"Everybody has a secret world inside of them. All of the people of the world, I mean everybody. No matter how dull and boring they are on the outside, inside them they've all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands maybe" ~ Neil Gaiman (A Game of You)


Predator and Prey

Ash took the bulging manila folder from his briefcase and set it in front of him on the table in the cruiser's only cabin.  A thin fluorescent light swung from the ceiling, casting shadows around the tiny room.  He pulled out the dog-eared pages of the analyst's report.  He glanced over the words, although he had them almost memorized.  Sixteen biological terrorism attacks, innocent civilians, no known motive, no political group claiming responsibility.  Just one man.  He turned to the worn photos.  The aftermath, piles of bloodied bodies, some that looked like they had been blown up from the inside, others that looked like they had imploded.  A photo of stillness, as if the multitude of people were just sleeping, a mid-afternoon siesta.  And a single photo of his target, blurred but enhanced enough to see the man's likeness.  Tall, unusually pale, ice blue eyes.  The eyes marked him.  He would know the man in any crowd by his eyes.

His instructions were simple.  Neutralize him.  But be careful.  Ash must not, by any means, be seen.

That would not be a problem, under normal circumstances, because Ash preferred to hunt by night.  He knew how to slip through the shadows like a lynx, undetected by his prey even at the moment of striking.  But this was different.  His guide had taken him to the wrong island, and he had wasted precious black hours searching for a man who was not there.  As they approached this island -- the right island, he had been assured, and it better be the right island, because he would not be so forgiving a second time -- dawn had already crept in, and slashes of pink rested on the horizon surrounding the lip of the rising sun.  Ash desperately wanted to wait until darkness descended again, but he knew it would be impossible.  His instructions emphasized it must be done now, and he was already hours behind schedule.  He would have to improvise.

Ash brusquely swept the pages and photos back into the folder, returned it to the briefcase, and pushed the bag under the bed.  He hadn't really needed to look over the information again, anyway.  But anger and disgust helped him be more efficient.  He felt the fury pulse in his veins.  He was ready.

He climbed to the deck of the cruiser and watched as the island came into focus.  Black sand beaches leading into a thick jungle overgrowth.  Very good.  The hunter would feel right at home.  He relaxed a little, feeling that his job may not be too difficult after all.

The captain cut the cruiser's power, and they drifted the boat to shore.  The crew busied themselves with boxes of medical supplies to be delivered to the doctor, their cover should the natives become curious about the strange men landing on their island.  Ash slipped away silently, disappearing into the dense canopy.

The island was small, merely a few miles radius.  Ash moved lithely, traveling in a circle, alert to the sounds of the waking jungle, closing in tighter and tighter around the village.  Soon, distant voices drifted to his ears.  He moved in their direction.  He found a clearing, saw several grass huts.  He readied his weapon, then crept closer, confident in the camouflage of the trees and vines.  There.  To his left.  His target.

Ash hesitated.  Something wasn't right.  The man in front of him was stripped down to his ragged jeans, his tan chest bare, as were his dust-covered feet.  A dozen small, dark, laughing children surrounded him, and they kicked a hollowed out coconut shell back and forth between them.  The coconut rolled in front of the man, and just as he was about to kick it, a tiny boy snaked in front of him for a steal.  The man threw back his head, his laughter loud and raucous, and Ash saw the sun glint off his perfect white teeth.

Ash sucked in his breath.  The man snapped his head in his direction, their eyes met.  Ash felt the blood in his veins turn to ice, fingers skittering through his body before closing around his heart.  In the milliseconds before his heart exploded, he did not see his life flash before his eyes.  Instead, he saw the bloodied bodies, the hollow eyes, the piles of victims he failed.


Today's prompt:
Include this theme in your story… After a long night, a hunter sees something he/she cannot believe.


Cathryn Grant said...

That's amazing Shelli. I love how you're continuing this character and able to weave him into the prompts.

This was a very powerful story ... his disbelief was intense. Very well done characters.

Shelli said...

Thank you, Cathryn! I think this story is developing by itself. It's fun.

Renee said...

You have such a vivid imagination, can always put myself right into the scene you are sharing....

Icy Sedgwick said...

Really enjoyed this. I loved the pacing of it - I felt quite sucked in from the first sentence.

Shelli said...

Thank you, Renee and Icy, I'm glad I was able to pull you into the story.

Stacey said...

Ah I was wondering if the hunter was hunting our friend! Definitely curious to learn more about him and who he works for...

John Pender said...

You gave me a real sense of the Lord of the Flies there at the end. I loved it.

Shelli said...

Thank you, Stacey!

John -- Ooh, being compared to a literary classic! Nice! Thanks so much!

Laura Rachel Fox said...

Enjoyed reading more about this curious character. Nice build up to a surprise ending. I like the tone of suspense that kept me interested right up until the ending.

Ali P. said...

phew - felt the blow myself. good work.

A Writer's Vein said...

Nice surprise finish - I love surprises and the mystery shrouding the killer is particularly sharp as you created the conflict in the assassin - clever.
I'm coming back for more too.

Shelli said...

Laura -- Thank you, I'm glad I was able to hold the tension well enough.

Ali -- Thanks!

Writer -- Thanks so much, and welcome! I appreciate your comments and your visit to my blog.