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.

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2. An Unknown Foe

 

The Hunter Part 2 

 

‘What is it?’

‘No idea.’

Doctor Lambie eyed the hunter with a bewildered stare. Nobody in the crowded room knew what this creature was.

‘I’m going back out there,’ a young pimple-faced seeker announced, his warbled voice breaking through the confusion.

The hunter’s hand shot out, grabbing the would-be hero by the wrist. He turned to her, fury dancing across his eyes. She reinforced her grip, nails digging into his skin.

‘Okay!’ he conceded. ‘I’ll stay.’

‘Doctor,’ the hunter turned back to the elder in the lab coat, ‘what do we know?’

The doctor turned back to the table, scalpel in hand. The hunter couldn’t help but notice a slight tremor as he sliced it down the centre, invading its insides.

‘Good God,’ someone in the background cringed.

Even the hunter winced at the putrid smell that greeted them. Catching herself, she looked round, making sure nobody caught her out.

A heavy slurping sound echoed around the lab room as the doctor opened up the chest cavity.

‘All organs seem to be in order,’ the doctor mused as a young nurse patted his sweaty forehead down with a damp cloth. ‘Nothing unusual from what I can see.’

‘Nothing unusual?’ the hunter known as Jenkins stepped forward, a heavy scar on the right side of his face. ‘I could feel it in my mind! It flew out of nowhere. It’s…different from the others.’

The hunter gazed back down at the creature on the table. For months now the infected beings had been showing signs of intelligence. What started off as a pack mentality had evolved into memory functionality.

But now this.

‘I need an update,’ the familiar voice of Dr Ramsdale entered the room, rubber gloves slapping against his wrist.

The confident stride of their elected leader caused all too familiar stirrings within the hunter. Doing her best to ignore them, she turned back to the matter at hand.

‘Seemingly evolved creature,’ Lambie informed them. ‘Looks similar to all other infected beings. Definitely human…’

‘Formerly human,’ Dr Ramdsdale cut in.

‘Yes, of course,’ the older doctor spluttered. ‘Hunter Jenkins brought him in. Apparently the creature exhibited unusual behavioural patterns.’

Ramsdale’s eyes narrowed. ‘Such as?’

‘Accelerated speed, unnatural strength and…telepathy.’

The doctor’s eyes gazed over the dead body.

‘This is not good,’ Ramsdale sighed, his eyes catching Lorna’s gaze.

She could feel the blood rushing to her face.

‘What do you suggest we do, Dr Ramsdale?’ Lambie asked.

‘I’m not sure, Jim.’

‘I say we hunt them down!’ the young seeker interjected.

The hunter could feel her anger rising, images of dissecting the young idiot with her blade flashing through her mind.

‘I said, Lorna,’ Dr Ramsdale brought her back to reality. ‘What do you think we should do?’

She swallowed her irritation at the casual use of her name. ‘Well Doctor, if this one was lurking about, there must be others. If we can bring one in alive, maybe we can find out more about these things.’

The room nodded in agreement, a solitary surgical lamp dangling from the ceiling in the centre of the room casting eerie shadows over their faces.

Ramsdale brought a hand up to his face to scratch his three-day stubble. ‘You’re right. I need a team.’

‘I’ll go!’ the seeker chimed back in.

‘No seekers,’ the Dr interrupted. ‘It’s too dangerous. I want a team of hunters.’

Hunters never worked in groups.

‘I’ll go,’ Lorna volunteered.

She noticed Ramsdale’s hesitation, but the rest of the room seemed oblivious. ‘Okay. Who else?’

‘I’m in,’ hunter Jenkins stepped forward.

‘And me,’ a heavyset hunter with a large forehead offered.

‘I’ll go, too,’ a newly qualified female hunter said, her slight frame belying a steely determination in her eyes.

‘Okay, it’s settled then,’ Ramsdale agreed. ‘Go get suited up.’

The four hunters moved to the locker area. They all changed in the same large dressing area, the prudent nature of nudity long since washed away. Lorna slipped out of her casual wear and changed into the familiar brown tight hunting attire. Zipping it up at the back, she cast a fleeting glance at the photo of her family before heading with the others to the weapons depot.

‘What’ll it be today?’ the eccentric weapons dealer greeted them from behind a makeshift desk, his hair resembling that of a mad scientist.

‘Saber-blade, bow and 200m Taser,’ she replied.

