Hunters

This is the exciting conclusion to my story Escape. It tells how Jeanie, my character from Dystopia Rising, got free of the slavers and made her way back towards the town. Part of me wishes it wasn’t entirely from her perspective because I love how much is going on in this. But it’s all from her point of view, so a lot of what is happening in this scene are things I couldn’t actually write about because she would not notice them at all. Ah, but oh well. It is what it is. I hope you enjoy it.

**********

Jeanie jerked awake when she heard someone scream.

The Iron sat up from where she had lay on the ground, and looked around, trying to get an idea of what was going on. She glanced over toward the campfire. No one sat near it. One of the drivers was climbing out of a tent, a baseball bat in his hand and he glanced towards the woods around them. Another was climbing down out of a wagon, two pistols in his hands. A third was standing and facing the forest around them, using the site on his rifle to search for… something…

Jeanie glanced down at the other end of the wagon she was chained to. There was a bench there that someone would usually sit on, making sure to guard her. When they first nabbed her, three weeks ago, she’d heard them mention how they didn’t trust her to behave with the phrase “no masters” tattooed to her wrist.

Right now, the seat was empty.

Jeanie carefully and quietly lay back down upon the ground, curled to face the wagon wheel, like she had done every night so far. She pulled the black wool coat up over her and over the chains bound to her wrist.

“Damn fuckin’ hunters,” a gruff voice called out.

Jeanie slowly and carefully slipped her screw driver out of the tool belt on her hip. She took extra care to make sure the wool coat didn’t move too much.

“Again?” This time the voice was smoother. “What happened this time?”

“Jordan, he went ta piss.”

“He back yet?”

“Nah. Pretty sure that scream was him. We ain’t got ‘nough left to go and see ifin’ he’s alright.”

“Fuck. That’s six guys that fuckin’ hunter’s been getting.”

Jeanie carefully slid her thumb along the cold metal locked to her wrists. She had studied them carefully over the past three weeks. Each was made of two separate scrap pieces. On one side, they were screwed together, both to hold the pieces together and to create a hinge for when they opened and closed. The other was where they were locked to the chain links. Pretty standard and simple creation. She slid her thumb along until she found the screw for the hinge.

“You really think it’s the same hunter?” a third voice asked.

“Hell if I know.” The second voice answered. “But, I’ve heard of hunters following their prey for fucking weeks. Wouldn’t surprise me. Boss ain’t gonna like it though.”

Jeanie slipped the screwdriver into the notch on the screw and carefully began twisting the screw loose.

“Well, it could be a horde,” the third voice mentioned again.

“It ain’t a fuckin’ horde, dumb ass,” the first voice called back. “We’d a heard it by now, all that fuckin’ moanin’ an’ shit. We ain’t heard shit, ya know w’um sayin?”

“What if it’s something else?” the third voice asked again.

“Carl, that’s the stupidest fuckin’ shit you ever said. You seen what we seen. When we find anythin’ it’s the bloody mess of whatever is left. Missing flesh and claw marks everywhere. Ain’t a pretty picture. An bein’ on the road an all, we ain’t findin’ nuthin til we get back an find out what morgues they come out of, ifin they come back at all.”

Jeanie took a deep breath and placed the screw on the ground. She carefully began to search for the screw near her other wrist. Time to unscrew this side.

“Will you two shut the fuck up and pay attention? That hunter’s probably sneakin’ up on us again and you two keep blabbin’ away, giving away our position”

“But Taxi, don’t hunters use smell to find stuff?” Carl asked.

“You ain’t never hear of a blind hunter? Dumb ass?” the first voice yelled at him.

“Blind hunter?” Carl must have been new to the whole caravan travelling thing.

“Alabama, shut up.” The smooth second voice said. He must be Taxi, the guy Carl asked in the first place. “Carl, blind hunters can’t see. They hunt by sound.”

“Oh,” Carl whispered.

“Yeah, an they all can hear us fuckers yammerin an yammerin,” Alabama started up again.

“Alabama Dallas! You shut the fuck up or boss ain’t ever hiring your ass again.”

“Alright Taxi. I’ll shut it.”

Damn, they were going quiet and paying attention again. Jeanie carefully placed the other screw to the ground. This was the part where she needed them to be loud. She was going to try and slide her hands out, using the fact that the hinge was now open to try and provide more room for sliding her hands out. Only problem was, the chain links might rattle. Crap.

The whole campsite was quiet. The three remaining members of the caravan looking around, trying to carefully see the hunter in the forest. You could hear the crackling of the campfire. You could actually hear the campfire really well. Almost as if it had gotten bigger.

“Fuck! Shit! Fuck!” Alabama shouted out. “The tent, the fuckin’ tent!”

“Damn it!” Taxi shouted.

Jeanie smiled. Whatever happened, they were focused on it and loud again. With a grimace and tightly squeezed eyes, she slowly and painfully, forced her wrist through the iron manacle. A few deep breaths and she’d slip the other wrist through.

“How on earth?” Carl commented.

“That’s my fuckin’ tent!” Taxi yelled.

“Wha’da we do?” Alabama asked. “I ain’t good with fire an shit.”

“Get water ya twit!” Taxi yelled. “You too, Carl. Get off your ass, move!”

Jeanie wrenched her hand free of the other manacle and grimaced. Her wrists were raw from the cold metal that had been wrapped around them for three weeks. They were purple and bruised and in desperate need of being healed. Wrenching her hands free scratched up the skin on her hands, nothing bad. She’d dealt with worse at the forge. No real damage, but it still did hurt. She took a deep breath and paused to listen as she slid the screw driver back into it’s place on her tool belt.

“With what? We ain’t got no fuckin’ buckets or shit!” Alabama shouted.

“What do I do?” Carl yelled. He sounded panicked.

“Figure it out. Awe, fuckin’ hell!” Taxi groaned.

Jeanie smiled. They were still focused and yelling loudly. Their attention was on the fire, not the Iron Slave they had captured. She carefully gripped the coat so that she wouldn’t lose it and began to crawl under the caravan wagon. Slowly and carefully.

Her face paled as she inched under the wagon. She paused and took a deep breath. She swallowed and muttered under her breath “Done this before. I can do it again.” She took another deep breath and then continued to inch her way under the wagon. Slowly and carefully.

After a few, disgustingly long moments, she could feel the breeze flow over her back. She had made it to the other side of the wagon. She took a deep breath and stood, brushing herself off. She slipped her hands into the sleeves of the long black coat.

Now for the difficult part.

Jeanie took a deep breath and ran. She didn’t look back at the slavers and their burning tent. She didn’t look back to see if any of them were following her. She didn’t even think to go back for her things. She just ran and hoped she’d avoid the hunter, especially since she had no weapons and couldn’t see zed that hide in the dark. She jumped up over the fallen log on the ground. She ducked her head under the low hanging branch. She swerved to avoid the rock in her path. And she ran. She ran til she was out of breath and she kept running. She ran until she couldn’t see or hear the slaver caravan anymore. And she still kept running. She ran til she could run no more. And then, she walked. She wouldn’t stop. Not tonight. Not til it was day and she could find a place to sleep where no one would see her glow when the sun went down.

Soon, she’d be back home. Soon, she’d see her Sliphox again.

But for now, she would keep running.

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