Trophy of the Captive Hunter

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
Arthur awakes to find himself imprisoned in a small, dark cell with no recollection of how he got there or why. As he struggles to find an escape, the truth of his fate slowly reveals itself.

Submitted: January 14, 2010

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Submitted: January 14, 2010

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Arthur wakes up in a cold, damp cell surrounded by the stench of swamp rot and sulfur. There is no light to speak of, but his eyes quickly adjust as they always do. His sight serves him little purpose in a small room such as this. The structure appears to be solid, except for a thick metal door with a barred opening.

Time passes. Arthur paces within the restricted confines of his secluded captivity. He cannot recall the exact events, which have brought him here, only that he last remembers bedding down to rest from his typical routine. His mind circles itself, trying to reconstruct how anyone might have gotten the upper hand on him. His attentiveness to detail and reputation for always being prepared has made him a respectable figure amongst his people.

The penetrating aroma of sulfuric gas causes him to lose focus. Arthur is not accustomed to being in a confused state of mind. This angers him, but he forces himself to focus on the task at hand.

"The bars," Arthur mutters to himself. "The bars are the weak point of this stronghold."

Arthur carefully inspects the craftsmanship of the door and the bars that guard the window opening. An ingenious smile forms in the corner of his mouth as he prepares to make his escape.

Rubbing his hands together, as if preparing to dead lift a sizable barbell, Arthur calculates his approach and seizes two of the five metal bars, then thrusts his weight and momentum in reverse in an effort to rip the structure open at it's weakest point.

"Oh, damn it to Hell! Fuck!"

Arthur screams in agony and frustration. Not only has he failed to remove the bars that confine him, but also he has left a part of himself, flesh from his hands, seared to the bars at the points of his grasp. Skin that once covered his palms and fingertips now sizzles and shrivels not unlike bacon on a griddle. Arthur furiously inhales, holding his scarred hands out before him.

"How is this," Arthur asks himself?

He is both fearful and curious of what has just transpired. Without making the same mistake twice, Arthur inspects the bars more closely.

"No rust, nor corrosion. No oxidation of any kind," he catalogs to himself.

The bars appear to be old and weathered. Arthur turns to inspect his quarters for some debris or remnants of some kind. Four walls, the floor and ceiling, they are all densely formulated concrete. Arthur places one of his mangled palms flat onto the floor and holds it there. He rises and repeats this action against one of the walls and the ceiling, which is but a mere seven feet above the floor. From his calculations, the room is roughly ten by ten and the concrete is most likely a good two to three feet thick.

This strikes Arthur as being strangely overkill for a typical imprisonment. He suspects he will not be found by anyone other than his captors. Captors he cannot recollect. Perhaps captors whom shall not ever return, leaving him to whither away over time to nothing, starved to death.

Arthur tears a strip of cloth from his shirtsleeve. He rushes to the thick metal door, perhaps six inches thick. He carefully wraps the cloth around one hand and proceeds to rub furiously at one of the metal bars. The dirt and grime encrusting the bar flakes and crumbles, revealing an impossible shine.

"Damn," exclaims Arthur. "Fucking unbelievable!"

Arthur removes the cloth from his hand and tosses it into the corner of his cell. His eyes and head make a determined 360-degree survey of his enclosure, taking in every single detail. Every crack, divot and defect in the concrete is examined in the pass of Arthur's eyes. Not one inch of the structure is left without close examination.

"Son of a bitch," he yells into the silence.

His profanity is met with utter silence in return. Only the subtle sound of the wind outside, steadily fluctuating through the trees, gives Arthur any sense of place. He is clearly nowhere near populated geography.

The howling of some wild animal, perhaps a coyote or a wolf, suddenly breaks the silence. Arthur uses this, along with the stench and humidity to place himself somewhere far from his last known location. Exactly where he may be still eludes him. He knows not of any region where these sounds and smells naturally coexist.

Hours pass. Perhaps even days have run their course. Time is of lesser importance to Arthur in this chapter of his existence. The complete lack of daylight however is what holds his curiosity the most. He can hear the wind and the local wildlife, can feel the cold damp air from outside his cell, but no light shines through or is even apparent on the other side of the bars in the door. Arthur concludes the structure must be built within a cave of some sort.

"Hello," Arthur speaks loudly and with a strong resonance.

He waits, and then repeats his call, louder now.

Again he yells, even louder. This time his call is met with a faint echo.

His whereabouts must be well hidden. A larger cave would have more easily produced an echo, so the cavern must not be terribly deep or wide. The opening of the cave must be relatively small to forbid the entrance of any light, but it must be open for him to hear his surroundings.

