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Trophies

Travis Dawson was a good man.  He was honest, truthful, and mannerly.  He considered his marriage to his wife, Juliette, the greatest accomplishment of his life.  He had loved her more than anything in the world.  If there was something she wanted, he got it for her.  She never wanted of anything when she was with him.  Although he wasn’t materialistic, he was a man of means, and money was never an issue for the wealthy lawyer.  Her deepest desires became realities.  Because of this deep affection and endearing love for her, it pained him immensely when they were no longer.

He played with the ring in his fingers.  Gently and delicately flipping it from one fingertip to the next.  Strumming the fingers of his other hand on his desk, he thought about what he was going to do later that day.  He had plans to go hunting, something he had a passion for, and a hobby Juliette had always found repulsive.  Thinking further about his plans, he placed the ring back in its home, a small wooden box made of oak.  It had a tiny gold latch on it, but no lock.  There was no need for that.  The box had no lining, yet there was no mistaking that this small, ornate chest was well – crafted, something the owner would use to hold small sentiments.

He pushed his chair away from the desk, walked around the monolith to the far wall of his study.  As he turned the key to open his gun safe, he raised his eyes to admire some of his trophies.  There were the heads of some African and Asian beasts.  If he had it his way, they would decorate the entire house, but at the time he earned them, Juliette made him keep them in the study.  Since her absence, he just never got around to moving them.  Turning his eyes to the safe, he was trying to decide what firearm to use later in the day.  He had quite a handsome collection, something any fellow hunting enthusiast would envy.

*****

            Meanwhile, not too far away, Erica Vanev was coming out of a sleep.  The last thing she remembered was taking a drink of her tea, then everything went blurry.  She heard a strange sound coming from somewhere above her.  It was something she rarely heard in the city.  But, she knew exactly what it was.  The caw caw caw –ing was unmistakable.

The bigger question was why she was hearing this?  She turned over, hearing a crunch as her body weight shifted.  She rubbed her eyes out of habit before opening them.  It took a second of pure shock to realize that something was wrong.  She pushed herself up so that she was now sitting.  She wished with all her might that she was in some horrible dream.  But she soon came to the terrible realization that this was all too real.

She looked around, taking everything in.  It looked as though she was in some sort of tropical forest.  She stumbled to her feet, ready to see where she was and how to get out of there.  Not quite sure of her balance, she clumsily meandered along, steadying herself from tree trunk to branch, thankful there was lush vegetation – if there was anything to be thankful for.

As she was surveying the land, she thought she heard the breaking of waves.  She saw in front of her a clearing, and debated whether or not to cross it.  Aside from the water, it just seemed too silent. She contemplated this decision for a few moments.  With her mind made up, she grabbed a large stick and fashioned it to help her walk.  Taking a deep breath, she stood at the tree line.

*****

            It had been a week since Nathan Pickett had had anything to eat.  He enjoyed camping and the outdoors, but only when he was fully prepared.  Not quite ready to wake, but not being able to sleep any longer due to the sunshine, he crawled out from his lean to.  Standing up to stretch, he looked down and noticed how dirty and torn his clothes were.  Not how he liked to keep himself at all.

He took his usual walk around the lake in the morning, stopping to wash up and drink as he thought about the traps he had set, hoping to catch some sort of sustenance.  Looking to the sky, he noticed it was a clear, beautiful day, with hardly a cloud in the sky.  Normally, he would be in a very cheerful mood on such a stunning day.  Not today, though.  Today was different.

He decided to go check his traps this morning.  Hopefully he was able to catch something more than a field mouse.  Whenever he set or checked on them, he did so methodically, in a very scrupulous fashion.  He went in order, working his way from one side of the island to the other.

*****

            Travis chuckled as he picked up each gun from its shelf.  Each one had its own story, had weathered time and seen numerous hunts.  When he had chosen which rifle to use, he walked over to a window, staring out at the horizon.  It was a magnificent view.  The trees of the forest below stretched out for a while, then the horizon was a never ending ocean that spanned to the sunrise and the sunset.

As he was staring out the window of his picturesque view, his thoughts were clouded to memories of his failed marriage.  He remembered it vividly.  The suspicions, the fights, and finally, the revelation of what he knew to be true, but that which she denied.

He knew the way she looked at Allen.  A look that  lasted too long, a hug that was more than just a greeting of friends who had been separated for a time.  What was so ironic was that Allen had been in his hunting club.  That was the kicker for Travis – he had introduced them!

