The Hunter

The world has changed a lot since 'IT' happened. Society has fallen and given way to a new kind of life. A life in which mutated creatures run free, thirsting for human flesh. Colonies have sprung up all over the world, humanity's last line of defiance against a new age of man. Lorna, a troubled hunter, spends her days hunting the infecteds and her nights missing the family she once had. Follow this tale of love, betrayal and survival as Lorna and her comrades battle against a seemingly unstoppable force.


1. The Broken Hunter


The woman known only as ‘hunter’ raised her heavy bow. In moments like these, time often seemed to slow to the distant tick of a broken clock. A gentle breeze swept from the east causing a minor adjustment of the weapon, but it was the light, or lack thereof, that made this particular kill difficult. Vision was limited to six or eight metres.

More than enough.

The familiar woosh of the arrow exiting its chamber echoed amongst the trees just in time to catch the creature in the throat, a thick yellowish liquid immediately spurting from its wound.

‘Good, you got him; I’ve been chasing him for the best part of ten minutes.’

The hunter raised her eyebrow, partly in surprise at the length of time the foot patroller had taken to hone in on the creature, but mainly because she hadn’t heard his approach.

‘If you don’t stay aware, you’ll get yourself killed,’ she said, brushing past his large silhouette.

‘Guess I’m lucky you were here to protect me then,’ he replied.

She turned to stare at the man, her hands balling into fists.

The stranger looked down to the purple amulet that was tied to her pale, slender wrist and, seeming to think better of it, moved silently away through the thick shrubbery.

This generally had the desired effect when she was being bothered; hunters were lone fighters. It was unusual for her to see anyone else on her trips, and even more unusual to see another hunter, which this man clearly wasn’t.

Still, the intrusion bothered her. She tried to tell herself that it was because she had concentrated too much on the creature, but it wasn’t true. No, the real reason was because today was the anniversary of the day IT happened. Although it wasn’t spoken of anymore, it still lay in the back of her mind, semi-dormant, scratching away at her inner most thoughts. Vivid pictures still hung in her mind of the day, the smell of freshly baked cookies still warming her nostrils.


‘Here, hold these,’ James offered her the warm plate of biscuits.

‘Reports are coming in of an explosion at a nearby nuclear power plant,’ the faint sound of the TV mumbled in the background.

‘And what am I supposed to do with them?’ she asked, giving him a familiar teasing look.

‘The government has declared a state of national emergency. Everybody is to remain inside until further notice.’

‘Eat them! You’re getting too thin,’ he said, placing a toned arm around her body, pressing lightly on her stomach, his fingers tracing a soothing pattern over her body.

‘Well, how can I keep eating when you’re always touching my stomach? You’ll make me self-conscious.’

‘At the minute, there is no suspicion of foul play.’

‘I can’t help it,’ he replied, giving her lips a firm kiss before chasing after the kids, who were now throwing apples at one another.

‘Careful you two!’ she shouted at them.

‘Scores of workers are feared dead.’

‘But mummy, Luke says I’m an idiot.’

‘Luke, don’t call your brother an idiot,’ she chastised. ‘Now Charlie, go and play outside.’

She left the boys to it and began to wash up, flattening down the apron that her mother had gotten her last Christmas. The summer heat was almost too much, and she could feel a bead of sweat trickling down her back. The twin blonde heads of her children were bobbing up and down in the garden.

‘We repeat, do not go outside. Stay indoors.’

‘James, honey, something is happening on the news,’ she called to the garden as she stepped through the linoleum-floored kitchen into the searing heat of the living room.

‘If you are just joining us now, the major breaking news story is that a powerful explosion at a London based nuclear power station has rocked the entire country, causing a state of emergency. The government has urged all citizens to stay indoors.’

The plate she was carrying fell to the floor, the crash reverberating around the room as the china dish smashed into a hundred pieces.

‘What was that, Lorna?’ James called.

‘You need to come inside!’ she screamed.


The rotten smell of the fallen creature brought her back to the present, that last sentence playing over and over in her head, like a broken cassette player. Granted, things were getting easier now. Names, events and faces were all fading. At first, she fought against it, but her training had helped her to let go. The training Dr Ramsdale had initialised.

