Monday, August 27, 2007

Two Scenes - The Hunt

Here's my take on the two scenes exercise. I'm not sure where this came from apart from a desire not to do what we'd talked about as an example in the workshop: guy acting different with his wife than with his friends. So I started thinking of what the conflict could be that the guy was dealing with, and I got a couple germs of ideas and they all came together.

  He'd run those rooftops a hundred times, a thousand, even, and never slipped before. Whatever god had possessed him to come out for one more hunt on a rainy night must have been looking out for him, though. He stepped back from the crumpled form of the antelope and stared at its companion, willing his features into a snarl. “What're you looking at?” he growled, claws flexing in and out of his paws. “You want to be number two?”
  The antelope didn't move. His nose told him that it was female, so probably he'd just killed her husband. “You know how the hunt works, right?”
  She nodded, slowly, and whispered, “If they catch you, they'll kill you, too.”
  He thought about his wife, a spotted pelt on some antelope's wall now. “They haven't caught me yet, not in twenty years.”
  “You fell.” He could hear her voice over the rain without straining, now. She held a purse, but wasn't reaching for it; the confidence came from within.“I saw you land.”
  “I broke his neck. You should thank me. It was quick and painless.”
  In her eyes, he could see his own reflection, dripping fur, yellow eyes shining with the reflected streetlight. “You won't take him.”
  “Lady,” he laughed, tasting rain on his tongue, “you don't know the rules.”
  “I know enough.” The street was empty, but he would have to get going soon. The patrols would come by, or someone else would raise the alarm. “Haven't you lost someone? Wouldn't you rather they were buried on your land?”
  “We don't care,” he growled. “To die in the hunt is honorable.” But the image of her lovely fur, stretched out, gnawed at him. He shook his head, spraying water. “My family has to eat.”
  “My family had to live,” she said. “Little enough that mattered.”
  “Stupid woman,” he said, and took a step toward her. His arms were heavy with more than water. He remembered every antelope he'd ever killed.
  When they'd hunted together and brought down a couple, it always made her happier. One of them doesn't have to go on without the other, she'd say. He took another step, nearly in claw's reach of the antelope's throat now, and his foot skidded on the sidewalk.
  She watched, impassive, as he regained his balance. They stared at each other again through the hissing rain. “If you were going to kill me,” she said, “you would've done it. Just go. Leave me my husband.”
  He hated them, in all their trappings and clothing, with weapons and vehicles, the city an affront to God and nature. But he could not kill her. The energy of the hunt had left him, and he had made the mistake of talking to her, a cub's mistake. Hunt with your heart, not with your head.
  He picked up the antelope's body—her husband's body. His arms were tired, his back straining under the weight he'd lifted so easily in years past. He looked up at her again, and let the body slip to the dirt.
  Engines sounded through the rain, but by the time they came into view, he had made his way up the side of the building to crouch huddled on the roof, looking up at the moon through the veil of rain and fog.

  And the second version...

  He'd run those rooftops a hundred times, a thousand, even, and never slipped before. Whatever god had possessed him to come out for one more hunt on a rainy night must have been looking out for him, though. He stepped back from the crumpled form of the antelope as his granddaughter landed beside him, sinking her teeth into the throat of the fallen creature.
  “It's dead,” he told the cub. “You can let go.”
  “You were good,” his granddaughter said. She stood, all lithe muscle and grace, her tail lashing through the rain. “I hate this weather.”
  “Years of practice,” he told her. “Now let's get the clothes off. Quickly, quickly, before a patrol shows up. They haven't caught me yet, not in twenty years, and I don't mean for this to be the night.”
  He ripped the garments from the cooling body, tearing along seams to save energy. The cub, more energetic and less experienced, just shredded until they came easily away. He smiled. Once he'd had that energy, and that hatred for the antelopes and their industry that polluted the landscape and the waters. But the clothes made them run slower, so there was that, at least.
  He hefted the body over his shoulder. As it came away from the sidewalk, a small cloth wallet fell to the ground, open to a picture of two antelopes and a young fawn. His granddaughter picked it up.
  “Look, 'pa,” she said. “He has a family too.”
  “Course,” he said gruffly. “What did you think?”
  “We-ell...” She held the wallet. “What will his wife think?”
  “She knows the rules.” The weight of the body came up with him, heavier than he'd remembered. He should make her carry it, but no, it was the job of the hunter to carry his or her quarry. She was along to learn, too young to hunt on her own yet.
  “What rules?”
  “We hunt them. They kill us if they catch us.” He grunted with the effort.
  She swung up beside him easily. “Will his family know what happened?”
  “They'll figure it out.” He got to the roof, threw the body over it, and followed it, panting.
  She crouched beside him, yellow eyes reflecting the moon. “Like we did with 'ma?”
  “Yes.” He stared back at her and cuffed her suddenly. She fell back on her haunches, staring resentfully, tail lashing. “Never think about that,” he told her. “Hunt with your heart. If you start thinking about their families, or getting revenge for our lost ones, you'll be caught as sure as night after day. You understand?”
  “Yes, pa.” She shook herself, spraying him with water.
  “Right, then.” He looked up at the moon and stretched, thankful for the light even through the driving rain. “Next one's yours.”

I still think it's a little too easy, for lack of a better word--of course he's going to act differently when confronted with the wife of his victim rather than his granddaughter. But maybe that's the whole point. I dunno. In any event, I feel like I want to make something more out of these scenes, maybe a slightly longer short story. Anyway, it was a lot of fun to do, and people seemed to like it.

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