That day that he found the truth stuck out in his mind.  He followed them, careful to not be detected, just like a hunt.  He compared them to African Wild Boar.  So easy to track, especially to a skilled hunter such as himself.  He followed them to the hotel, overheard their room number, and waited.  He had made up his mind that he wouldn’t take care of them there.  No, that was too risky.  What he would do is wait.

He waited until just the right moment, he thought.  Then, he rapped on the door.  “We don’t want any, we’re busy,” Allen yelled in his arrogant tone.  Then there was stifled laughter.  “It’s an emergency, very urgent, sir,” Travis pleaded.  Then the door opened a crack.  Travis had wasted no time, but caught Allen off guard, and pushed the door open, knocking Allen back.  Travis ran into the bedroom to see his wife scrambling to cover herself.

When he played it through his head, Travis had pictured himself screaming, and attacking Allen until an inch of his life.  However, what he found himself saying in a very calm manner was “Nothing I haven’t seen before, Jules.”  Then, he nodded over to Allen, who was now in the bedroom, a few steps behind Travis, and said “him either.”

*****

            Erica found her strength and began crossing the clearing, keeping an eye out for anything that could be a danger.  Which, since she had no idea where she was, could be anything.  Hobbling as fast she could, she made it to the far tree line.  The crashing of the waves seemed closer.

About half a mile inside the tree line, she found a lake.  She couldn’t help but run to it for want of a drink.  In retrospect, this could have been disastrous.  She could have been attacked.  Sipping the water from her hands, she thought of her last pleasant memory.  It had been about two days ago.  She had gone out on a date with a very attractive man.  He had treated her the way she wished her husband did.  Looking at her ring – a platinum band with a two carat rock on it – she felt no pang of guilt.  Her justification was that her marriage was falling apart.

Her reverie was soon interrupted as she heard a clap of thunder.  The clear skies she saw earlier were being bombarded by grey clouds and the threat of rain.  She rose to her feet.  By now, she didn’t need a walking stick.  She was steady enough.  She wasn’t really an outdoor girl, so she decided to walk around the lake to get a sense of her surroundings.

Before long, she came across a small structure not far off from the edge of the lake.  Noticing the bright blue sky being quickly overrun by grey thunderheads, she decided to take refuge in the little shelter.

*****

            Nathan sloshed through the muck beneath him, wiping the rain from his brow as he checked the traps.  Nothing, not a single thing.  Not so much as a rabbit.  He would have to try his hand at spearing a fish.  The last time he tried, it didn’t go so well.  He actually ended up in the water himself.

On his way back to his lean to, he was about ready to cry.  To burst into tears not only from hunger, but for where he was.  Only, he noticed something strange when he drew closer to his makeshift home.  It looked like there was someone in it.  Someone beautiful.  “It must be a hallucination,” he thought.  “This can’t be real.”

Just to make sure, he tried to make it behind a tree to observe her.  He didn’t want to take any chances of him being caught.  Too slow.  She spotted him.  The fair – complected, blonde woman began walking towards him.  Her lithe frame made him think of someone he knew, or now, used to know.

They had been out for drinks.  It must have been about three weeks ago now.  He had just secured a big vendor for his firm.  She had helped with the researching, so it was only right to celebrate with her.  He and his wife couldn’t seem to stop fighting.  She was angry that all he did was work, it was like he was having an affair with it. He would show her.  If she accused him of having an affair, then he would have one.

“Hello?” Erica tried to get Nathan’s attention.  He shook his head, coming out of his daydream.  “Hey.” was all Nathan could think to say.  “Are you alright?  You look like you’ve been through…I don’t know…a lot,” Erica asked him.  “Yeah, you could say that.  I’m Nathan, by the way.”  “I’m Erica.”  “How long have you been here?  I haven’t seen you before,” he asked.

“I’m not sure.  I just woke up a while ago in some random field.  Where is “here,” anyway?”  “You’re new, then,” Nathan confirmed.  “What do you mean “new,” and where the hell are we?”  Erica was getting agitated.  She just wanted to go home.  “What’s the last thing you remember?”  Nathan pressed.  “What does that matter?  You still haven’t answered my questions.  What do you mean I’m new, and where are we?!”  Now she was really getting upset.

Nathan ignored her questions.  “What’s the last thing you remember?  It’s important.”  “I don’t see why that matters, but whatever.  “Drinking some tea before bed.  Now will you answer my questions?”  Erica said.  “Just like everyone else,” Nathan barely whispered loud enough to hear.  Erica caught it, though.  “What do you mean “others?””  “You honestly have no clue, do you?”  “No.  But what is going on?  Tell me!”  Erica demanded.