Arthur retrieves the cloth torn from his shirtsleeve, matches it with cloth torn from the opposite sleeve and wraps both his hands carefully for a second attempt. He approaches the bars, hands stretched out hesitantly before him.

"Here I come, you son of a bitch. You thought you could cage me like an animal." Arthur encourages himself forward with thoughts of violent retribution.

His hands meticulously and firmly grasp the bars. He carefully places his fingers in just the right configurations, inhales the air and begins to pull furiously at the bars. No result at first, but he persists in his struggle of might. He hears what might be the slightest evidence of loosening. Arthur reconstitutes his grip and proceeds to pull even harder.

A flash of the brightest, most piercing blue-white light fills his retina and the cell, encompassing his entire body through the opening. It lasts but a fraction of a second, but successfully results in Arthur releasing his grip and throwing his body back to the far corner of the cell, bouncing off the wall. His hands paw at his face, covering his eyes.

Arthur continues to flail and scream in agony about his cell moments after the brief flash of light has subsided. His energy diminishes and his pain now lessened, Arthur slows to a defeated sloth as he allows his body to fall back in a lean against the wall and slowly slide down into a seated position. He closes his eyes to relish the darkness.

The same howling Arthur heard earlier awakes him from his silent meditation. Nothing has changed. The cell is still dark, cold and empty. The smell of sulfur still fills the air. Arthur particularly hates the putrid smell of sulfur. It gnaws at his nostrils and makes it difficult for him to establish other, more useful sensory indications of his whereabouts.

He hears footsteps. They are faint, but clearly he makes them out to be two pair of footsteps. They must belong to his captors. The sound places them near the source of the wind, at the opening of the cave. They approach at a steady pace. Arthur approaches the opening in the door cautiously, hoping for a glimpse of his captors. He slides along the wall and then peers out the opening in the door, as the footsteps get closer.

Arthur hears a brief, successive electrical clicking. The sound is similar to the firing up of an industrial fluorescent light. At that moment Arthur realizes he heard the same sound when the light flashed his eyes previously and he immediately turns and ducks behind the cover of the metal door below the opening. His memory serves him well as that same light then flashes and Arthur can hear the footsteps pass his cell.

Arthur clenches his fist and thrusts it into the metal door out of frustration.

The scream of another suddenly demands Arthur's attention. He listens. It sounds similar to what he felt when the light penetrated his skull and filled every nerve of his body with pain. He figures it must be some other poor inmate that has just suffered the same torture.

At that very moment, Arthur is struck by the realization that he must not be alone. There must be others confined just like him. He raises himself against the door and peers out the opening, struggling to see whatever he can.

Nothing.

The silence is once again broken by the sound of a slow metallic grinding, followed by a loud and reverberating thud. This must be the door to another cell. Arthur listens intently for anything that would serve him in his understanding of his situation.

"No. No!"

A man's voice calls out, followed by a wet, gurgling scream.

Arthur cannot help but wonder nervously what this other prisoner's fate has become. The screams subside and Arthur hears the same footsteps accompanied by the sound of something being dragged along the ground. He can only assume it is the other prisoner's body being dragged away.

Arthur hears the clicking that precedes the light as the footsteps approach from the opposite direction and once again ducks down behind the cover of the door. His head rests with one ear placed on the metallic surface. Arthur hears something through the door.

He listens carefully. It appears to be a pattern of taps and scratches being rapidly applied to the door with a sharp object. Arthur mumbles the pattern to himself as he listens, over and over and then it stops abruptly.

Arthur continues to repeat the pattern over and over in his head.

.--. .-. . -.--

One character at a time, he reconstructs the pattern into a message delivered using Morse code. His recognition of Morse code is rusty from his use of it during the war, but like all things from his past, nothing is ever forgotten, except apparently for how he came to arrive in this mysterious cell.

Arthur continues to repeat the pattern in his mind, tracing the characters out with his finger on the dusty metallic door. One character at a time, it spells a single word.

P R E Y

"Prey," Arthur asks himself?

He considers the meaning, or perhaps the possibility that his translation is flawed. Maybe it isn't his translation, but rather an error of misspelling on the part of the sender of the message.

"Could he have meant PRAY," Arthur asks himself?

This translation would seem to fit the circumstances more appropriately, but he is convinced his translation is correct. Arthur lifts himself from the floor and relocates to the far corner of his cell, closes his eyes and enters once again into the solitary comfort of darkness.

The loud thud of a heavy metallic mechanism being shifted, perhaps the lock on his door, wakes Arthur from his self-induced meditation. He stares at the door, still closed, wondering if this is when he will experience the same unknown fate as the prisoner who tapped and scratched the coded message on his door.

