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  • Michael Travis

The Huntress - Part 1

Alice crouched within the shadows of the towering ancient machinery surrounded by concrete. Her knuckles turn while; as she clutches a hunting knife in one hand and a tight fist with another; nails slowly inching into her palm drawing blood without a notice as she remembers stories of The Collectors from childhood. She has no thoughts of pain, darkness or the cacophony of spiders in her hair scrambling to fix their destroyed homes. She is as still as a stone, focused and ready to strike in an instant; a primal power and instinct that has been lost but somehow awakened to what has unfolded.

She stopped believing the stories of The Collectors up to this moment. Her grandpa told her of beings who would hunt young people to collect their memories and sell them to the rich. She remembers being terrified and hiding as she listened to her grandfather getting lectured by mother for scarring little Alice.

“We’ve got enough scary things in the world! We don’t need Alice to be scared of made up things too” She told him. Later on, grandpa told her more about The Collectors. She thought that grandpa was just a great storyteller with a creative mind; all the little details she remembers now made her realize that it was all true. She has to remember those details now and the images somehow come clear as day; there must be a weakness of The Collectors somewhere in those stories.

Alice was with her friend Sting, exploring the forgotten ruins of the old. Alice was trying to decipher the signs in old language just when Sting ran in and grabbed Alice by the shoulders.

“Something is coming! We have to hide!” She violently whispered with terror filled eyes.

Sting ran off before Alice could reply or stop her from going to a direction with a dead end; somehow the words just did not come out and good thing they didn’t because as she opened her mouth she heard heavy clunky steps over the metal staircase above. Leaving all the equipment Alice quietly dashed to the direction of the old machinery and slid into the shadows. She heard someone descend down the stairs, a giant based on the heaviness of steps and then she saw it pass in front of the lights she used to light up the old language signs on the walls.

As soon as the being passed the light Alice knew what it was; images of what her grandpa told her flashed before her eyes as she was filled with horror. She quietly and slowly unsheathed her knife and turned motionless; one with the shadows.

The figure passed over the light with glass and metal jars clanking strapped to its back, then suddenly stopped; at the same instance there was a thud from the direction where Sting went and all the lights went out. Sting must have hit the power shutoff. It was now a complete darkness and silence for a few moments until the environment was lit again with a faint neon light coming from the direction of The Collector. It was a light drone, and it moved high to the center of the space where it lit the space as if it was moonlight exposing Sting in a corner. She screamed and tried to run towards a door which was rusted shut.

“There you are!” The Collector proclaimed in a rustic voice and produced an enormous machete like sword from underneath its trench coat. Then, it launched with unprecedented speed towards Sting as she tried to run but it was too late; with a single swing Sting was cut in two at the waist.

It happened so fast that Alice did not even have time to react and somehow held in any sound of shock; all she could do is close her eyes for a moment and try to swallow the knot in her throat as she trembled. In the moment before Sting’s death she somehow remembered her grandpa telling her that The Collectors are partially blind from wandering in the open wastelands looking for the victims. To compensate they have heightened sense of movement and sound.

“It’s smart” she thought. The neon light drone was meant to make Sting make move or make noise so The Collector can sense her. Alice opened her eyes and soon regretted it as she watched the figure drag top part of Sting’s body to a metal table in the middle of the room. The figure placed one of the jars and a bag beside her friend's body.

Alice could not see with the figure’s back turned to her but soon saw that it had decapitated Sting and placed a puck shaped device on the neck, attaching it using tools from the bag. The Collector then placed the jar over the head sealing with some sort of a gas canister leaving her friend's face in a ghost-like cloud, eyes still opened and staring at Alice. Alice swallowed the knot in her throat unable to move, rage starting to take over as her body filled with adrenaline.