After all, what use was an emotional hunter?

The infected being-lay motionless on the floor, a perfect shot. Still, no need to take risks, she told herself as she pulled out her serrated blade and brought it down over the creature’s throat. The liver spots on the grey-skinned arms suggested the being was at least fifty when it turned. There weren’t many ways of telling how old they were. They didn’t have hair, and they all had the same sallow, infected skin.

A noise to her right brought her attention away from the dead body. Instinct told her to look up. They’d started out cumbersome and stupid after the poisoning had taken over, but lately they seemed to be evolving. She’d twice caught them in the trees, watching, waiting. Raising her face to the breeze, she inhaled through her nose. They were near.

Giving her blade a short wipe on the grass, she replaced it back in her side pouch, before again reaching for her crossbow. The touch of the bow felt natural to her. Six hundred and sixteen kills, including this latest one. This bow had lasted longer than any other, and with it she felt almost invincible.


She may have been able to smell them, but she couldn’t yet see or hear them. She could tell that they were further than six metres away, but with the breeze coming in the opposite direction, they couldn’t be unaware of her presence.

There were a number of options. Climb a tree and shoot from above, face them head on, or start a chase. She only had seconds to make a decision.

Placing the bow in her right hand, she took out a steel arrow and placed it in her left hand. One last look through the trees told her she had at least a five second head start.

She took off, heading back in the direction of base. Her breathing was light, like her footsteps as she floated, almost dreamlike through the deep jungle.

She could hear them approaching now. Although clumsy at first, their own warped evolution had taken place at a phenomenal rate; in just a few short years, their speed and awareness had developed tenfold. The other hunters had been scared, but Dr Ramsdale had quashed their fears, highlighting their lack of cunning as a key weakness.

That was before they started hiding in the trees.

The first one approached from her left, flying through the darkness like a bullet. She kept running towards base, the ground too thick to combat the creature. She needed a more open space. Up ahead, a clearing in the trees emerged. The thick decay of virus hung heavy as the male approached. Kicking on for the last few feet she could feel the sweat trickling down her brow. The creature grabbed her leg, but she was already there. Spinning around just in time, she thrust the blade into his throat.

The roar of the creature erupted through the jungle, sending a flock of birds squawking from the high trees. She lay motionless, unable to push the beast from her as the lifeless form lay on top of her.

Groaning with effort, she managed to roll him off, the dead creature hitting the grass with a dull thud. Quickly, she removed the knife from his throat, the disgusting fumes of its blood exploding into the atmosphere like a bomb. The urge to gag had long since passed, and she coolly brought the knife back down to decapitate it, the head rolling away from the body.

Gazing down at it, an almost visible look of pain seemed to wash over the eyes. It was often said that the real person was stuck somewhere inside, aware of the torturous prison, but unable to escape. Dr Ramsdale had said this was just an old wives tale, but it didn’t stop the rumours. Standing here now, those sad eyes seemed to be saying thank you. Sadness was something she knew only too well…


‘Do it!’

‘No, I can’t,’ she sobbed.

‘Lorna, listen to me. I haven’t got the strength to do it myself. I need you to be strong for me. Promise me that when it’s over, you’ll go to the colony with the others. It’s the only way to survive.’

‘What if they won’t take me?’

His eyes fixed her. ‘With me gone, you will be fine. It’s me they won’t take. I won’t last much longer. I can feel it taking over.’

Despair was engulfing Lorna’s body. They’d spoken of this moment for many weeks now. Although six months since the original explosion, his deterioration had been swift, the disease manifesting itself within him, exploding through his body in a matter of days, rendering him paralysed and weak. Still, she’d been given more time with James than she had with Charlie and Luke.

‘A doctor must be able to help,’ she pleaded.

His frail hand rested on hers, the skin leathery and cold to the touch. ‘It has to be you.’

Slowly, she reached for the gun that on the side table. Tears clouded her vision and her hand shook violently as she kissed her husband one last time, before placing the gun to his head.


