J A C O B
I can hear their footsteps now even though I'm far away. The sounds their boots make as it crunches the twigs and dead leaves only serve to further fortify my will to run.
I pump my legs as hard as I can, jump over boulders and rugs, slide down under fallen trees and remain my figure hidden among the trees. I hear one of them shout, “Hurry!”
And the other shouts, “He's getting away! He's quick!”
And another goes, “Is he quicker than a bullet?”
The first shot pierces through the tree bark just several meters away from me. The rest follows and before I can even comprehend, they are firing rains of bullets at me.
I maintain a low figure, ducking at the same time as I am running. The rifles roar like consecutive rumbles of thunder. Countless bullets follow me, tearing through barks and trees and rocks. Dust bursts like steam exploding from the underground in my trail, like a snake following every step I make. Branches snap, rocks splinter, and bullets pierce through tall trees. I vault over a fallen tree and land hard against the ground. I trip down and roll over, immediately stand to my feet, and continue running before they can even catch me. Sweat slips down my face as I kick on land, gaining myself momentum. I roll over and hide behind a tree, chasing for my oxygen that has been running out. I didn't feel exhausted, in fact, I feel even more alert and ready. Thanks to my adrenaline.
The firing stops, but not the chase.
“You fucker! Do you think you can run away from us? We'll fill your body with bullets. Just so you wait!” one of them yells.
I take it as his method to discourage me so I can lose the hope that is left in me. But I am far too courageous to be even shaken by his useless and old tricks.
I settle myself behind a mound of dirt, gasping for much needed. Perspiration covered my nape, my face, and my back. My sight seems to appear blurry. It must have been because I have not warmed up before my body uses such blood. My heart explodes multiple times and all I can hear over their scream is the pressure building inside my eardrums.
“Chad, two minutes have passed already!” one of the hunters calls.
“I don't give a damn. What's important is I'm gonna fucking kill him!” answers the persistent swagger hunter as he continues to run after me. I peak from the grass and the distance, and four of the hunters stop the chase and start climbing on the nearest tree. I grew curious. I have no idea what they are doing. Maybe they give up or maybe not. But either way, I still have to run.
I rise to my feet, and pound my feet across each hurdle, as my lungs strain. In the corners of my eyes, everything becomes nothing but a blur. Then a siren suddenly rings, echoing across the whole forest. I look back quickly, the last hunter is still pursuing me with his lascivious grin.
“I'm gonna kill you chomp. This time, you will surely be my prey!” I can see him lining his eyes at the front sight of his rifle and pulling the trigger. A loud bang echoes followed by the bullet which tears through the flesh of my arm. I almost fall on impact, but manage to maintain my balance. At first, the pain was unbearable, but perhaps the adrenaline has already filled my body so that I can no longer feel the aching sensation. Though I watch my wound bleed and blood came spurting out from the gap. I cover it with my hand. I run like mad, desperate to escape from the hunter that is following me. My breaths are sharp and frantic, my eyes are wide filled with not terror—but worry as I think the possibility of my life cut short.
“Chad, you need to stop! The beast has been released!” I hear somebody scream. The beast? What beast? So there is an even greater than the hunters themselves? What the fuck is even lurking among those bushes?
I turn to look and the hunter was no longer there. He must have given up already, but still…what the fuck is beyond those bushes?
I continue to run, consecutively turning around. Behold, it was then when the beasts are released. Intimidating guard dogs, hungry and rabid dobermans rush towards me in such speed that I almost lose hope and almost want to surrender. My breathing quickens, trying to appease my need for oxygen. I'm worried. I'm not even gonna lie. The dogs are getting closer to me and in that exact moment, I know I am going to die. I turn to look and they are already behind me, in the air as they lunge themselves at me. My life flashes to my mind, tears slips out of my eyes. I'm going to die. I'm going to die. I'm going to die!
But I didn't. Fate did not want me to die and I did not. Fortunate I was, the cocky hunter came from behind me with a smug on his face, unaware of the inescapable death behind him. The dogs lands on his back with their strong and open mouths.
He was already down on the ground when he realized he was fucked up. The beast feeds on his body, yanking his flesh, breaking his bones, munching on his skin as blood comes pouring out in a pool. He struggles to escape, but the beasts are far more stronger than his subsiding strength. He screams, shrieking in agony. I look at him for the last time. There was fear and anger in his eyes…and then he stares at me blankly, body unmoving.
