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Hunter or Hunted?
It was a warm spring day, sun beating down on them, warming Summer from her fingers to her toes. There was a light breeze, the kind that prickled the bare skin on your arms making your hair stand up. Summer put on a light jacket and caught up to Brandon and grabbed his hand. The trees were tall and imposing at the entrance of the woods. They were supposed to be taking a three day hike off trail having a map, GPS, and a compass to guide them through. They came very prepared with all the things they would need for a three day hike not thinking it would be anything more than that. Brandon was a rough and tough kind of guy, having big, calloused hands for being in the marines and working on vehicles, unlike Summer who had soft hands with elongated fingers. Summer was a music teacher in middle school and had no idea of what she was about to get into.
“You ready to go off trail?” Brandon asked.
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” Summer said, starting to weed through the overgrowth of the forest. They stopped midday for lunch by a river, which had a waterfall sounding more impressive than it actually was. That was a lunch she would never forget for as long as she lived. Summer remembered the sun being directly in her eyes when she was looking at Brandon. He came over and sat next to her. Brandon is able to hide his emotions well if you don’t know him, but being in a relationship with him for two years, she could tell he was nervous about something.
“We’ve been friends a long time right?” Brandon asked warily.
“Almost three years, why?” Summer answered puzzled. He was more nervous than the day he asked her out on a date with him.
He bent down on one knee.
“Oh god,” Summer thought.
“These years have been the best time of my life and I couldn’t imagine my life without you. I guess what I’m leading to is Summer, will you marry me?”
“Of course,” she said wrapping her arms around him. “I love you so much.” Summer couldn’t believe what had happened. The ring was gorgeous; he told her it was his great grandmother’s engagement ring.
“I love you too.” He replied. “I’m so happy you said yes.”
“Did you really think I would say no?” She couldn’t stop smiling.
“I can never tell what’s going on in your head,” he said smiling back. We set up camp by the river that night. “I’ll go to get more firewood,” Brandon said as he got up. Summer watched the flames of the fire licking the air with colors of red, orange, and yellow like the sun.
“Okay babe,” Summer said. “Just hurry back.”
“I promise,” he replied, the fire casting shadows on his face giving him a dark appearance as he smiled at her. He leaned in and kissed Summer before he left. It wasn’t one of those mushy kisses, it was a light one, but passionate at the same time. Then he walked off, the darkness wrapping itself around him. Summer watched until he completely disappeared into the night.
She wanted to go with him but she decided against it, thinking that he probably needed time to cool off and process what just happened. Summer was giddy with joy and couldn’t stop smiling, until she heard a wolf howling in the East.
The way Brandon had gone.
Summer wrapped the blankets tighter around her saying, “Hurry up, Brandon,” to herself. Ten minutes passed, then twenty minutes. She might have been overreacting but Summer was frightened for Brandon and wanted him back in her arms. She checked her watch again forty-five minutes. Summer couldn’t stand to wait any longer; once an hour had passed she grabbed a flashlight and started deeper into the forest in search of him.
“Brandon,” Summer shouted. The flashlight casting shadows when it hit the trees, giving them almost an evil, malicious appearance. There was a growling noise coming from behind her. Slowly she turned around, breathing heavily, trying to think of what terrible animal had been following her and was right on her heels.
Turning around she saw the horrid creature, hair standing up, teeth showing, and blood dripping from its muzzle. Her first instinct told her to run; she had been on the track team when she was in high school, but she knew she wouldn’t be able to outrun the creature, “Maybe I can outsmart it.” She thought. She turned and started running. The wolf threw back its head and howled.
“It’s on,” she thought as she came across a pile of mud. Skidding to a halt, she got down and rolled in it. “This should get it off my scent,” she thought as she started running again. She heard the wolf again chasing her, its paws pushing it forward with each strong movement of its powerful legs.
“Just a little bit further,” she told herself as she came across a massive tree with a hole in the bottom, big enough to fit her and another person. She got down on all fours and crawled into the hole, going to the very back and sat waiting. Sure enough the wolf came running along right past the tree.
Summer was about to crawl out of the hole when she heard something. “Stupid dog,” a rough voice of a man said. A million thoughts raced through Summer’s head all at once.
“I’m being hunted?” Summer was utterly thunderstruck. She sat for what seemed hours staring at nothing, just thinking. She wasn’t sure what to do. Where could she go? How was she going to escape this? Most importantly, what happened to Brandon? If he couldn’t get out of this how could she?
Brandon could feel the searing pain radiating through his body. He could feel his heart beat racing, every thud gushing more blood from his wounds. He knew he had to get to Summer and get her out of harm’s way, but before he could do that he had to inspect and care for his wounds.
Sitting up he felt around the grass, wet with dew, for his flashlight. He turned it on and it flickered and died out. “Great,” he thought hitting it against the ground. Finally it busted with the yellow-white color of an artificial light. He brought the light first to his right hand and arm, knowing it had been badly torn with the battle against the beast, when he tried to block his face.