The Collector tossed the empty gas canister on the ground making a clunking sound of one tone then a different tone as I bounced off of Alice's footprint on the dust filled ground. Figure turned, dropped down to all fours and looked down on the ground with its head inches from the ground. Noticing the footprints leading to where Alice was hiding, it grabbed the sword off the table and moved forward, head leaning down in non-human fashion, turning abruptly as it listened for any sounds.

Alice saw the figure getting closer and closer, she somehow knew that as soon as she moved the figure would slice her up as it did Sting. She had to be still until the right moment. The faint neon light was getting brighter and brighter as it got closer, the light was a hovering drone above the figure and Alice could see the creature’s head more clearly.

The Collector was a mutant with puss filled craters all over its head. It no longer had a mouth but more of an opening with black teeth. Alice remembered her grandpa telling her that The Collectors ate bodies of their victims for nutrition after collecting the heads. A metal ring around its eyes going all around the ears and to the back of the head. In the middle of the ring was a red lens-like sensor which Alice recognized from the story as the weak spot in the forehead.

The figure was getting closer and closer to the machinery pipe where Alice was hiding, eventually hovering its head right in front of the pipe opening. The ring around the creature's head continuously sensing the surroundings. Then the ring suddenly rang with loud alarms, but it was too late as in an instance Alice thrust her knife wielding hand dead center into Collector’s forehead. The Collector froze with its mouth opened and black line of blood trickling down its face, a split second later the metal device produced an electric shock, sparks and smoke as the body of the collector collapsed to one side with a loud thud raising up a cloud of dust.

Alice now stood over the body in the neon light as the drone still hummed above. She could finally let go of her clenched fist, as she did droplets of blood ran down her fingers. Alice brushed off webs, dust and spiders off herself, took off her dust scarf and then kneeled down looking at the dead Collector. She pulled the knife out of its skull, wiped it on the scarf then tossed the scarf over the hideous creature’s face.

Alice reluctantly looked up in the direction of her deceased friend and walked over to the table where Sting’s head was still in the jar. Weeping and in shock she carried Sting’s head and severed body to the surface over several trips where she dug a grave and buried her friend. By that time it was night, she cried over the grave lit as daylight under a full moon and eventually fell into a brief slumber.

“Hey, wakeup” A voice she heard while she was dreaming.

Alice jumped up pronouncing her knife towards a short stocky man who was crouching in front of her wearing a cowboy hat which was raised over his forehead. He has not flinched, keeping a slight smirk on his face. Another man who was tall and skinny was tending to horses nearby. It was early morning with sun on the rise, good thing her sleep was interrupted early otherwise she would fry without much cover in this season.

“Easy! Easy! We mean you no harm.” The man proclaimed as he showed palms of his hands which were empty but full of scars and blisters.

“Who are you?!” Alice shouted, struggling to keep her eyes opened from the rising sun on the horizon.

“The creature inside, we assume was your fine work. Did you see any others around?” The man asked in a serious tone.

“No, there is no one else here. It killed my friend.”

“We are sorry we could not get here sooner to help your friend sweetheart.” The tall man said as he walked up next to the stocky man.

“My name is Jack, and this is Colt. We are from the order of The Hawk.”

“Ma’m” Tall guy nodded. As they greeted Alice.

Alice’s eyes widened. She knew of the order well, her great grandfather was in fact in the order when he died. Her grandfather was very little and did not know much but did inherit a few articles, one of which was a medallion tucked under her shirt. The order was widely known to be disbanded, nobody seen or heard of any members of the order in many years. She jumped to her feet.

“The order? But the order has been disbanded for one hundred years!” She asked with disbelief in her voice.

“That is what the order wants everyone to think” Jack replied as he stood up and lowered back his hat to the brow level.

“Listen sweetheart, we don’t want to be outside at this time of the season. Why don’t you join us inside. We have some questions and will share a meal in exchange.” He concluded, and with the tall man behind him as they led horses inside gesturing Alice to come along. She followed.