*****

            They had worked things out, eventually.  At least, that’s what Juliette and Allen thought.  Travis had planned a grand hunting trip.  A safari, really, in Africa.  He invited Allen and Juliette.  Even though hunting disgusted her, he persuaded her that seeing animals would be a very exciting adventure.  She had concurred with him.  Even though she could go anywhere she wanted in the world whenever she wanted, it would be a fun getaway.

On their fourth day, they decided not to go hunting, but just observe the beasts.  Travis took his gun “just as a precaution,” and no one thought it absurd.  It was just the three of them and a guide on their personal outing.  An hour or so went by, then the guide stopped the vehicle in a “safe zone,” close to a forest line.  The decided to get out to stretch their legs.  “You go ahead, I’ll catch up,” Travis told the two.  Not thinking on it, Allen and Juliette went on.  By the time they were just out of sight, Travis bent over, as if to tie his boot laces.  Instead, he slowly grabbed his rifle, then in an instant, struck the guide with the butt of the gun, knocking him unconscious.

Jumping down from the vehicle, he went out to catch his prey.  The disgust and hatred in his heart strengthened as he kept replaying that awful night in his mind.  He found his hunt not far inside the tree line.  They just stood there, like a pair of awkward teenagers about to kiss, but too nervous to go through with it.  They were making this entirely too easy.  He watched from a distance, hiding behind a tree.

Slowly, he crept from behind his hiding spot, aiming at the taller of the two.  “Holy-!” Allen yelled, and Juliette jumped back, startled.  “What?  What happened?” she asked.  “Dammit,” Travis thought to himself.  He missed.  He was close, though.  The bullet nearly tagged his ear.  He decided to get up and get a closer shot.  This time, though, he wasn’t concerned about camouflage.

“Oh, hey Travis.  I didn’t see you there,” Allen said as he walked up on them.  Allen gave a nervous smile.  Travis raised his gun to Allen.  Juliette, looking from Allen to her husband, said, panicked “Travis, what are you doing?”  Travis didn’t answer.  He only walked closer, painting the gun to Allen, then Juliette, and back to Allen again.  “Run.”  He commanded, seriously.  They didn’t listen, buy stood still, dumbfounded.  “Trav-“ Juliette began.  But Travis wasn’t joking.  He shot at the ground, inches from their feet.  “I said run!”  He yelled.

*****

            Nathan didn’t quite know where to begin.  “Where are we?” Erica pleaded yet again.  “Come on,” Nathan instructed her.  “Tell me now, Nathan!” she demanded.  “If you want to know, then follow me.”  By this time, the freak storm had passed, and they skies were clear once again, returning to the rich blue they had been.  He grabbed her arm and marched off eastward.  She could hear the sounds of the sea grow louder.  They passed his traps, Nathan eyeing them quickly on the offchance he’d caught something.  No such luck, though.

They tramped thought the jungle brush for what Erica though was ages.  She wasn’t cut out for this, being outdoors with rain, bugs, the heat, and God knows what could be lurking out there.  She followed her guide in silence.  She had to admit, he had a silent intensity about him, and she found it slightly attractive.  She examined him from behind.  He had longer brown hair, just enough to graze his eyebrows as it swept across his forehead.  His eyes.  She thought about them, as they were the first thing she noticed about him.  Well, aside from his scrupulously kept body.  She surmised that he must have been a rock climber, or maybe a football player.  But his eyes, they were the most vibrant green she had ever seen.

Just when Erica was going to ask him if they were there yet – even though she had no idea where they were going – Nathan said “Alright.  Here we are.”  They were on a beach.  It was the most majestic scene she had ever laid eyes on.  Sand as white as snow, and sea so blue and crystal clear you could see through it to the very bottom.

Erica went to jump in, but before she could, Nathan grabbed her.  “Why did you do that?” she asked.  “How dense can you get, Erica?  Do you not see these?!”  He pointed to great, tall pillars, standing along the shoreline as far as they eye could see in either direction, spaced equidistant from one another.  “No, I can’t see the giant statues standing around.  I’m totally blind,” she replied sarcastically.

“Don’t.  Ever.  Try to pass through these,” he warned.  “Why?  What are they?” she inquired.  “Erica, I hate to tell you, but I have to.”  What?”  “We’re prisoners.”  What, wh-,” she interrupted.  “We’re on an island, Erica.  These poles?  They’re our guards.  You see those things on the side of them?”  He pointed to the large half spheres on both sides of each pillar towards the top.  Erica nodded in affirmation.  “Those – things – whatever they are, send some sort of screeching noise so violent, that anything that passes through it goes into some sort of fit.”  “Fit?  What do you mean, and how do you know this?” she asked, disgusted.

