the last of them?”

Yes, we’ve seen the last of them,
I am about to tel him. But I
Yes, we’ve seen the last of them,
I am about to tel him. But I have not forgotten, even now, that below this green earth, beyond the reach of this sun, and away from the gentle brooking of water, waits a girl in cold and darkness who once took my hand into hers.

“Have we?” he asks again.

I fl ick my eyes away, unable to answer.

That afternoon, we dock again. David has seen a rabbit; sure enough, within ten minutes of hunting, he spears one, a fat, gray-and- white hare. He sprints back to us, his smile wide, holding up the bunny like a trophy. Sissy glances at the sun. There’s stil time, she says. Let’s build a fi re and have a feast today. Ben jumps up and down with joy, his voice barking out across the meadows.

Everyone sets to work. Sissy and David start skinning the rabbit.

Ben and Jacob set off looking for fi rewood, but there is little to fi nd. Just some dead grass, a few branches. Epap is furiously rub-THE HUNT 293

bing two branches together, trying to get a spark. I stand about, trying to look busy. There is some talk of breaking off parts of the boat, but that is quickly shot down.

“My sketchbook,” Epap suggests. “We can burn that. One page at a time.”

“Are you sure?” David asks.

“It’s fi ne,” Epap answers, and gets up.

“I’l get it,” I say, trying to be useful. “In your bag, right?” I run off before he can respond.

His tassel bag is in the corner of the cabin. I undo the strap and fl ip open the fl ap. The sketchbook, its leather cover pockmarked with age, is large; I have to twist it out of the bag. A gust of wind sifts through the pages of the sketchbook, opening to a page with a drawing of the Dome. I pick up the sketchbook. He’s a fi ne artist, I’l give him that much, his lines clean and his strokes restrained but expressive. I turn the page, then a few more. Almost al are portraits of the hepers, one on each page, their names written at the top. David.

Jacob. Ben. Sissy. Most of them Sissy. As she cooks, reads a book, runs with a spear, washes clothes at the pond. Asleep in bed, her eyes closed, her face soft and peaceful. I start fl ipping toward the front, going back in time. The hepers, in their portraits, get more youthful.

“C’mon, Gene, what’s taking you so long?” Epap shouts, his voice afar.

“Be right there.” I turn over the page, am about to slam the sketchbook shut, when something catches my eye.

sketchbook shut, when something catches my eye.

A different name at the top of the page. This one reads: “The Scientist.”

I look down at the portrait . . .

And the journal fals from my hands.

It’s my father.

Ac know ledg ments

I WOULD LIKE to offer thanks to certain individuals who have supported and encouraged me over the years: My teachers: Mr.

Pope of King George V School, and Professor Dan McCal of Cornel University. Their love for stories was in-toxicating and infectious.

Early supporters of my writing career: Terry Goodman, Peter Gordon, and Many Ly.

Coleagues and friends from the Nassau County District At-torney’s Offi ce, especialy: Tammy Smiley, Robert Schwartz, Douglas Nol, Jason Richards, and Mehmet Gokce.

Catherine Drayton, who is amazing, and who has been everything I ever hoped for in an agent, and more; the Inkwel Manage-ment team, in par tic u lar: Lyndsey Blessing, Charlie Olsen, and Kristan team, in par tic u lar: Lyndsey Blessing, Charlie Olsen, and Kristan Palmer.

My wonderful editor, Rose Hiliard, whose keen eye, sage advice, and warm support make me want to high- fi ve myself every day; my publisher, Matthew Shear, for making me feel not only welcomed but special at St. Martin’s Press.

296 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

My two sons, John and Chris, who broaden, deepen, and en-rich my life; and, above al, Ching- Lee, to whom this book is dedi-cated.

BOOK: The Hunt
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