Inside Colt tied the horses near entry and shut the door. It was the foyer level of the partly submerged old world building. A few small broken windows high above let enough light in to make the space visible yet protective enough from the heat and the radioactive season sun. Colt and Jack already set up a small camp area in the middle of the place with sleeping mats and bags. Colt sat cross legged on the mat as Jacked invited Alice to sit on his mat. He went into his bag and produced beef jerky and a canteen leaving it in front of Alice and then stepping back to leaning on a concrete column crossing his arms. Alice sipped on the canteen and slowly took a bite of the jerky, the salt and spices started bringing back some energy.

“So, tell us; how did you manage to down a Collector?” Jack asked.

“It was a Collector then! I knew it!” Alice lowered her head for a moment then told them how she did it.

“Impressive!” Colt said with an awe.

“Yes, a young girl like you without training taking down a Collector is quite a feat” Jack added, what's your name?

“Alice, Now please tell me about the order and you were after the Collector?” Alice asked as she finished the last of the jerky.

“We are not allowed to tell you too much about the order but I will tell you that yes, we hunt The Collectors and we were on the trail of this one. It is very unfortunate that it found you two here, we thought we had enough time to catch up to it before it got to a settlement.” Jack replied.

“Why does it do what it did to my friend Sting?” Alice asked with her head down.

“The Collectors collect memories for profits. They hunt young people and children, cutting off their heads and preserving their brain. Then they sell the victims to the royals for lots of gold. The royals extract the memories and feed on the experiences of others, it is like living a new life. The practice came to light to our order and because we stand for justice we have been hunting The Collectors and executing them ever since.” Jack stated.

“I know a little bit about The Order of The Hawk” Alice said as she reached into her collar producing the medallion. Jack’s eyes widened as Colt leaped towards Alice ripping the medallion from her hand breaking the chain.

“WHERE DID YOU GET THIS?!” Colt shouted as he produced a pistol pointing at Alice.

“Easy Colt!” Jack said as he walked over and pushed Colt’s aiming hand to the side.

“It. It was my grandfathers!” She replied in shock and fear as she was knocked back from Colt’s prowess.

“Your Grandfathers?” Jack took the medallion from Colt’s hand and was examining it.

“Do you know this medallion is only allowed to be worn by the accomplished ordained tenure members of The Hawk.” Jack reached into his collar and produced his medallion matching the one Alice had.

“Colt here served eight years and he is not even allowed to wear one, who was your great grandfather?”

“All I know is what my grandfather told me, my great grandfather died when he was young so there were just tokens and the medallion was what my grandfather gave me before he died. Give it back!” Alice said as she sat sobbing.

“You can have it back but you cannot wear it around your neck or show it to anyone, sorry about the chain” Jack said and handed back the medallion. Colt holstered his weapon and sat back down closing his eyes.

Jack started walking back and forth deep in his thoughts. He was really surprised that this girl took down a collector, especially one on one. There is something about this girl, and the medallion; it might be a sign.

“Listen, what you did here is incredible. If your great grandfather was indeed part of the order and you having the medallion is a sign I cannot ignore. Therefore I want to give you an opportunity to join The Order of the Hawk as my apprentice” Jack stated.

“Captain! That is forbidden for outsiders to join!” Colt opened his yes and proclaimed with disapproval.

“Title fourteen allows my rank to take on apprentices to join the order based on judgment and proof of ability. Does killing a Collector provide enough of the ability for you Colt?” Jack smirked as he asked Colt who paused for a moment then nodded his head with the agreement.

“I will teach you about the order and then you will have a chance to join or not as a member, however what I will tell you must never be discussed with anyone outside the order. Do you accept?” Jack asked Alice.

Alice sat there for a moment thinking about it. All that has happened, death of her friend and the moment when she stood victorious over The Collector. She knew that if there were more of them out there she needed to hunt down every last one of them. Alice stood up, open the palm of her hand exposing the medallion; looked at Colt then at Jack sternly.

“I accept”

© M.A.Travis


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