Reaver’s Hunt: Chapter Two


For a while, now, I’d had the sense something was watching me. A shadow here, a rustle there. Since nothing jumped out of the bushes and ate me, I learned to live with it. Something curious, with maybe a touch of stalker vibe.

Something, or someone.

To keep from freaking out, I gave it a name: Bashful. That made it cute, non-threatening.

An invisible friend, my own little companionable gnome.

Not that I was fooling myself.

Nothing was friendly here.

I’d woken from the sleeping gas when my escape pod was knocked about, the force of the impact enough to pop the lid, spilling me outside.

Dazed, I could do little more than watch as two giant creatures had batted the silver tube around like a toy.

They were reminiscent of lions, saber-toothed, but leathery. Just like kittens, they knocked the pod down a steep slope and chased after it.

On the one hand, they hadn’t noticed me—which would’ve meant eating me. But on the other, there were things I could use in that pod. Medicines, food, a tablet–you know, little things.

That was six months ago now. I’d been on this planet with its fat red sun, three moons and blue-purple foliage since the ship I was on, the Smarniks Dream, blew up.

I straightening my shoulders.

Thinking about it wasn’t going to make anything better.

Hard work. That was my only option now.

Basket brimming with bright red berries, I made my way home. Home being anchored by three rocks: one big that served as a wall, one medium that worked as a hard chair, one flat for a table.

It had a roof over it that I made from sticks and thatched with grass. The same grass served as a nest. Also, the berry basket, my sling and pebble pouch, even my shoes.

The grass was useful stuff. Plus, weaving, twining and half-ass crocheting the stuff kept me from going out of my mind.

As I approached, “Bashful” stopped being a concept and became real. A parcel wrapped in fluffy fur, brightly colored, sat on the outer shelf of the wall rock.

Closer inspection showed that it was tied like a present with a leather thong. I moved nearer. It smelled like fresh meat.

I looked around my clearing. “Bashful? Are you there?”

Nothing but a slight echo.

Then I saw the item next to the meat bundle. While the package showed cleverness, some dexterity, the other made me stare.

It looked like a necklace. Necklace meant decoration, decoration meant creativity, creativity meant high intellect.

I picked it up. Looked around. Coppery wire gleamed in nearly perfect little links, silver accents carefully twisted in, blue jewels in the front. I put it on. Hesitated.

No rustle in the leaves, no crack of a twig.

“Bashful?” I stared around the clearing. “Thank you. It’s really pretty.”

No answer.

I sighed. Not that I was really expecting one. I glanced down at my bare wrist.

Unless my friendly gnome spoke English, or had his own translator patch, we were stuck for conversation.

That was alright. I’d never been much for conversation, anyway.

Besides, there was work to do. There was always work.

I thought when I’d left my parents, started to find my way through the city, I was done with all of this.

Foolish me.

Placing the berries and meat in the deep hole I’d dug for refrigeration, I grunted the slab of rock in place over it. Checking my sling and slugs were in place, I moved to check my trap line.

Cries of the local fauna had become familiar. My eyes scanned the trees. Nothing to see. Under my breath, I sang an old song.

I wondered about the other girls from the Dream. Had they landed here? They were all college girls. I doubted they would last more than a week in this wilderness.

The snares were empty until I reached the one near the stream. I caught another ugly bunny.

“Look at this, Bash! Boot linings on the way.”

My one-sided conversations with Bashful were the only interactions I had these days.

Which wasn’t that bad. I never knew what to say around people. Alone, it was easier. A lot less necessary.

And Bash didn’t argue.

It had taken a while to figure out how to make the grass cords strong enough for trapping, which made me mostly vegetarian. Well, pescetarian. At the bank, I hauled in my handmade net.

Damn. Another foam-fish. Maybe you could eat them, but—ick! I tossed him back. But there was another, a black fish with too many fins and bulgy eyes. No slime, though. Good eating. I cleaned him right there, using the leftovers to bait the net.

The last snare was empty. I dug around in a patch of feathery leaves and pulled out a long pink root. The ugly bunnies loved these things.

I did, too. Some nights, they were all I had to eat.

Snares and nets reset, it was time to smoke this fish and prep my ugly bunny.

The weather had remained almost the same during my time here. Lately, though, the days steadily grew colder. Was there winter here?

I huffed and puffed and scratched out a fire. Feeding it with the ubiquitous grass, I spitted the bulgy fish for smoking.

On the chance that the weather would turn nasty, I’d smoked every other fish I caught. They were at least vaguely recognizable. Could I smoke ugly bunny meat? Or the stuff in the fur bundle?

While the animals here filled familiar niches, I knew nothing about them. Other than I ate what the animals ate, and what I could catch.

Motion grabbed my attention. Looking up from my work, I saw a weaselly, lizardy looking thing pawing around my fridge hole. I slid the sling from my belt, a smooth river stone from my pouch. Once loaded, I whirled it over my head. Loosed.

The stone cracked off the flat fridge rock half an inch from my target. It bellowed flatulently and scattered back to the woods.

After six months of practice, I was getting good with the thing.

“Are you good to eat?” I called after it.

Like Bash, it didn’t answer back.

For a moment, the silence tugged at something in my chest, and I rocked back on my heels.

Carefully I unwrapped a thick piece of leather to reveal my commbangle.

At least, what was left of it.

It was squished, some of the guts hanging out of the cracked metal.

I’d hated the heavy thing, the extra weight throwing me off balance all the time.

Probably shouldn’t have been adjusting it one more time when the pod launched…

Didn’t have time to get it secured before the leather lions knocked me loose, and it had gone flying. When I retrieved it out of a feline footprint, it was done for.

With the escape pod who-knew-where, the communication jewelry was really my only other hope for rescue.

Poking at it, turning it over, it looked destroyed. I wasn’t any kind of tech.

Why did I even keep it? A souvenir of my past life? The chance that there was a homing device still functioning?

Just a bit of hope?

I wrapped it back up, put it back in its hiding place.

Hope was well and good, but wouldn’t make dinner.

At the edge of the clearing, I gathered sticks for the fire. Eventually, I’d need to start stacking wood near the lean-to. And make a container to boil water. And make a door for the shelter. And make a permanent fish smoker. And find a saline spring. And build a bed off the ground.

In half a year, I’d accomplished nothing but surviving.

With the sun going down, I had to get to cooking. It was too much of a pain in the dark. Plus, I was curious about the meat, and the berries were super yummy.

From the deep fridge hole, I pulled the parcel and berries. One of these days, I had to make this a proper root cellar. Maybe some clay on the walls. More digging with a stick. Awesome.

Mom and Dad were survivalists, and I’d learned a lot from them. Most of it applied on this planet.

And the solitude…

I’d had a long time to get used to that.

Meat, berries, root cellar closed, I carried supper to the shelter.

“Oh, no,” I said, quickly setting everything down on the table. One of the forked sticks that held up my spitted fish had caught fire. I managed to save the fish. Not the setup.

“You gotta go hang out with your smoked school anyway, buddy,” I said to the fish.

Though the red sun half sunk into the horizon, I headed for the woods. My cache of fish was several baskets hanging high in an easy to climb tree.

Hauling myself up, I hung the fish with a bunch of smoked friends. There was plenty here. I could survive for months on dried fish alone.

Carefully, I climbed down, searching the ground for another forked stick. The leaves and branches shifted as I descended. But I didn’t feel a breeze.

Then, I was eye-to-eye with something.

Even though my feet were still six feet off the ground.

A fanged maw opened, a roar riffling my hair.

And although no one could hear me, I screamed.

One Response to Reaver’s Hunt: Chapter Two

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to my Update List!