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The Animal Of My Animal… a short story by: GF Willmetts.

February 2, 2020 | By | Reply More

It should never have happened but it did. I mean, why arm animals? Back in the old days, you go out with a gun and bag an animal. Sometimes for food. Sometimes for its pelt or other parts that you could sell for a profit. Some just killed for trophies or a bag list. The equal arms act changed all of that. It gave animals equality. Before, you always shot at a distance, especially with the fiercer animals. Getting too close to them and you would risk getting mauled and eaten yourself. It happened to the unwary but much of the time you avoided such trouble. It stood to reason, didn’t it?

Giving animals rights extending to weaponry changed everything. They were no longer defenceless and fought back and quickly learnt how to do it. Who said all wild animals were dumb should be at least grateful that they all didn’t have long memories about what we have done to their species.

Now, they could take a sniper-shot at me as much I could at them. Although I doubt if a member of the cat family like a tiger or a lion could hold a gun, they had a cyber-support on their shoulder that they could fire from. The ones to be really wary of were the bipeds with real arms. Not so much most primates, although you wouldn’t want to fancy an armed chimpanzee who saw nothing unusual swinging upside down from a tree or vine to get their shot. Unfair I would call that. The bears had a mean streak and they ate their victims. There was nothing sporting about that other than getting them first.

At least they were solitary hunters, not ganging up like the wild dogs would or being chased down. It was better just to have a rifle and be at ground level. Sneak-up animals like the great cats were too good at sniping. Another generation and attrition would remove hunters totally from the scene. They’d either be running like babies, giving up their arms or dead. No doubt at that point there would be another law to either unarm the animals or reduce the number who were carrying them.

We should have been given better protection but the equal rights act also applied to us, too. Hats only to keep the sun out. No camouflage suits. No flak jackets. I mean, we wanted some protection when they shot at us, didn’t we? Some chose to go Tarzan and just have a loin cloth. If shot but not killed, at least you stood a better chance of being patched up than having fibres pushed into the wound. Then we discovered some animals loved to coat their bullets in their shit knowing if they didn’t kill us outright, then we could die a few hours later. Where was the equality in that? When was poisoning allowed in the rulebook?

Planet Stories Pulp.

For me, a simple shirt, jeans, hat and boots. At least the snakes weren’t armed but they could still bite and crush. A simple backpack, survival kit and a sleeping bag to sleep in a tree and avoiding any leopards who slept up in them as well. I remember once waking up in the middle of the night with one leopard panting nearby and ignoring me. How humiliating it could be to be seen as a non-combatant but I needed the sleep so neither of us bothered each other and it was gone in the morning.

Whoever said animals couldn’t be vicious killers when we were put back on their menu didn’t allow for the armed animals act. Many of them took as much satisfaction shooting us as we are of them.

So, why was I still hunting? It gets in the blood and who wants to admit that an animal could beat them or be a better shot? If anything, this is what made for a true hunt. Almost resembled the Bandersnatchs of Larry Niven except with more diversity. The animals were armed by a faction of the animal rights groups to even up the score. The animals who were weaponised quickly learnt and favoured long range weapons, keeping their teeth and claws for close fights. Who would want to get that close to them and say you were just faster this once?

The purists hunters felt it fairer than the trophy hunters and more divisions in the ranks. Unless you kept up with the magazines and who’s who, you didn’t know who was out in the field or who wanted to know who was there. Me? I’d rather keep below the radar. Of course, there are always going to be problems. Rogue hunters who ignored all the rules and often into illegal trade. Everything was prey to them.

I reminded myself of that as I ducked as a bullet slammed into the tree behind me, it looked like I was a target. I wasn’t that surprised and the calibre suggested it wasn’t animal. There had been vague rumours that there was someone in the reserve seeing anything in there as a target for some time now but was laughed off by the few remaining hunters. Whoever it was had been selective, probably going for animals to throw the scent, but it looked like they wanted to bag one of own and I was now the target. I could end up being a head on some trophy wall.

Me!? I was now looking for him and idling my time waiting. You would have thought one of the armed animals would have had him in by now, unless he was on high. A sniper and I was at a distinct disadvantage on the ground. Any armed animals nearby moved out of the arena. Have you ever noticed how predators never attack their normal prey where the males are fighting over rutting rights or rutting itself. Same kind of thing. They weren’t going to interfere and were moving away. Just types. Leopards, lions or wild dogs. They were interested bystanders and could smell the blood of the victim and might even be a meal out of it for them later if the remains were left. I should be grateful there were no elephants or giraffes, although they might have give me some cover.