I take my opportunity to escape while the beasts feed on the dead hunter.
“We're gonna get you, you son of a bitch!” One of the hunters voices shrills from the tree. I walk away. I got away from both uncivilized hunters and nomad beasts. But it won't be long until our paths cross again. I need to execute an escape plan. As soon as possible.
The setting sun produces a warm orange tinge to the sky which also casts slanting shadows on the ground. Stars begin to reach the heavens, pulling with them are the hues of blue to dark. I can't see the sunset. I'm still way too far from the shore. A painful ache throbs on my wound and I clenches my jaw several times, indicating the suffering I am experiencing. I stop by a river bank and clean my wound. I break some aloe vera I have found a few yards from the river. Applies a generous amount of gel on my gaping wound after taking out the bullet. I cover my wound with aloe vera and wrap it with knotted palm leaves as bondage. I quench my thirst and sips desperately on the water I am not even sure if clean. I sit down next to a tree and took a rest. I'm exhausted, hungry and dirty. I still can't believe that I am actually getting chased by hunters with guns who want to kill me to earn money. I mean I can just lend them some money if they let me go.
That masked man. Something feels peculiar about him. Why is he even wearing a mask in the first place? Is he afraid that I might somehow escape and tell this to anyone? No. Of course not. The only thing certain in this situation is that I'm gonna get hunted and be killed eventually. It's either now or later. And that guy. That was the first time I have ever seen someone being eaten alive. It's disgusting. It's getting in my stomach. I think I might even throw up.
My stomach is grumbling and my intestines are moving in protest. I really need something to fill my stomach with.
I begin to explore the woods, no light, hungry and exhausted. I need something to eat as soon as possible. Luckily as I stop by a crowd of small trees, I find a gray-brown and jelly-like mushroom. I recognize it as the cloud ear fungus which I have eaten several times on Asian dishes. But I'm still not sure. It could be poisonous and could potentially kill me. But hunger could also kill me as well. So with a leap of fate, I ingest the mushroom and swallow it hard. Then after consuming a couple of it, I sit down on the nearest tree root. I almost cried, thinking about my situation. I really want to get out of this place. I really want to go home. I feel homesick and tired. I feel miserable.
I breathe deeply and close my eyes. I can hear the sounds of crickets and the blowing of wind above me, and the swaying of trees. Exhausted I am, I fell asleep almost immediately.
* * *
I wake up with a start. I had a nightmare about something that happened to me when I was a kid. I look around and the surroundings are getting brighter and the first rays of the sun went through the trees before casting it on my face. The birds start to chirp and the flowers begin to stretch outwards, greeting another morning glory. The leaves I slept on last night were damp. Though a tropical island can be absolutely warm, it can also freeze you to death during the night. When I look up, I notice that the sun has already painted the horizon with hues of orange and violet. It's beautiful—mesmerizing perhaps.
I rise to my feet slowly. My wound still stings with every movement I make. The day feels comfortable, crisp and clear. I scan the tree I used for shelter. It's a tall, wide and graceful tree that looks like it is piercing through the clouds. I recognize the tree. It's an enormous Acacia tree. I glance around and startle when a small colorful amphibian leaps on my foot. I almost jump, but my idea pulls me back to the ground. A smile breaks my lips. It's time for a payback.
It's always been a good thing concealing a tiny but useful swiss knife anywhere in your clothes. It is what I am using as I gather the materials I need. First I toured around the forest and gathered some dwarf bamboo. Cut it in just the right size. Afterwards I proceed to climb the acacia tree, struggling to do so because of my wound. I pinch more than five thorns from its leaves and descend back to the ground.
After that, I begin to dig a two by two whole with a maximum height of three feet using a durable wooden stick.
Time is running quickly and I have to be quicker as well.
I gather big bamboos, carve each side into pointy and I pierce all of it against the hole. I cover it with bushes and dead leaves and twigs and place a mark only I know.
The last thing left to do is to find that dart frog and I'm ready.
F O U R
The four hunters, with their rifles, began to search the Forest. After his brother was killed, Ryan, one of the hunters, has been eager to find that man since last night. He wants to kill him by himself or feed him to the dogs just like what happened to his brother.