He tried to move his hand but with no such luck. “This is going to leave a mark,” he said quietly to himself. He continued to examine himself for other wounds the dog had inflicted. He had a few scratches on his stomach and his left leg needed stitches. “Feels like I’m at war again,” he thought to himself as he ripped his shirt to bandage his wounds.
He as he started limping back to camp, he heard the wolf howl again. “I hope she’s okay,” he thought to himself, hurrying his limping gate. He could deal with pain, his platoon had stumbled upon a mine and he was lucky enough to just get bits of shrapnel stuck in his body, while his best friend since fifth grade, had been standing right next to him-died.
Brandon arrived at camp deserted, the fire just barely still alive. He stitched up his wounds while biting down on a piece of wood then got supplies: A hunting knife, a map, first aid kit, salt, matches, binoculars, sewing kit, pot, and fishing hooks. Getting up he grabbed one other thing; a bandana, which he tied around his forehead to use as a sweat band.
He followed Summer’s tracks jumping over fallen trees and leaving no trace that he had ever been there. He got to a point when Summer’s tracks stopped and then he saw a slid mark leading under a carved hole in a giant tree. Looking inside he saw an imprint of someone who had been sitting curled up in the pine needles.
“I need to find her soon,” he thought to himself, “Before he does.” Brandon followed the tracks of the person hunting them until he came to a clearing. Surely enough there was the hunter sitting by the fire next to his wolf.
“Don’t worry, Killer, we’ll find her” the mysterious, wicked man said. Brandon walked about ten meters away and climbed a tree by grabbing branches and pulling himself up with one hand.
Once he got himself situated, he pulled out the salt, sewing kit, and fishing hooks from his bag. Grabbing a handful of salt he disinfected all his wounds. His adrenaline had worn off and he was feeling the full force of pain from his injuries. Afterwards, Brandon grabbed the string out of his sewing kit and made two stars with the fishing hooks; all of the sharp ends pointing the same way. Putting the stars and the sewing kit back in the bag, he decided to get a few hours of shut eye that night so he’d be rested for what was going to happen tomorrow.
Summer had gone back to the campsite in order to get supplies and found that someone had already been there and ransacked it. She had wasted all her energy to come and find that all the things she wanted were missing.
“How stupid can I be?” Summer whispered to herself. “How am I supposed to defend myself now?” She left the camp and found the hallow in the tree again, now covering up her tracks, she noticed more footprints. “He has someone else working with him?” Summer questioned. Summer wrapped herself up in a blanket she retrieved from the campsite and uneasily drifted off to sleep.
The next day she woke up at the crack of dawn and started off again through the wilderness. She came upon the campsite of the hunter. Summer slowly started to step back when she stepped on a twig.
The wolf got up and looked around.
“Shoot,” she thought. It started toward her, growling quietly. She turned and started running. How was she going to get out of this one? There was a whistle through the air as something metallic got thrown passed her then another. She heard the wolf take two more steps then fall to the ground whimpering.
Summer turned around and saw the wolf lying on the ground, its chest heaving in and out, quickly, as if it couldn’t catch its breath. Then she saw what had flown only inches past her face; they were stars made of fish hooks. Both deeply wedged in its throat, blood pouring out. Summer bent down to pet it then got back up and looked around to see where those deadly stars came from. Failing to find the location, Summer started in a different direction from the hunter’s campsite.
“She’s alive!” Brandon said as a tear ran down his face. He wiped it away and his face hardened, “I’ve got to finish this.”
Brandon climbed down the tree and walked over to the wolf still fighting for even a few more moments of life. Brandon pitied the poor thing; it didn’t deserve to suffer even if it did try to kill him. He bent down by the wolf and pulled out his hunting knife. He struck it right in the heart, “Safe traveling,” Brandon said getting up.
Brandon made his way slowly to the hunter’s campsite to finish the task he had started when he realized the campsite was empty. In the blink of an eye he was tackled to the ground by the hunter. The hunter started to strangle Brandon. Brandon kicked him off and jumped to his feet, grabbing his knife that had fallen to the ground when he was attacked. He held it in his left hand, with the blade pointing to the side, so it would be easier for him to do more damage.
They started walking in a circle with a wide stance, “Any day now,” the hunter prodded. Brandon came at him. Grabbing the hunter by the neck he turned the hunter around.
Brandon had him in a death grip, with one quick motion Brandon swung the knife around and slit him in the throat. Grabbing his neck, the hunter fell to his knees, slowly bleeding to death.
“That’s what you get for trying to hurt my Summer,” Brandon said as he fell to his knees. In the scuffle he hadn’t realized his stitches had opened and he was bleeding. The last thing he remembered before he passed out was Summer rushing towards him yelling his name.
When Brandon woke up he saw Summer sleeping on the couch the hospital provided for the patients visitors’ who slept over.
“Summer, Summer,” Brandon whispered quietly. Summer’s eyes fluttered open, showing her beautiful jade colored eyes.
“You’re awake,” she observed. “How do you feel?”
“Good, now that I see you again, Summer O’Conner I love you more then you will ever know.” Brandon replied.
“I love you too,” Summer said thinking of how the hiking trip had changed her. She now cherished life more, thankful for all the little things in life as well as the big ones.