by Jim Tesla -
The day is dead, thought Tane. He’d killed it—routinely and without flinching—like he did every day, every single day that foisted itself upon him now, like a whore set on draining off life. There it lay, the day, exhausted, behind him, a memory of pulses and feelings and at least one big mistake. It was a “one big mistake” that hung there, in his recent memory, hung and wouldn’t let go …
Tane jabbed at the fire, added a log. Some called him a hunter; others, a fool.
Port X was home to him, but no, this was home—volcanoes silhouetted against a yellow-grey horizon, ash puffing under his feet with each forward step, him scrounging for enough water to stay alive, just stay alive. He stroked his gun.
A fire had spread today through a forest not far from here. The crackling had alerted Tane while he slept, the crackling and the high-pitched screams. He’d watched it burn, spear in hand, ready for whatever ran toward him from the trees. He’d gotten three giant beetles and a centipede the size of a python, and taken them to the drop-off point, one at a time. It had taken most of the day.
When he got paid, he’d go to Adagio, not Port X, and buy ammunition. It wasn’t good to be seen in Port X anymore, and it wasn’t good to be without ammo. The hunter was still the hunted—the predator, the prey.
He’d grown more capable and fearless since starting this job, and he nursed a grudge. It was the grudge that set him apart. Like most hunters in this dag-forsaken land, he’d made a few enemies. And he knew how to use a gun.
The day was dead.