| I stood there, my body sideways, feet apart, and head turned to the left. In my left hand I held a tall Sage Re-curve bow. The arrow nock locked in place just below the nocking point. The top of the shaft rested on the arrow rest. My left hand held tightly to the grip, while three of my right hand fingers held on to the bow string just below the arrow nock, and the rest of my right hand fingers just above the nock. My right arm pulled the bowstring back until it reached the front of my cheek bone. I stared out the sight window, looking straight at the target. The colors taunting me, teasing me, tormenting me, begging me to let go. So I complied. I let the bowstring carefully slide off my fingers. The arrow sliced through the air, just like a bullet would. I watched as the arrow head quickly disappeared into the center of the target. So quickly, in fact, that simply blinking at the wrong time could keep you from seeing moments like these. It’s a shame moments like those are no more.
The world has taken a turn for the worst. There’s no colorful ring to show us exactly where to aim. Now we aim at anyone who is a threat to our lives. You never know who to trust anymore. There’s no feeling of triumph when you hit the center of the target, not for me at least. Everyday people fight for their lives, they hunt to keep themselves alive. Every night is a restless one, fear of death overwhelms everyone.
I was raised and now I live in, what I like to call The Middle of Nowhere, the reason for this name? Well it means exactly what it says, I live in the middle of nowhere. A hick town, you could say. Out here people have farms and animals galore. The use for weapons is very necessary to keep our animals alive. There are birds, coyotes, wolves and etc. That all eat our animals. It’s not often but every once in a billion years, there would be a human predator. That one person who goes insane and threatens your life, kind of like what you would hear in a horror film. So weapons were, and still are, necessary. It was always mostly peaceful out there. People would go about their lives, buying, raising and selling animals. Nobody is really sure how it happened, but one day there was rumors of a gang going around. I know what you’re thinking. A gang? Seriously? How original. This one, however, was much different from the rest. They were more like terrorists, focused on destroying the world’s sense of peace. This was a huge problem obviously, and in the real world there are no superheroes to depend on.
I was taught archery when I was 10, I had no intentions for using It to harm people. I used it as a past time when I was bored. Archery gave me strength, endurance, confidence and more. Without it, I might be dead. Rumors of the gang continued to go around and pretty soon, it became more of a reality. People began suspecting friends and family to being part of the gang. People were killing each other off. Everywhere you went was a war zone. Either you walk and die or run and risk dying. Either way, your life is on the line. Things were small at first. People thought the gun shots were people protecting their animals. As the gunshots sounded more often, people began to realize what was happening. My family disappeared, I don’t know if they fled the country without me or if they died at some unknown point. I’m on my own in this broken world. Enough backstory, let’s get to reality.
I wake up to gunshots once again, I lay in bed eyes wide from a terrible night of no sleep. With each gunshot I hear, I can’t help but wonder ‘Whose fate was chosen by someone else this time?’ I get up and get dressed in what’s left of this hideout. The houses were all destroyed during a raid in the night so I have to make do with what I have. I grab my bow and fill my quiver with 7 arrows, hoping I don’t lose any arrows this time. I head out of my little shelter and stop just outside of it. I built this place in the woods. Far out in the woods so nobody can find me easily. As I stand outside I look around at the winter wonderland around me. There’s a few feet of snow on the ground. I wouldn’t be surprised if I found out people have been freezing to death. If the world’s situation was better I might actually enjoy the snow. I stand there staring in amazement at the beautiful scene, wishing the peace around me in the woods could last forever. I wonder, what if it’s not too far along to fix this ugly mess. Have I perhaps forgotten what it’s like to live in peace? With a loving family. The crisp cool air slams against my face and brings me back to the reality of things, this world cannot be saved. At least, not anytime soon. I start walking towards my normal hunting area. There’s no stores anywhere close to here, and even if there was, they would be swarming with people fighting over food. Hunting reminds me of my uncle, who has also gone missing. He was a major advocate of hunting. He taught me how to hunt early in my life.
As I reach my destination I slow down a bit and listen to make sure I don’t hear any voices. As soon as I’m sure no one is around I crouch behind a tree and wait until I see anything worthy. Soon enough a deer comes around. I’ve always admired dear. Not only are they a good food source, but as long as they’ve existed they’ve been running for their lives. They also know what it’s like to live in fear, to be hunted, to be stalked. Sometimes I can’t tell the difference between the hunted and the hunter. Still, I reach behind me and grab an arrow from the quiver on my back.
Hours later I’m back at what I’d like to call home. I’ve just finished my dinner and now I’m sharpening my tools. Suddenly I hear the dreadful noise of snow crunching underneath someone’s feet. I drop what I’m doing and quickly grab my gun. I walk ever so slowly, careful not to let the intruder hear my footsteps. As I step closer to the entrance of the hideout my heartbeat quickens, getting louder and louder. I feel as if the whole world can hear my heart beating in fear. I recognize that anyone of these steps could be my last, if I’m not careful. I breathe in and out calmly so I don’t give away my position, still noticing that each and every one of these breaths could be my last. I lift the gun up to my shoulder and jump out of the hideout. I point the gun, ready to fire at any moment. I look around and see nothing but the soft snow coming down around me, there’s not even any traces of anyone other than me being there. Was I just being paranoid? Is being all alone in a crime ridden world getting to my head? No, that can’t be. I head back into my hideout for yet another sleepless night.
It went on like that for weeks. Everywhere I went I could hear footsteps, and not my own. I looked, and saw nothing. My sleep was worse than usual. Day after day I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach that I was being watched, hunted even. I would dismiss the thoughts and say to myself I would be ok, but as the steps continued to haunt my every move I began to realize it wasn’t my head. I realized that just like that dear…I too, was being hunted. There wasn’t much time left before the hunter found his perfect shot.
