Friday, June 7, 2013
The yard stank of mud. Of dried blood. A hint of fear. A soft, permeating rain fell steadily, soaking through canvas and flannel, turning the ground into a squelching morass that sucked at the sportsman's boots. The butt of his whip clattered against the bars and links of the ramshackle pens that lined one side of the perimeter fence, agitating the dogs even more. One mutt threw itself at the bars, roaring it's complaint, nearly at a height with the hunter, who shouted back and cracked the dog on the nose with the whip handle. It retreated, but continued to bark, jaws slavering with frustration.
All along the wall, the dogs were baying in near frenzy. Lips were pulled back, spittle flew. Here and there, eyes rolled and blood was spattered about the cages as certain bitches and hounds began throwing themselves at the less-than-sturdy doors of their pens.
These are not like that mangy mutt your grandma keeps around that doesn't like men. They are not like the rottweiler owned by that one family you know in the Bronx. These are not coonhounds or foxhounds or bloodhounds or wolfhounds. These are not poodles or ridgebacks or shepards or mastiffs. The beasts in the pens along the perimeter wall in the mud of the rain-soaked yard are just dogs. Bred for generations with only a few characteristics in mind: aggression; determination; hardiness; violence.
The dogs could smell the fear. Through the rain, through the haze of blood and meat and chase that filled their simple dog minds. It was right there. Front-and-goddamned-center in the yard, unsheltered from the rain and the barking and the murderous eyes. Taunting the beasts. Filling their nostrils with visions of the hunt to come.
Tiny, vulnerable, and utterly terrified, the fox huddled in the center of its little wire box.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Friday, August 5, 2011
A good scout notices everything. A great one also notices the absences, but even a novice would have quickly realized that a forest at night should never, ever be silent. The steady decrease in the chirrups, buzzes, rustles, and croaks took up a lot of the scout's attention and was part of the reason why the simultaneous rise of the staccato beat was nigh-imperceptible. For a while, the sound didn't register as a physical noise, but a mere unease on the edge of his perception. It tickled his thoughts, put such a subtle pall over them that it was unrecognizable until it was too late. He was within earshot of a hand drum, he froze.
The pace was measured, determined, powerful. The tempo seemed to change at random. It was unsettling. It was disorienting. It was distracting, and that angered the scout. A watcher could not lose focus, a hunter could not narrow his view, failure was death. His self-rebuke was harsh and swift when he realized that he had passed the first check point and there had been no sign of a man at his post.
He continued on, the tattoo coming from almost directly in front of him, the unnatural silence of the forest dwellers slowing his otherwise-sure footing. The first body did not surprise him, gaping slit under his jaw indicating an ignorance of the propinquity of his assassin. The second did not either, although he logged away the fact that the fallen had been slain with his own sword. The third and fourth were entangled, the former's teeth sunk firmly into the neck of the latter, whose knife was in the former's gut. The damage to the surrounding brush was extensive. The struggle must have been immense and silent to have not alerted the far perimeter guards. The drum echoed on, louder and louder, encroaching on his mind, impeding his ability to recall the names of the deceased.
Face pock-marked with shaving scars, a fiancee back home, swallowed his food half-chewed. What did we call him?
The first umbras on the trees told the scout the exact position of the main camp, the very edge of the firelight just before him. The bodies were thicker off to his left a ways, the pattern of their falls telling a tale of panicked, frightful exodus, dragged down or shot down as they fled. The growing light revealed carnage in equal measure, the increased clarity tormenting the scout with ever grislier tableaux of mauled comrades.
Edges and fringes twitched, shadows danced across the corpses, branches seemed to reach for him as the trees thinned out in proximity to the clearing. Occasionally, much of the light would be eclipsed, a lone figure interposing itself between the scout and the fire. It moved around the fire, it's undulations indistinguishable from the shadows caused by the flames themselves, its form at times nebulous for the haze and the noise and the light and the dark and the drums, oh, the drums!
The figure struck at the drum slung from its neck. The beat was inside the scout's head, his mind forced think in step with the spasmodic rhythm. Feathers and bones swished and clacked. The body of the dancer seemed to have as little structure as the roll of his vile instrument. His feet were those of a drunkard, his footing somehow remaining sure as his dance took him over dozens of corpses and corpse parts. Paint and blood dripped in parallel lines and complex designs. Were they moving? His eyes were white and spittle occasionally flew from the corners of the drummer's slack and sparsely-toothed maw.
His feelings were muddled and soporific when the first hand grasped his leg and began tugging him down toward the writhing, clutching jaws of his former friends.