‘My my,’ he joked. ‘Someone’s either very angry or we’re about to be invaded.’

The dealer stopped dead when he caught the look on Jenkins’ face.

‘Just get the weapons.’

Within a minute they were all kitted out and ready to go as Jenkins turned to greet them. ‘Look, I know this is strange, hunting together, but seeing as we’ll be spending some time in each others company, we may as well introduce ourselves. I’m Jenkins.’

‘I’m Grayson,’ the hunter with the large forehead offered.

‘I’m Suzie,’ the other female introduced herself.

Her three comrades looked over to her.

‘Your name’s Lorna, right?’ Grayson asked.

‘Just call me hunter,’ she replied, heading for the exit tunnel.

A cold breeze wafted through the atmosphere, as they left the confines of their base. A solitary stray hair brushed into the hunter’s eyes. Her senses razor sharp, she replaced the hair into her tightly wound bun atop her head and ran her fingers along her trusted bow.

‘Now what?’ Suzie asked.

‘We hunt,’ she replied, stepping forward.

If there was a chain of command, it involved only her. She’d been a hunter the longest and she was the most likely to survive any encounter with an infected super-being.

‘Hold up,’ Jenkins said, raising a thick tattooed forearm into the air.

They waited, the faint sound of Aracoa birds from the nearby trees tweeting their greetings. Grayson made to move before Jenkins stopped him with an icy stare. Standing in the clearing in front of the trees, they waited for what seemed like hours, time stretching into some unknown quantity around them.

That was when they saw it.

The hunter was off in a flash, easily outrunning her counterparts. She could hear the heavy breathing of the others following close behind. Lactic acid was already attacking her legs. She’d been hunting once today already.  Forcing it to the back of her mind, she focused on the creature that was moving between the trees.

‘I’ll go right, cut off its escape; Suzie, you go left,’ Jenkins called.

The hunter ignored his orders, and focused on her prey, heading straight down the middle. The voices of her partners grew fainter as she pulled away, determined not to let it escape.

She was ten metres from the mutated being when it finally turned to look in her direction. Its yellow eyes seared into her, a grotesque throat clicking sound emanating from its mouth. The wretched stench of what had once been human greeted her as she neared it. The creature didn’t even move.

Something was wrong.

She knew it even before she’d landed with her blade at its throat. As she brought the silver edge down onto its neck, slicing its deformed and discoloured flesh, she could sense the creature trying to smile. Seconds later, the other hunters arrived at the scene.

‘I would have had it,’ Grayson said, bounding through the trees, sweat seemingly poring from every orifice of his body.

‘Shh!’ the hunter ordered, her ears pricking up to pick out sounds through the silence.

‘What the…’

They were on them before they’d had a chance to register the situation. At least ten of them, circling in every direction in the small clearing they were now a part of. The heavy stench of death slapped them in the face like an icy wind.

‘We’ve been ambushed!’ Suzie called out.

‘How?’ Jenkins cried.

The hunter wasn’t sure, but she didn’t like it. ‘No time to deliberate now. I’ll take this side here, you three, do what you like.’

The band of hunters faced their enemies. A stand off seemed to occur, moments passing in what seemed like hours before the whoosh of Lorna’s bow echoed through the trees.

The arrow hit the first creature straight through the eyeball, sending it falling helplessly to its knees. This snapped everybody into life. A trail of arrows swirled through the air towards their targets.

‘Got one right in the throat!’ Grayson boasted.

‘Yeah, well he’s getting straight back up!’ Suzie called back.

Anything other than a perfect shot from the arrows would only slow them down. As the first creature approached her, she drew her blade, side stepping the zombie-like being and slitting its throat. Thick yellow gunge trickled down her arm as she moved away from her fallen prey, eyes focused on the next one. Slipping to her right she sliced the beings legs away before decapitating it; the head landing with a dull thud on the grass.

‘Arghh!’ Suzie’s shout came from the opposite direction as two zombie-like creatures dragged her into the woods, her flailing legs snapping in the air.  

‘Watch out!’ Jenkins called as he fired an arrow above Grayson’s head, hitting a one that was perched on a branch. ‘Suzie!’

It fell to the floor and Grayson brought his blade down on its throat, sawing away at the decayed flesh.

‘I think he’s dead,’ Jenkins shouted.

‘We need to get Suzie,’ Lorna ordered.