It’s been four weeks since I first heard those footsteps, I’m beginning to get used to them. Which isn’t good. If there really was something I might mistake their steps for the ones I’ve been hearing for weeks, which could result in my careless death. Once again I hear the footsteps. I get up to go check every time just in case there really is something. I stand up and as I do I hear a sharp whoosh. I know now I am no longer safe. To the left of my head is a ragged arrow, it looks like it was handmade but if I were to be hit it would still cause me damage. I quickly grab my bow and arrow and then I bolt out of the hideout as quickly as I can. I run and run and I don’t stop. Behind me I hear footsteps, but not like before. These footsteps are those of a hunter chasing after its prey. I run but I can’t seem to escape the hunter. With every step I take, with every foot I run I grow more and more tired. If this keeps up much longer I’ll be at the hands of this hunter. As I run I can feel the frigid air seeping down my throat into my lungs. My body is growing stiff from the cold and I can no longer feel my feet, yet they continue to run. Fear is overwhelming me, my quickened heart beat feels like a drum constantly beating faster and faster until it will not beat anymore. I begin to notice that I no longer hear the steps anymore, did I lose him? I step into a nearby cave and sit down and rest. My heartbeat slows down a bit but getting warm is going to be quite the project. Slowly my eyes ease shut and I fall asleep.
I awake to the sound of water slowly dripping from the stalagmites above. It echoes peacefully inside the cave. I stand up and look around the cave for the first time since running into here while being chased. It’s beautiful. The cave has a soft tan shade to it and the water makes it look like gold. I venture deeper into the cave admiring every little thing about it. From the tiniest crack in the wall, to the immense frozen waterfall. I walk around a little while longer wondering why I’ve never come across this place before. That’s when I notice something out of the corner of my eye. I look to my right and spot a door. I step closer to the door and peek inside. The first thing I notice is the smell, it smells of rot. ‘I have to get out of here now.’ I say to myself. Suddenly I feel a huge arm wrap around my waist and another one puts a rag with a strange scent up to my nose and mouth. I fight with all my might but I soon realize it’s of no use. Then I think ‘Oh god is this… Chloroform’ everything darkens. Slowly, ever so slowly. I hear a light ringing in my ear. As the darkness grows I realized, I was never the hunter.
Am I alive? Or an I dead? Where am I? What happened to my family? What will come of this wicked world? So many questions will go unanswered if I die. The biggest question I’ve wondered is what happened to my family. Id at least like to know if they are alive or dead. Wait, where am I? I look around and notice the interior of where I am. Jagged ceiling, moss and vines growing on the slimy looking walls. Cave, I’m in a cave. Am I in the same one I was captured in? My head spins and I feel something warm sliding down my face. I know that feeling well, blood. Why is my head bleeding? I don’t remember hitting my head on anything. I try to get up but it feels as though I’m being weighed down by the world. I can’t move a muscle. I look and realize there are roped holding me down to a hospital bed. Is this even a cave then? Is this an abandoned hospital? So many questions go unanswered. The rope digs into my skin deeper every time I make a single move. Blood is already coming from my wrists. The sharp pain in my wrists and ankles is unlike anything I’ve felt before. Well I’ve never been tied down before, there’s a first time for everything I guess. I hear footsteps growing closer and closer to me. I am now powerless. My fate is now decided by my captors. Maybe someone somewhere else will be wondering who has died when they hear the shot that killed me. On my left there is a masked man, he is very strong, but he is also carrying a knife. He reaches out with the knife and I squeeze my eyes shut, preparing for the worst. Soon enough I feel weight being lifted off my wrists and ankles. I open my eyes and realize he was simply cutting my restraints. I am free, and alive. The mystery man had taken off his mask too. My uncle. He’s alive. I quickly jumped up and hugged him. For the first time I felt I wasn’t alone in the world. Unfortunately the reunion couldn’t last long because I could hear the shouts of my real captors coming from the hallways around us, people were coming for us.
I followed my uncle wherever he ran. As we were running he told me about how he had also been captured by these people but he decided to join them so he could live. He became high ranking in the group but when he saw they had captured me he knew time was running out. I was running with whatever energy I had left but soon enough the people caught up to us. My uncle said one last thing to me before I watched him die. He said “Play the game right and it will continue forever, play it wrong and everything lost will come back” The only family I had left, that I knew of, died before my eyes, there’s no reason for me to continue running. Of course I had no clue what my uncle meant by what had said, but I didn’t have much time to contemplate either. I fell on my knees crying at the loss of my uncle but something strange happened, when he died his body disappeared. I could find no trace of my dead uncle. I looked up and it was as if everything was in slow motion. The mob of people running up to me, the bullet flying to my chest, the teardrops falling from my eyes. When I was hit I felt nothing. Everything went dark for the final time.
“Wake up, it’s over now. You made it. You did it. It’s all over now” That voice….Why am I hearing that? Mom? Mom where are you? My eyes slowly open and I see a place I do not recognize. I quickly sit up and gasp for breath, I was out of breath? What’s happening? I look and I see my family all around me, those who I had thought were dead for years on end. Familiar eyes looked at me. I ask “What happened” Then I see my uncle, alive. “BUT HE DIED” My mother respond with “You don’t remember? That was a simulation. We did it as a government experiment. When you die in the game you come back to reality” All my unanswered questions are being answered. The puzzle pieces I was missing are being found and put back together. Now I finally understand the words of my uncle. Now I understand. I now know what it’s like, to be hunted.