by Travis Perry -
Jax often hunted alone. He’d tried partners and had found that while there is safety in numbers, there was the downside that a lot of these hunters were bugscat crazy—and dangerous. And when hunting alone, he got 100% of the haul, every time.
This blazing fiveday Summer afternoon, out on his own, he stood with a rock formation behind him. Temporarily he leaned his spear on a rock as he pulled loose the drawstring on his rucksack made from a membrane found on the inside of the pinto beetle shell. He reached in and pulled out a wet gland, one he’d taken on a hunt just three days ago. This contained the musk of male coriander beetle. He squeezed the gland, expressing pungent fluid on his hands. He wiped his forearms in the smelly goo and held his arms upward in the air, letting the hot wind spread the odor wherever it whipped in this narrow rocky draw.
He’d learned from experience that male corianders were aggressive and territorial. One strong whiff of a rival and they’d come charging from all around, spoiling for a fight. In practice this may not work so well, since there wasn’t always one in the range of the scent. But he’d spotted several in the area before he came down the ridge covered with broken black basalt into this claustrophobically tight, sandy-bottomed draw.
Another problem came from the fact the beetles could charge in from any direction—that he’d accounted for by where he placed himself. Within the high rock walls on either side, there was only one route in—the natural rock heap behind him covered that route to his rear, so any bug coming after him would have to charge down the draw from the ridge, the direction he was facing, one at a time.
The rocks helped him with another potential difficulty—male coriander beetles usually charged in low, pinchers first, making a poor target for a spear attack, which ideally hit the book or bellows lungs under the belly. If a beetle charged him here, he could back up the rock pile a little bit. Almost every time the corianders would raise themselves up on their four hind legs when facing an enemy on higher ground, giving a perfect shot at the lungs. Though sometimes they didn’t slow down at all, charging straight up, slamming their heavy sharp pinchers together in the attack. Times like that were a little more challenging…
He heard scurrying from the ridge before he even had time to retrieve his spear. Spear newly in hand his eyes caught a coriander as it shook its head back and forth, sweeping its antennae. It audibly grunted from the top of the draw, just over one hundred meters away.
“Right down here, buddy,” Jax said. “Come on down.”
Within seconds the obedient bug charged down the draw, straight toward his position. It was a healthy young male, larger than average. It would bring a decent price.
Crossing the sandiest patch in the draw, the bug suddenly stopped and squealed. Its legs thrashed but something from underneath held it in place. It attempted to pivot its pinchers underneath its body, a position anatomically impossible for it. It thrashed over on its side, legs twitching.
Bug flipped over, Jax now saw an arm, a human arm, holding a large knife that had pierced the bug’s lungs—sticking straight up from the sand. The patch moved and suddenly a man stood up from it, huffing and blowing sand from his mouth.
“Hey you, on the rock pile,” croaked the voice. “I’ll split the kill with you if you can give me a hand.”
Jax moved forward. He didn’t know whether to be more annoyed at the loss of his kill or amazed by the means by which he’d lost it.
The man’s legs were still buried in sand. “I figured one would come by sooner or later,” he mumbled.
“Sooner or later?” exclaimed Jax. “How long were you buried there? I’ve been in the area for a couple of hours and I didn’t see you at all.”
“Ah…it’s been about two days I think. It was fiveday Winter when I dug in.” The man tried to spit but nothing came from his mouth. “You wouldn’t happen to have any water, would you, pal? That’s the main thing I need.”
“Sure,” said Jax, more astounded than before. The dark-haired man took a long drink from his waterskin and reluctantly handed it back.
“So now what do we do? This is my first kill.”
“Your first?” Jax scratched his head. “You came out here with just a knife?”
“Yes. Yes I did.”
“Dear God—who are you?”
“Ernsto—last name doesn’t matter.”
Jax couldn’t help but chuckle. “You must be the craziest man—” he cut off when he heard new grunting from the top of the ridge. Another coriander beetle, this one bigger than the last, stood at the top of the draw.
And then he heard grunting from behind. He whipped his head back and saw another big male waving antennae. From the top of his rock pile.