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Rainsford's Last Adventure
Rainsford’s Last Adventure
“On guard Rainsford...” The last words of the general still rang in Rainsford’s head. He remembered staring into Zaroff’s black eyes, so dark they were like a night without stars, and watched as they widened in surprise as they came to realize how quickly the hunter can turn into the hunted. Rainsford watched as the life drained out of them, and the general fell to the floor, dead. The blood from the general’s head dripped to the floor, a stark contrast to the white of his hair.
After firing the killing shot, Rainsford stood for a moment, and swayed a little. His fingers were still curled around the trigger, though he had lowered the pistol. It was not easy concealing it in his sleeve, or shifting Ivan’s dead bulk so he could retrieve it for that matter. It was good that the room had been filled with shadows, else the general might have noticed.
Rainsford was like this for some time, his thoughts swirling around in his head. He did not move until the rays from the rising sun filled up the room with colors of oranges, reds and purples, signaling that it was a new day. He shook himself out of his stupor and went into the general’s ornate bathroom to shower, as if the water could wash away all that has happened to him the past week. It was there that he actually began to wonder what he was going to do next. Now that I’ve won the game, how am I supposed to get off this island, thought Rainsford.
He continued to think about such things as he walked down Zaroff’s stone steps, out of the enormous palatial chateau. Rainsford gazed at the labyrinth of vines in the jungle and the crashing waves of the sea off into the distance, and leaned against the leering gargoyle that had been there when he first arrived so many years ago. “Maybe there’s a boat somewhere on this island...of course if I do acquire one, I have no maps! I have no idea how to get home,” Rainsford said to himself, for he doubted the gargoyle could actually hear him. Although, he wouldn’t be all that surprised considering the events that recently unfolded.
He was looking at the sea, lost in his contemplations, when he saw something moving. It was a black dot, as small as his fingernail, and it was growing bigger. He blinked rapidly, sure that the dot would go away. But it was still there! If he focused closely, he could make out the distinct shape of the mast of a ship. “I can leave this island from that ship! I just need to get them to come to me!” exclaimed Rainsford, weaving his way around trees and vines, making his way to the surf. He collected tall branches from the jungle, working with a fervor that hadn’t existed a couple of minutes ago. Quickly, he put the piles of branches upright and set them ablaze, creating smoke signals to attract the ship. It was a fine idea, no doubt a skill he picked up in all of his years of hunting, but it was of little use. The ship was headed toward the island already, and paid little attention to the tendrils of flames spiraling into the sky.
To avoid being crushed by rocks, the ship released a barnacle encrusted anchor, sending it plunging into the sea. The vessel came to a stop, just a little bit away from the jagged rocks that sent many sailors to their deaths. Rainsford watched as figured lowered themselves into lifeboats and rowed away from the ship and towards the beach. As they deftly navigated themselves around the rocks, he thought he could recognize someone in the boat, but pushed the thought away. After all that he has been through, it was natural to want to see a familiar face.
The crew members approached the sand, and climbed out of the lifeboat. As they approached him, Rainsford realized that he had been right. “Whitney!” he exclaimed, running toward his oldest friend and most trusted hunting companion. However, a shadow passed over Whitney’s face at the sound of his voice, and caused Rainsford to falter a little bit, for he had never seen his companion have a countenance like that before. “Whitney, it’s me,” he said, surprised. “Sanger Rainsford! It is such a relief to see you, my friend! This island is evil, and I cannot tell you how overjoyed I am to be able to leave it once and for all.” Whitney’s bad expression vanished as he said, “Rainsford what a surprise! I thought by the time we got here, you would be dead. Well I am...thrilled to see that I have been wrong. Have you been by yourself this whole time?”
“Nobody lives on this island anymore,” Rainsford replied. Whitney must have noticed something was wrong, and he changed the subject. He offered his hunting partner to come aboard his new ship, and Rainsford eagerly agreed. The thought of leaving the island was such a joy, that Rainsford had to blink back a few tears, but he would have denied that fact if anyone had brought it up.
Once they were on the ship, Whitney informed Rainsford about the past events that had transpired over the last days. Apparently, by the time that they had noticed Rainsford’s disappearance, it would have been too late to rescue him so the crew wanted to go ahead to Rio. Rainsford thought that was uncharacteristic for his friends, but he didn’t interrupt Whitney. The hunter continued to explain that he reluctantly let the crew go, and he rented another boat, certain that Rainsford was still out there somewhere. “Good thing I came back…who know what might have happened to you,” said Whitney.