As he tried to explain, she could tell Nathan was uncomfortable telling the story.  “About two weeks ago, someone else was on this island with me.  We were on the west side, trying to spear some fish in the ocean.  He went out first, trying to go farther out, ran past the poles, and started seizing, shaking uncontrollably.  Then he bled from his ears, mouth, eyes, and nose.  Then he vomited.  And that was it.  He was gone.”  Erica shook her head.  She didn’t want to believe it.  “Then a week later, it happened again.  To a woman.  She was running away.”  “From what?” Erica asked him, scared now.

*****

            It had been two years since Travis had taken care of Juliette and Allen.  Since then, he had made it a point to rid as many pieces of scum like them from the world as possible.  They need to be scared, to not know what is happening.  Just as he had felt when his wife was being unfaithful.  He walked back to his trophy box on his desk.  He took out the familiar one that Juliette had worn.  A platinum band, princess cut with 2.5 carats worth of diamonds on it.  It was just the boost of energy he needed for his hunt.  “Today is the day.  I’m going to track him down.  He’s been on my island for too long.  Today, he is mine.”

He figured he had better get a move on.  After all, he had to track his prize hunt today, and he knew he wouldn’t be an easy catch.  At first, Nathan was fun to try to hunt, but since it had taken so long, the thrill had lost its luster.  It was more than a game now.  It was serious.  Then there was the new catch, Erica.  She had been particularly hard to capture.  She was such a busy woman.  However, hunting her on his island would be easy, he knew for sure.

Most people would have spared no expense and place cameras around the island.  Not Travis.  He was a real sportsman, a purist.  He would use his skills and knowledge that he had gained over the years and really go hunting.  He even gave them a head start, and advantage, by letting them wake up, get acquainted with the land, and feel at home there.  He was a generous man, a gentleman.

It was time.  He placed his trophy ring back in its box, closed the lid, and flipped the latch tight.  Grabbing his rifle, he headed out of his study.  He was sure to pack extra ammunition and food supplies on his way out.  He walked down the stairs that were cut out in the earth at the property line where his neatly manicured grounds descended into the hodgepodge of jungle foliage.  When he reached the line of ultrasonic barricades, he knelt down on one knee to the number pad.  He dialed the eight number sequence that gave him thirty seconds to cross the line, and with confidence, walked past they into the dense forest.

Hours went by, and finally he picked up a trail.  The two were together.  This made things all too easy.  He smiled maliciously.  He really would be killing two birds with one stone.  He viciously scoffed at the amusement at the pun he had just made.

*****

            “How long has it been since you woke up?” Nathan asked Erica.  She could see he was thinking things through in a fight or flight sort of way.  “Umm…I woke up, and pretty much came over to your spot,” she said.  “That gives us, well, not much time.  Come on!”  “Where are we going?” she asked, running after him.  “I don’t know, anywhere!  Let’s go!”

Just then, a gunshot sounded.  It was close to them.  Then another, followed by another.  Erica felt something pull at her shirt.  She looked down to see two holes in it.  The bullet must have grazed it.  Distracted by her shirt, she tripped over a tree root.  “Nathan!” she screamed out.  Nathan turned, ran back, and reached out his arm.  “Come on, c’mon, c’mon!!”  That left just enough time for Travis to catch up.

He got down on one knee, steadying his arm and rifle on his other (knee).  He thought it was a sure shot, but narrowly missed, grazing Nathan’s upper arm.  He yelped in pain, grabbing his shoulder with his opposite hand.   He dropped down to his knees.  Erica scurried to his side, digging at the dirt to get to her feet, her jeans now all torn and muddy, and her shoes slipping off of her feet.  Travis stepped toward them slowly, his gun pointed at Nathan.

They both put their hands out, raising their palms toward Travis.  Nathan began sobbing.  “Please.  God.  No!” he was able to utter.  Crying as well, all Erica was able to get out was “Don’t.  Please.”  Travis just looked at them.  Two shots were fired.  Travis reached for both of their left hands, collecting his trophies.  He placed them carefully in his pocket.

*****

            Back in his study, Travis was playing with his new trophies, spinning them on his desk, flipping them between his fingers.  Finally, he was ready for bed, ravished from his hunt earlier.  He placed the rings in his trophy box.  “You disgust me,” he said, and slammed the lid shut.

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