With a casual wipe of her blade on the grass, she followed the direction the fallen hunter had been taken.

‘You go left,’ she motioned to Jenkins.

‘Okay.’

‘Grayson, take the right.’

‘How come you’re the one who gets to hit them head on?’ he queried.

‘Because I’m the least likely to die, so why don’t you stop moaning and do your fucking job!’ she snapped

He slumbered off, muttering insults under his breath. It didn’t matter how inexperienced the captured human was; two infected beings shouldn’t have been able to overpower a fully qualified hunter.

The air seemed to shift, the atmosphere thickening as she entered the dense woodland area. Although she could not see her partners, she could sense them stalking through the trees, heading towards whatever waited for them. The hunter slowed her pace, sensing something in the near distance. Lightening her step, she slowed her breathing to a deep throb, allowing her senses to take over.

‘No! Stop! Please!’ came a faint shout up ahead.

She scanned the ground. No major obstacles. Looking upwards, there were no obvious signs of activity in the trees. Quickening her step once more, she moved forward. Her right hand instinctively found her bow, the left reaching for a silver arrow from her animal skin pouch. She crouched, spotting a small clearing in the woods to her right. Gripping the bow, she approached the gap in the trees.

That was when she saw it.

The bow was swiped from her hand before she’d had a chance to take it in. Three of them pounced, claws digging at her arms as she fell to the mud. A struggle ensued. Trying to wriggle to her right, she found the handle of her blade. It was stuck, lodged between her back and the ground. She looked up. Two of the creatures struggled to pin her down while another leaned in close, its foul, hot breath beaming down over her face. Heavily bloodshot eyes stared at her as it leaned in and licked her cheek with its rotten tongue. She could feel it burning. Closing her eyes, she submitted to the creature, ready to be reunited with her family.

A loud swoosh of air penetrated her accepting silence followed by a heavy weight collapsing on her. The sharp tang of infected human flesh brought her back into reality as Jenkins stood above her, pushing the creature from her body.

‘You okay?’ he asked, offering her his hand.

‘Fine,’ she shot back, dragging herself back to her feet.

‘A little help over here!’

The two hunters ran towards the crouched figure of Grayson, who was holding a large hand over a deep wound in Suzie’s neck.

‘Fuck!’ Jenkins shouted, scrambling down next to him.

‘Where’s the one who took her?’ Lorna asked.

‘Over there,’ Grayson motioned, his hand turning a deep shade of red as Suzie’s blood penetrated his pressure.

The hunter moved into a position above the injured creature. Grey hairs sprouted out from its decayed head, the eyes a deep shade of red. Yellow flecks of blood were spittling out from its mouth, a hooked nose adding the finishing touches to a gruesome portrait.

‘I need gauze!’ Grayson shouted.

She refocused her attention. How could it be possible for it to overpower a hunter? Even though Suzie was inexperienced, there was no way she should have been that helpless. Crouching down, the hunter gazed into bloodshot eyes. Grayson’s large silver blade was lodged deep into its chest. It looked too aware. Suppressing a shudder, she held its gaze. A warm haze washed over her and she immediately felt drunk. Placing her hand on the ground, she tried to steady herself, a feeling of nausea coursing through her body.

‘You okay?’ a faint voice entered her consciousness.

She was unable to decipher who it was.

The creature held her gaze, its shallow breaths bringing yet more yellow gunk. It was as if the being was staring straight into her soul. She could see herself in its eyes, see her past reflected in its vision. It was staring into her mind.

Alarm yet contentment was all she could remember before passing out.

 

‘Lorna, can you hear me?’ Ramsdale asked through the darkness.

She tried to respond, but her mouth was too dry. Her entire body ached and dust was caked over her eyelids as she attempted to force herself awake.

‘It’s okay.’ Ramsdale soothed. ‘Take it easy.’

She wanted to push him off, remove his hands from her lower back and neck, but she didn’t have the strength. Instead, she lay back and allowed the doctor to manoeuvre her onto the hospital bed.

‘What happened?’ she choked out, her vision beginning to clear.

‘You don’t need to worry about that now. Just rest.’

‘Doctor, we have a situation!’ a nurse shouted.

‘Stay here,’ he ordered her.

She could feel her body beginning to respond to her minds will. Feeling her way to the edge of the hospital bed, she shuffled across and forced herself up into a sitting position. Blistering pain burned throughout her body but she forced it away.