The familiar electric clicking returns followed by a burst of the blue-white light. Arthur has learned this association like Pavlov's dog and it disgusts him, but he knows the alternative and the very thought of experiencing that pain again makes him nauseous. The sound of metal grinding upon itself fills his cell and Arthur watches as a small section of the door slides upwards.

He hears nothing, then the grinding returns and ends with a lighter thud. The light goes out and Arthur removes his arm from shielding his eyes. He rises to his feet and slowly moves toward the door, but partially collapses after two steps. Arthur clasps both arms around his stomach, which is twisting and turning in pain. His hunger has finally awakened.

Normally he can go without food for days, even a week or two. Arthur figures he has been held captive in his cell now for at least two weeks to feel hunger pains such as this. He forces himself back to his feet and lumbers toward the door.

Sitting at the base of the door is a dull, black Thermos bottle. Arthur reaches down slowly to insect the package. He carefully unscrews the cap. The moment the seal is broken, Arthur instantly recognizes the aroma wafting from inside the bottle.

As if given a sudden boost of adrenaline, Arthur fiendishly removes the cap from the bottle, lifts it to his lips and throws his head back. He chugs the bottle's contents like a hungry dog would feed on raw ground beef. He pauses for a moment, giving any last drop of the substance a chance to enter his mouth, then lowers the bottle and tosses it away.

Arthur feels reinvigorated, powerful and unstoppable. His body stands erect and strong. He arches his back with his arms extended. He stretches his neck in a circular fashion and displays a large, sinister smile.

Arthur places his back against the wall, arms spread eagle and plants one foot firmly in the corner where the floor meets the wall. He inhales deeply a couple of times, then lunges forward from the wall with tremendous force and speed, slamming shoulder first into the thick metal door.

THUD!

Not the least phased by any potential damage to his body, Arthur returns to the far wall and repeats this action not once, but twice more.

THUD! THUD!

The door does not budge, but Arthur persists. He is determined to escape his cell and make his captors pay for their ignorance and disrespect. Once more, Arthur lunges from the far wall. He is stopped in his tracks by the blinding blue-white light. He throws both arms up to shield his eyes just in time to minimize the devastating effects.

THUD!

This time, his body against the door did not produce the loud thud. With the light still shining, Arthur hears the grinding of metal, then silence. Arthur wonders why his captors are keeping the light on him so long.

A deep, gravely voice echoes into his cell.

"We have chosen you, Arthur. Your resilience has caught our attention. For this, you will not suffer the normal extraction," the voice pronounces.

Arthur is confused, but ready to end this ordeal, one way or the other. The light goes out. Arthur removes his arms from shielding his eyes.

"You are free to leave your cell, Arthur," the voice commands.

Just like that. Arthur wonders what this has all been about, keeping him captive for so long, only to just set him free for no apparent reason. He does not care. He can see the door is wide open. The light is shut off.

Silence.

Arthur leaps towards the open door; with both arms extended and bracing his tightly wound body within the doorframe. Arthur pans his vision from one side to the other, gazing down both ends of the corridor. There appears to be no sign of anyone or anything in either direction.

A faint warm glow, the fading light of dusk just before nightfall, shows through the mouth of the cave. The menacing smile returns to Arthur's face as he exits his cell and faces his freedom.

"It doesn’t matter. It is my time. Any who dares get in my way shall pay dearly," he proclaims, reassuring himself that this strange and mysterious ordeal is now in his past.

With unreal strength and speed, Arthur emerges from the cavern into the dying light. Thick woods surround him. He stands in a shallow swampy marsh. The thick, rotten stench of death seeps into his nose. Arthur checks his surroundings and bolts into a sprint through the woods.

His strength is back, but the marshy sludge beneath his feet slows him down. Darkness is almost upon him. He feels empowered by the night. Arthur stops for a moment to get a bearing on his location. He attempts to gather whatever sensory information he can to decipher his course.

The sulfuric stench still overpowers any other scents that may prove useful. He listens for the subtlest of clues. A solitary howling erupts. It is the same howl from before. Arthur shifts and turns towards the source of the howl. Another howling erupts, but this time from and entirely different direction. This is followed by a second, a third, one after another. The howling increases to a point where Arthur can no longer differentiate between them or pinpoint the source of their origination.

Finding his stationary position counter-productive, Arthur once again bolts into a diminished sprint through the marshy woods. The howling continues as Arthur leaps and bounds, splashing and making noise as he barrels through the unknown wilderness. These woods seem to go on forever, but Arthur knows eventually he will reach a clearing, a village or something to give him bearing on his location.

