The Hunt

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The waxy leaves didn’t let much sunlight through. The muddy footpath was smattered with green tinted light. Ash could smell the damp; the air was heavy with it. She could taste the anticipation of The Hunt. Today, she was an observer. She hadn’t seen this for months. Her forehead was covered in sweat; it was trickling down into her eyes. Or was it blood? The liquid was red, but she felt no pain. The Hunt was coming. She could hear the thunder of hundreds of feet on the bark, cracking twigs and jumping over the bodies that had already fallen.

Ash could almost touch the prey; he was so close, unaware that he would die, very, very soon. He couldn’t hear as well as her. He knew nothing of The Hunt. His head lurched up as he heard The Hunters for the first time. Ash wanted desperately to warn him, to make him run. She crouched under the bramble, hidden entirely from sight of The Hunt. He bolted away, tripping over the plants that gave her cover, lunging and zigzagging as quickly as he could. He could never win. The Hunt was too fast. Too accurate. Too clever. They would catch him. And they would never let him go.

Ash longed to stop them, but she would be ripped to pieces. They would kill her too. No. She couldn’t interfere. This was life. And she was a coward. He darted between two trees and dived into a hidden crevice between one tree and a boulder. Now he was cornered. Hiding wouldn’t put off The Hunt. They were predators. And he was the prey. Ash made a decision. And she jumped out. The Hunt stopped in front of her. Their breath clouded around her face. No one had ever opposed The Hunt before. For the first time in living memory, they were confused. Ash stood for a moment, terrified and horrified at her decision. She shouted hoarsely to the cowering mass in the crevice.
“RUN!”
She turned and sprinted after him. She had made the wrong decision. At this, The Hunt were experts.

They ran though the wood, through the acid burned village, among burned corpses, passing through the stench of death, through the muck and the rubbish of the River Thames. In front, he was shouting, and maybe he was crying. Ash was sobbing. She was an idiot. The Hunt had stopped a while back. The children were still running. Eventually, Ash stopped and looked at herself in a broken shop window. She was covered in blood and mud. Apart from The Hunt, there were only about 100 people left in the acid-corroded city. Once, her Mother had told her that London had been huge, years and years ago. But all Ash could see was the masses of destruction that had exterminated everything in minutes. The fallen, and the dead.


The boy came back to her. His eyes were flicking, pupils dilated; he was terrified out of his mind. She touched his arm. He flinched away. Ash walked away, back to her perch in the forest. She hadn’t dreamed of ever protecting another soul. But she had proved herself, in her own head. She was no coward. She was a new breed of hunter. She was a survivor.





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