‘She’s not responding!’ a nurse called out in a nearby bay.

She entered the room and witnessed Suzie lying on what was once a sheer white bed but was now stained with blood. The hunter had encountered death enough times to know that the situation was hopeless. The hunters lifeless body came into view as she pushed her way through the commotion.

‘Call it,’ Ramsdale sighed, his usually tidy hair taking on a dishevelled and altogether tired look.

‘Time of death, 23 hundred hours.’

‘Where is it?’ Lorna demanded.

‘I thought I told you to lie down,’ Ramsdale scolded.

‘You don’t tell me what to do.’

The doctor’s shoulders slumped. ‘In medical bay two.’

Although slowed, she still managed to get to the containment area where the creature was being housed. By the time she arrived, sweat was pouring out of her. Jenkins was already there, standing by a large triple glazed observation window.

‘I’ve not seen anything like this before,’ he muttered.

‘What do we know?’ Lorna asked.

‘Is she dead?’

‘Yes.’

Jenkins allowed his eyes to meet hers for the first time, a flicker of rage momentarily passing through them.

‘Jenkins, what do we know?’ she repeated.

‘It’s safe to say they’ve evolved. They know what we are thinking. They can penetrate our minds, see our weaknesses and use them against us. That thing in there,’ he motioned, ‘has already attacked a nurse. Ramsdale had to put her in another medical bay and sedate her.’

‘How this could happen?’

‘I don’t know,’ he replied, taking a step towards her, ‘If these things are out there, then this changes everything.’

‘I’m going in,’ she determined, heading through a large iron door.

The foul stench of the infected creature hit her nostrils like raw meat well past its sell by date. Resisting the urge to gag, she stepped forward, peering over it. It was strapped down to a metal hospital bed, wires sporadically placed around its arms and legs, linked to a host of whirring machines.

‘What are you?’ she asked.

The creature fixed her with a stare. It was definitely different. They would usually be struggling, their carnal urges rendering them insane. This one was placid.

Too placid.

Gazing down at the thing, she stared into its bloodshot eyes. Suppressing the urge to slit its throat, she leaned in close, as if doing so would reveal hidden secrets.

‘What are you doing?’ Jenkins asked.

Ignoring him, she placed her hands on the beings restraints, unable to stop herself unbuckling the creature from its confinements.

‘Hunter!’ Jenkins shouted, attempting to pull her back.

She lashed out, slamming Jenkins in the face with a lightning palm to his nose. Blood spurted over her as he stumbled back, tripping over a medical tray.

‘Release me,’ a rasping voice waded through her mind.

Obeying her master, she tore the arm restraints away, allowing it to sit up and survey its surroundings. The leg ties followed and she turned to the creature, seeking approval for her actions.

A gnarled hand reached up and stroked her cheek, its touch cold and electric. Long nails drew down her face and rested on her neck, ready to insert into her throat. She submitted, knowing it was his will.            

‘No!’ Jenkins called out, bringing his serrated blade down on the creature’s neck, severing head from body.

As if snapping out of a vivid dream, the hunter stumbled back, the icy touch of its hands still casting a shadow on her senses.

‘What just happened?’ Jenkins asked, his nose a mashed mess on his face.

‘I…I don’t know,’ she stammered. ‘Your nose.’

‘Don’t worry about it,’ he waved her away. ‘We need to get Dr. Ramsdale.’

A siren went up around them as they ran in search of the doctor.

‘What’s going on?’ Jenkins asked.

Three medical assistants raced past them, heading in the opposite direction.

Following the others, they ran towards the mortuary; the only room along the east wing.

‘Oh my God!’ one medical aid called out as a second threw up outside the morgue door.

The hunters pushed through into the morgue; the only room where everyone was ever truly silent. Lorna felt the air rushing from her body as she surveyed the chaos. Blood and human entrails were smeared up the tiled walls, a host of medical instruments splayed across the room along with an assortment of severed limbs.

In the centre of the room, an empty table sat.

‘Lorna!’ a familiar voice called to her left.

She raced over to Dr Ramsdale who was sat on the floor, a deep gash on his forehead gushing blood onto his medical scrubs.

‘What happened?’

‘Not dead! Gone!’ he choked out, his body beginning to go into shock.

‘I don’t understand. Who is gone?’

Struggling to control his quivering, the doctor looked into her eyes.

‘Suzie.’

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