Mark Ethridge’s Picture Choice: 2
Title: I See Angry People (Part 8)
I woke before dawn. I’d taught myself to sleep when I had to, and wake up when I needed to. I packed my tent in my pack, pulled my pack on, and made my way back to the fence and waited for the men inside to start their journey beyond the fence.
They would be hunting me, which didn’t bother me at all. I’d faced many men with guns over the years. Their guns made them arrogant, brash, loud. Their guns made them feel safe. They’d have never met a true predator before. A practiced, seasoned killer.
They’d never met me.
I moved through the trees, the brush, like a wolf, silently, never waiting in one place. Always watching them. When the sun rose, they formed a group of ten, and planned what to do. As was typical of arrogant, well armed men, they didn’t keep their plan a secret. They talked about it among themselves. “You two stay here, watch the fence. If you see anything move outside the fence, shoot it.”
The other eight men formed a group. They unbolted a section of the fence, and moved through it, bolting it back together when they were outside. Then, they formed a line, each one about ten feet from the other. I observed their hand signals to each other. It was easy to figure them out. One for move forward, another for stop, others for shoot and investigate. They had surprisingly few signals. Anything they couldn’t signal, they spoke.
“Yeah. That’s how to sneak up on someone.” I easily stayed out of their way, hidden in the brush and trees, watching them move. Watching them become bored, distracted. “That’s right, fellas. Lower your guard.”
After a couple of hours, they were hungry, and thirsty. They stopped moving, gathered in a group to have some water, and eat something. I didn’t care what it was. I knew it was time for me to make my first move. I drew an arrow, and picked a target. The farthest man from me. He sat on an old fallen tree on the ground. When he turned his drink up, I let my arrow fly. It struck him in the chest, sank a good six inches into him.
I didn’t watch what he did. I didn’t care what he did. I drew a second arrow, and targeted the man closest to me. In the chaos of watching my first victim lean back until he fell off the tree, and landed on his back on the ground, his water spilling everywhere, and an arrow sticking out of his chest, and the panic of drawing their guns, none of the men noticed, at first, that a second of their party had an arrow in him.
I didn’t wait to see what they did. I moved. I raced into the trees, away from the men, because I knew what they would do. And they didn’t disappoint me when seconds after I started my departure, gunfire echoed through the trees.
They shot at nothing. At everything. At perceived danger. “Anybody see him?” “No!” “Sweep the area! Back to back!” I knew they formed a circle. I knew each of the six who could still shoot were shooting the hell out of the trees in front of them. They couldn’t know I had already moved away. Oh, there was a chance one of them would get lucky and I’d get struck by a random bullet. But that chance shrank with each step I took.
I grinned. I knew they’d never seen me. I moved until I was safe, then waited to see what they did. I was far enough from them, I couldn’t hear their voices. But I did hear their guns. And after a few minutes those guns fell silent. Once the silence held for five minutes, I headed back toward them.
I watched as four of the remaining men hauled the two I’d shot through the trees, and the other two guarded their withdrawal.
They hadn’t seen me, so I proceeded to the next step of my plan. I moved parallel to the guardsman on the left. I stayed a good distance from him, and knew he never saw me. As they walked, and he paused every few steps to scan the trees, I paused. Until the time he paused, and I let another arrow fly. It was a tough shot, through the trees. It caught him in the arm. He howled in pain, dropped his gun, grabbed his arm. “I’ve been shot!”
I drew another arrow, and tried again. This one got him in the ribs.
It was time for me to disappear. I moved away, into the brush and trees, and started a loop back to the other side of the men, where the other guardsman was. He’d moved to the one I’d shot. “Jesus, he got you twice!”
The guy was still alive. I didn’t care if he lived or died. I kept moving in my wide loop. It took several minutes for the men to gather, and try to figure out how to deal with their injured comrade. That gave me the time I needed to finish my loop. I hid, maybe 50 feet from them. I knew they’d never see me. I drew another arrow, and let it fly. It struck the calf of the second gunman. It didn’t stick, but it drew blood. A second arrow caught him in the thigh.
I left them in the woods, shooting the hell out of the trees.
I moved back to the fence, and watched the two men they’d left behind. They’d taken up posts about a hundred feet apart, and they sat, bored, watching the trees. “You see anything?” “No.” “Me neither.”
It was too good. I aimed and fired again. The arrow hit the fence, which wasn’t a big surprise. I drew a second arrow, and tried again. This time the arrow went through one of the openings in the fence, and found itself embedded in the left knee of one of the men.
He howled and fell to the ground. At least he was organized, and smart enough, to get his gun, and try shooting into the trees. But he had no idea where the arrow came from. He fired randomly. I was already moving to the side.
His fellow guard was stupid, and headed toward him at a run, “Benny! I’m coming! We’ll get him! We’ll get him!”
The second guard came up short in his run, one arrow in his left thigh, another in his right shoulder. He pitched face first into the ground, and howled in agony.
I walked away. I left. I headed west, parallel to the fence, away from the remaining men in the search party. Away from the two guards. I headed west. I kept moving the remainder of the day, until well past sunset. Then, I moved north for a mile or so. That’s where I set up my tent.
I planned to take a few days to find more good wood, make more good arrows, find things to eat, plenty to drink. If you know where to look in the wild, it’s not really that hard. Water collects in places. Streams form. Things grow.
I needed to unwind a bit before I could sleep. And I knew I would only sleep a few hours before I started moving west again. I couldn’t stay put, I figured the men would put together a bigger party, and shoot up everything for miles and miles.
I pulled out my knife, and the block of wood I was carving. My dad had taught me to whittle. He’d said it was relaxing, a way to wash away the stress of the day. I pulled out the old picture I’d found a couple of years back. It was of an old toy train set. The engine was blue, with a smoke stack, and big black wheels. I didn’t have any paint, or any metal to make axles for wheels. All I had was wood. I’d carved out that train a dozen times. Each time I did a better job.
I whittled away for an hour or so. Until I was ready to sleep. In a few hours, it would be time to wake up, and get moving. It was all about survival. And whatever I was searching for, whatever part of me kept me heading west, wanted me to survive.
That night was the first time I found part of my answer. “There’s got to me someone who’s not angry.”
Maybe that was what I was hunting for. A place where I could rest. Where I could be safe. At least for a while. Maybe.
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Mark woke up in 2010, and has been exploring life since then. All his doctors agree. He needs to write.