Her thoughts had distracted her and she hadn’t even noticed one of the creatures bearing down on her from the trees. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw it hurtling towards her, but she didn’t have time to pull out her blade, the impact of the creature sending it scuttling over the grass.

Pain exploded through her body as she landed with the heavy form still on top of her. She could smell its foul breath, and the hoarse breathing that they all elicited was ringing through her ears. She was encircled now, three of them next to her. It wasn’t particularly fear that was overcoming her. She wasn’t even angry. She simply felt an acceptance that this was how it was always going to end. She could now be with her family.

The creature’s yellow fangs sprang from its mouth, its hot breath beating down on her neck. She closed her eyes and waited for the pain to begin; a pain that would take her back to before it had all happened. She was ready.

The arrow whistled past the trees, and she opened her eyes as it penetrated the creature’s neck. Springing back to life, she released the arrow and broke its neck, her efforts met with a sickening snap.

Another arrow whistled by, and another. The creatures that hadn’t been hit were now retreating through the trees. She struggled to her knees as two sets of hands roughly dragged her up.

‘I don’t need your help,’ she snapped at the foot patroller she’d just encountered minutes earlier.

‘You weren’t even fighting, what’s wrong with you?’ he asked, his eyes narrowing.

Withdrawing a bow from her satchel, she pressed the dull edge to his neck. ‘And what’s it got to do with you?’

‘Woah, steady there,’ he backtracked, his dark eyes going wide.  

She suppressed a smile as the guardian stepped forward, his armour reminding her of an ancient Japanese samurai.

‘Hunter, stand down.’

She spun round to the guardian, biting down hard on her tongue.

‘I said, stand down,’ he ordered, reaching for his large sword.

She replaced her blade. ‘No harm done.’

Leaving them to the clearing up of the bodies, she headed back to base, passing through another dense area of jungle and up to a large boulder that was being overseen by two more guardians.

‘Hunter,’ a gruff voice greeted her.

He pressed a hidden button on the wall, causing the boulder to slowly scrape backwards and across to allow her access to a dark, damp tunnel leading to the camp.

‘You’re welcome,’ he murmured as she passed in silence.

Torches lit the way down the corridor to the main camp area. The damp smell was growing worse but it was better than the smell of the creature’s rotting flesh.

‘Hunter,’ Dr Ramsdale greeted her as she entered the main base area, a plethora of workers dotted about in the large open space, some working on creating weapons, others on preparing food for the hunters, guardians and foot patrols.

‘Doctor,’ she greeted him.

‘What was all that about out there? Are you trying to get yourself killed? You know what the penalty is for attacking another colony member.’

He’d been watching her. She could feel her fingernails digging into her palms. The piercing blue eyes that had greeted her that day at her front door six years ago, telling her that everything would be okay and that he would be able to help her, seemed to have dulled. The wavy brown hair he’d once had was now lined with silver and cut short. Still, he was very striking to look at, and more than once she had caught him looking at her in a way that hadn’t been done since IT happened. She had no doubt that he would like to have her, but no matter how attractive he was, that part of her was now dead.

‘He was being obnoxious,’ she lied.

‘Lorna,’ he said, placing his hand on her shoulder.

She recoiled. ‘Perhaps you should keep your hands to yourself if you value your health, doctor.’

He stiffened. ‘Whatever you wish, hunter. Go and get cleaned up. You have work to do.’

With that, he strode off, his long lab coat swaying behind him as his footsteps reverberated around the room. She briefly thought of going after him and apologising, but felt too tired to have another argument.  

She headed to the showering block, just off to the east side of the colony, and opened her locker. She stripped down for her shower, the deep cold of the tiled floor stinging her feet. Grabbing her pale blue towel and soap bar, she turned to the inside of the locker door and removed the poster she’d placed there. Gazing down at the hidden photograph, she bit down on her knuckle to suppress a sob. The smiling faces of James and the children smiled up at her, one last collectable from the time before. As she always did at this time of year, she allowed herself a solitary tear. Taking a deep breath, she slammed the locker door and headed for the shower.

Today was a hard day. But tomorrow, she’d go hunting again. And this time, there would be no mistakes.  

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