Rainsford forced a smile to his face, but he couldn’t shake the apprehension growing inside him. However, he let Whitney lead him into the eating area and sat down on a bench that seemed as hard as a rock, while the two men conversed. Soft whispers filled the room that was broken up by knives’ squeal as the cook sharpened them while narrowing his eyes at Rainsford.
Once the two were done conversing, Whitney walked over to Rainsford and sat next to him on the bench. They sat in silence until the cook brought out a simple meal for the two of them. As they ate, they made a light chat, for Rainsford was not up to talking. He avoided the meat on his plate, for he empathized with the poor beast, and thinking it was too soon for him to be able to enjoy the taste.
When they were finished, Whitney left Rainsford to his own devices while he went to attend to matters regarding to Rainsford’s safe passage home. Rainsford desperately wanted to succumb into a deep sleep, but something told him he should investigate the ship.
He walked into several storage rooms filled with wooden crates, and stepped on a couple of sacks of flour that were haphazardly arranged on the distressed floor. The crew’s quarters were nothing special with bunk beds and chests as the only furniture and several articles of clothing strewn about. Rainsford finally came to an ornate door that looked like it was made out mahogany, so polished that he could see a reflection of himself. Curious, he pushed open the door. It was clearly a room of someone important. There was an elegant canopy bed with intricate designs weaved into the curtains. Off to the left was a huge desk, with charts and letters organized in neat piles.
Rainsford meandered over to the desk and gave it a cursory look. He stopped, however, when he thought he saw a familiar seal on a letter. He picked it up, and gave an involuntary gasp when he saw his name written in an elegant script. His eyes widened as he understood what the letter said. It was to Whitney from none other than the general Zaroff!
My dear friend Whitney, it said, I have become most bored with my quarry recently and I do look forward to the challenge that you have planned for me. Sanger Rainsford is a most esteemed hunter and I am pleased with the excitement he will bring. Hopefully I can expect him soon. Try to be as inconspicuous as possible, for it would be no fun if he knows what is in store. A week after you drop him off, you may return to collect your much earned profit. I look forward to business with you in the future. –Zaroff.
Rainsford’s body turned to ice, and let the letter fall out of his hands. Whitney planned for me to be murdered in cold blood! He was in league with Zaroff! He suddenly came to the realization that he was no longer safe on this ship. He needed to get out!
Rainsford silently slipped stealthily out of the room, and strode into one of the hallways, wincing as his footsteps caused the wood floor to let out a squeak. His heart was racing, and sweat began to accumulate on his forehead. It is bad enough being hunted, but being betrayed by your best friend is many times worse. Rainsford encountered no one on his walk, and climbed up the ladder and out into the deck of the ship. The bright sunlight caused him to blink, and he did his best to avoid making eye contact with the crew. Rainsford knew he had to leave, but he had no plan. He cast his eyes around to find something that could aid him, for his desperation for escape was almost leading to hysteria. Rainsford’s eyes landed on the lifeboat and he did his best to casually walk over to it. He was going to climb in when his instinct, honed from decades of hunting, caused him to duck.
Something flew past the spot where his head had been seconds before. It was Whitney, holding a gun, with a feral gleam in his eyes. “Rainsford, I believe that you’ve been reading things you shouldn’t,” said Whitney in an eerily calm voice. He indicated a letter in his left hand, but Rainsford didn’t look away from the gun notched in the other. “Now that you know my little secret, I think I will have to kill you sooner than I had planned.”
Rainsford’s heart was a beating drum, and he began to shake. His throat was like it was filled with cotton, but he managed to speak. “Why?” he asked. Whitney replied in a mocking voice, “Wasn’t it obvious? You would take me on your hunting trips, and every time, you would get a kill larger than mine. When we would return home, you would be treated like a hero and forget all about me! Every time this happens. I never get any thanks! So I decided that something must be done.”
Rainsford’s thoughts were in a whirl, and he berated himself for not noticing the subtle details in Whitney’s behavior. Stupid, stupid, he thought. Rainsford started to speak, but Whitney cut him off. “Now Rainsford, I think it is time that I get rid of you,” he said and clicked a bullet into the chamber of his gun. “Goodbye old friend. Tell Zaroff hello from me,” he taunted and aimed the gun at Rainsford’s heart.
Rainsford backed up to flee when he felt a horrible pain in his back. He half-turned to find the cook release the sword he had been wielding from behind Rainsford’s back. Rainsford collapsed to the deck and felt his entire body go cold. His eyes fluttered, and they caught one last glance at Whitney’s triumphant face.