A sudden and jarring sensation enters Arthur's body as he finds himself flying through the air in a reverse back flip, landing on his back in the shallow marsh. The filthy, thick water fills his mouth and nose as he plunges into the sludge below. Momentarily paralyzed by the unexpected impact, Arthur regains his composure and returns to his feet. He figures he must have slammed into a tree branch during his zealous escape.

"Arthur! You're time has come," the deep, gravely voice emanates through the woods from an uncertain location.

Arthur sweeps his body around, frantically searching for the voice in the darkness. He becomes frantic.

"Who are you? Where are you? Show yourself," Arthur demands!

"We are many. We are all around you," the voice replies.

Arthur spreads his arms, toned muscles rippling and veins bulging under his white, water-soaked dress shirt without sleeves. His fingernails extend slightly into tiny sharp daggers at the ends of each finger. His ears elongate, and protrude out slightly from his head, opening up to retrieve increased sensory information. His eyes begin to glow faintly and his pupils overtake his eyeballs. Arthur releases a loud and commanding roar as his fangs lengthen in his mouth.

"You shall pay for your ignorance, fool" Arthur threatens!

His display is returned ten-fold with a simultaneous roar of countless beastly voices, creating an Earth-shaking wave of sound throughout the woods. Arthur cannot help but feel the sudden uncontrollable sensation of defeat resonate though his body, but he will not go down without a fight.

"I demand to know what you are," Arthur roars authoritatively, in an effort to salvage the visage of control over his situation. "Are you Lycan?"

A loud and rumbling laughter echoes through the woods.

"Why do you mock me," asks Arthur?

"Because you are vain," the voice appears suddenly from behind Arthur.

Arthur whips around to strike at his foe, but meets with a hard and damaging blow to his chin, which sends him flying back through the woods. His body comes to an abrupt halt as it collides with a large old tree. His limp vessel falls into the muddy waters below.

"Stand up, old man," the voice demands.

Arthur struggles to lift himself to his feet again, but puts every ounce of him into hiding his pain and vulnerability.

"Why have you done this," Arthur asks? "Our kind and yours have lived without violence between us for centuries. It is to benefit both our survival in these days of dwindling numbers."

Silence once again fills the woods as Arthur awaits the certain onslaught brewing against him.

"Answer me," Arthur demands!

The blur of two figures appear in a flash from either side of Arthur's body. Each of them grabs hold of Arthur's arms, retreating into the woods with his appendages easily ripped from his torso. Arthur lets out a bellowing roar of agonizing pain and anger as he collapses to his knees.

Another figure flashes forward out of nowhere and appears behind Arthur as a bloody arm emerges from his chest, holding his still-beating heart in its palm for Arthur to gaze upon helplessly. Arthur's mouth drops wide open, gasping for breath he does not breathe.

Arthur raises his head to witness a blurry figure emerge before him from the musty haze of the marsh. The figure appears most human, but he knows this cannot be so. These must be creatures of the night, betraying their own kind.

"What are you," Arthur struggles to speak?

"Haven't you figured it out yet," the figure replies?

The figure approaches and becomes more clearly visible to Arthur, who realizes he looks human in appearance, but so do the vampires and werewolves when not transformed. The suspense of the moment eats away at Arthur's mind as he struggles to piece together this atrocity.

"I am you," the figure states with a playful tone. "The new you."

"What are you talking about," Arthur insists?

"Your reign over humanity is coming to an end. We've evolved to surpass the tyranny of the vampires, replacing you at the top of the food chain," the figure explains. "You are now our sport. Our recreational play things."

"I don't understand," Arthur admits. "When did this happen? How is this possible?"

"That's just it. You've been so corrupted with power and a sense of infallibility, of which we've allowed you to continue to believe; that you never realized the human race has been undergoing an evolutionary change while your numbers exponentially fall towards extinction. It's basic Darwinism. Survival of the fittest."

Arthur lowers his head, accepting his inevitable fate.

"So, what is to become of us now," Arthur inquires?

"Now," the figure explains, "I take my trophy."

The figure steps up to Arthur’s body in a flash of light, places his palm on Arthur’s forehead to steady his kill, dislocates Arthur's jaw with his other hand and proceeds to remove both of Arthur's fangs with his bare fingers. One at a time, he places them in his pocket before releasing his grasp on Arthur and allowing his body to fall lifeless into the decaying marsh.

"What remains is yours to do with as you please," the figure instructs to his brethren as he disappears once again into the haze of the marsh.


© Copyright 2017 RKDN78. All rights reserved.

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