“I wasn't thinking that he could escape from us. I didn't believe he was capable of it,” said Oswald, the tallest and biggest of the four.
“It was pure luck. If Chad had only listened, that guy would have been dead by now,” was what Roy said.
“Don't you fucking put the blame on my brother you shithead or else I'm going to blow that empty head of yours,” Ryan hissed. Roy didn't answer. Ryan is one of those people who he is surprisingly intimidated by. They continued walking, rifles pointing at every side. Then Oswald paused on his flight and said,
“Wait, guys. I'm about to piss. I'll let this out first.”
“Okay. But hurry up when you're done,”
The three hunters proceeded to walk, leaving Oswald as he was pissing at the nearest tree. His eyes rolled as the reaction of the sensation. He smiled and wondered what it feels like fucking someone again. He missed the old days. He swept his eyes up to the sky, exposing his neck. Oswald watched the clouds drifting off above the trees and did not notice the bamboo sticking out from a bush.
He gagged all of a sudden when something pointy hit him by the neck. He collapsed into the ground, suddenly feeling weird. It was like his body went to sleep. He clasped his neck and got rid of the sharp stick as small as a needle. He dropped it on the ground and gasped,
His face turned red, body stiffening and with his last breath, he let out a word in a momentum of effort.
Quickly, the three jumped in for rescue.
“What happened?” one of the hunters asked.
“Th…the guy. He…he is there,” his voice broke as he pointed at the bush. Ryan turned to his ally and gestured his head. The man followed and went through Jacob's direction. Ryan stared down at Oswald who was strgg in agony.
“Help…me, Ryan. Don't let me… suffer,” he begged.
“Sure.” He pointed his rifle at Oswald and blew his head off.
The man was well prepared, crouching as he moved ahead. His hands were cold and a lump disturbed his throat. He felt his hair on the back begin to rise. The man was there. His instincts told him. It didn't matter that he couldn't find him. The man was here.
He looked around. It was impossible. The only thing he could think of why he disappeared is because the man ran. There was just no place for the prey to hide.
Then suddenly Jacob came from behind the tree across a mound of dead leaves. The man nodded in satisfaction and pointed his gun at Jacob. But then Jacob took out his swiss knife and started taunting the man. What Jacob did infuriated the man. He tossed his rifle away and took his tactical army knife. He flexed it in empty air and grinned at Jacob.
“Come on,” uttered Jacob.
The man, consumed by rage, sprinted towards Jacob, screaming at the top of his lungs.
“Come on!” Jacob roared. The man dashed towards Jacob with all the speed he gained, and then halfway through his course, the mound he stepped on suddenly collapsed and brought him down together with the leaves. The man wailed in agony. Jacob went over to him and dropped his gaze at the man. Bamboos tore through his body and blood came out from his gaping wound. Jacob crouched and reached down for the man's tactical army knife and holster which he wraps around his waist.
“They…they're going to kill you. This might not be your time…but they will get you eventually,” the man said to Jacob.
When Jacob noticed the leaves rustling and moving, he went his way and ran, disappearing immediately. Ryan and Roy appeared and watched the dying man in disappointment.
“I…I was tricked,” the man whimpered.
“Because you're stupid,” Ryan said right before he shot the man.
“He killed three of them. What are we going to do now?” Roy was curious.
“Send the eagle eye to help us. The boss will understand us.” A mysterious smile contorted on Ryan's lips.
J A C O BLike my father used to tell me before, “Death is something only nature should execute.”It was these unforgettable words that have put me in an oath to never take someone's life. He also told me that humans should be compassionate, kind and have empathy for another human's pain. But now I broke that promise. I killed somebody. When I looked down at him that time, I could see nothing but my innocence drifting away from me. I felt regret immediately. I was blocked after. And now I'm in distress, but I'm also satisfied. But the rational part of my brain chimed in saying,“What's wrong with you? It's either you kill someone or you get killed. They're criminals. They get paid to do it. There's no way he will be empathetic after killing you.”Killing him was something that needed to be done, and I have done it. I have done it or else I could be the one laying down there lifelessly. Fate favors the bold, and it favored me when I had the courage to eliminate those two.I head down t