I crawled into the undergrowth, digging into one of my pockets for my own sniperscope. Not that I used it but gave me some nightvision. Not a lot of good if he was hidden with the sunlight behind him but better to hook onto my rifle now than fumble later. If he was hidden amongst the leaves then at least he would stand out with it. It was a shame sniper-goggles were outlawed in the reserve. I carefully eyed the trees away from me trying to work out just where he was.

There had to be a simple strategy. He wanted to bag a human. Me? I wanted to stay alive so that meant killing him. I could hardly run away, could I? How to be an easy target. Give someone a back to shoot at. I needed to make him the target and that meant seeing where he is. The only way to do that would be to run. Still didn’t like it but I had no idea whether I would be facing for or away from him. Duck when he fired next and shoot back in the same direction. Maybe I could get lucky.

Another bullet hit the dirt in front of me. It looked like the decision was going to be made for me. I couldn’t stay here. Wherever I was, I would be a target. Maybe that could be the solution. Be shot in the back. That would be murder and eventually the law would catch up with him. I’d still be dead, though.

‘So, I’m going to be your prize trophy with a bullet in my back,’ I shouted. ‘Hardly sporting, is it?’

I moved my head as another bullet hit the stone near it. That was a message, he was that good but also meant he heard. I was pinned down. Nowhere to run but shout.

‘You must be recording this. What’s the point of a kill without proof that you did it? A gallant bullet in the back is hardly going to improve your standing in your little community of human hunters. Why not make it a fair fight?’

Another bullet. Another miss. This time felt more deliberate. I was getting through to him. He wanted a target I slowly stood up, putting my gun on the ground.

‘An unarmed man at that. Even the animals have better odds than that now.’

I looked around. The armed animals nearby were still watching but remained as observers. Clearly, this wasn’t their fight but drawn to the conflict…or my death. Would they eat the scraps after the sniper took his trophy?

The sniper was suddenly there. The rustle of leaves indicated he hadn’t dropped far. Maybe he had climbed down as I talked? A hat and camouflage mask hid his face. The snipper-goggles were there was well. All illegal.

He gestured with his rifle for me to pick up my gun but I was firmly in his sights so no sudden moves. No picking up guns at the same time. It would be enough that I was armed. He was going to give me a chance. I could hardly refuse. Better that that than being shot unarmed. I did have some pride as I picked up my gun, the safety already off but would he know that?

I opened fire, blasting at his chest. The biggest target. If I was going to die, this would be my only chance.

He staggered but didn’t fall down. Kevlar or something like it. Bastard! This was it then. I wasn’t wearing such body armour. The recorded evidence would show I fired first and lost and had to wait for him to shoot back. Very much like the old-fashioned duels.

As he fired, I dived to one side. I had nothing to lose. I might even get off a second shot although I bet he’d have Kevlar kneepads.

I kept rolling as his gun on automatic kept firing. Who could tell which way I died with multiple bullet wounds as I felt one go in my arm.

There was a yelp to one side and another gunfire from behind me. The sniper fell to his knees before keeling over. Was he dead? How could an animal be a better shot?

Very cautiously, I approached the body and kicked his rifle away, not taking a chance that a corpse could still attack me. I looked behind me and then looked down, a leopard had padded up. There was a blood mark on its free shoulder but wanted to do its own inspection. One of the sniper bullets had hit it. No longer my fight because it had been attacked. It had shot back with a better aim when he’s been attacked. The enemy of my enemy was my friend or rather the animal of my animal was suddenly my friend for a while. I dropped my own rifle to the ground. It was empty anyway.

I pulled the mask off the sniper’s face. Who was he? Correction. She. A she-hunter under the Kevlar who wanted a human trophy. A male trophy. What happened to women who just wanted to be loved? The bullet wound in her neck showed how much better an aim the leopard had. I owed my life to a large cat, although I doubt if it would have been bothered had I died in the engagement.

Was it the same leopard who shared a sleep tree with me a couple months back? It would be nice to think so but a leopard was a leopard and who could tell? I pulled the camera off her shoulder and watched the recent footage. I was right about that. Evidence. It would show a lo, so I pocketed it.

I looked down at the leopard. ‘I can get that bullet out of you if we go together.’

The leopard shook itself and padded away. Not interested. It didn’t need help. It must have been a flesh wound. I pulled open the Kevlar armour. Let the animals decide what to do with the body. Why waste a grave.

Me? After I’ve handed the evidence over and got that bullet out of my arm, I think I would get seriously drunk and think about a career change. I’m not going off screaming like a baby. Maybe become a raconteur, telling my story. The hunter who got saved by an animal. I could hardly go hunting them now. If it hadn’t been the leopard that got shot, it could be any of the others who would surely have shot back. A fairer battlefield meant I had now changed sides. I was with the animals on that one.

end

© GF Willmetts 2020

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Category: Scifi, Short fiction

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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