Watching the small Eastern Cottontail through the sights of his new 12-gauge shotgun, Dan’s mouth began to water. The rabbit looked absolutely delicious for tonight’s dinner. He slowed his breathing, allowing the shotgun to bob in a figure eight motion as his chest rose and fell. Holding his breath halfway through his final exhale, Dan applied a gentle squeeze to the trigger of the gun until the deafening boom of the shotgun rang through the forest, sending pellets hurling towards the rabbit. At the same instant, the rabbit jumped, but it was too late. The majority of the pellets struck it in the hind legs, causing the rabbit to spin twice as it was pushed sideways, skipping along the forest floor.
“Got you now you waskuly wabbit,” Dan muttered to himself with his best Elmer Fudd impersonation. He walked up to the dying rabbit, which was still trying it’s best to run away with two mangled hind legs. Dan popped his hatchet from its sheath on his belt. Lining up his shot, he made one quick, fluid swing and lobbed the head from the rabbit’s body. Even with no head, the rabbit still made an attempt to escape for almost another minute as its body was drained of blood and it became motionless on the mossy ground.
As he packed the rabbit in his bag and continued his walk along his trapline, Dan thought back to the events of the morning.
Witnessing the execution of, who he had later found out was Ted, his neighbor, and then having to kill those other three guys in self-defense was not something Dan had envisioned for the day. But, because of it, he now had a shotgun for both hunting and self-defense. He also knew that Ted lived alone. He would go over to his house at some point and see if there was anything else of value over there. It seemed weird, looting a dead man’s house, but Dan realized things were different now. He was sure there would be many other things he would have to do now to stay alive. Things that would never have even crossed his mind before. Putting down those three men was certainly one of them.
“Who would have thought that losing the power would, so very quickly, lead to all of this madness?”
Dan jumped up on an old fallen cedar tree and began to cross a small creek. He still had three more snares to check before heading back home. None of his snares had caught anything yet, but he was optimistic.
“At least I have one rabbit for tonight,” he said out loud, slowly walking along the tree trunk, holding his shotgun out in front of him for balance.
The creek had been well carved out by the flowing water over the years. The banks were almost eight feet tall on either side and Dan was careful as he crossed the tree. Being careless was not something anybody could afford to do now. Even small injuries could be potentially fatal with no hospitals around anymore.
Halfway across the creek, a plump looking partridge sprang out of a nearby bush and flew up into the trees to dan’s left. Instinctively, Dan swung the shotgun up, simultaneously pulling the butt of the gun into his shoulder and pulled the trigger. The gun kicked Dan’s shoulder back a little more than he’d expected, causing him to take a step back onto nothing but air. Losing his balance he fell backward, catching his foot in between two branches. The weight and momentum of the fall caused his wedged leg to snap like a twig in between the two branches and Dan let out a terrifying scream as he swung upside down, dangling from his leg. The immense pain was too much to handle and Dan almost immediately passed out, still swinging back and forth just above the creek.
Dan could hear the peaceful gurgle of the stream running along its rocky course as he came to. The soothing sound almost seemed to help calm the throbbing in his leg. Then, he started to notice another sound in the background. There was a faint yipping noise, followed by a low guttural growl coming deep from the belly of an animal.
Opening his eyes, Dan looked up at his leg. It was definitely broken as it appeared he had what looked like a second knee joint in the middle of his shin. His whole leg was throbbing right up into his hips. He tried to reach up and grab a branch a few times with no luck. Each time he tried he put more and more strain on his leg and the pain got worse.
Again he heard the growling coming from behind him, this time a little louder. Twisting his body, Dan turned as far as he could to see behind him. He could make out at least three dogs, a black Labrador Retriever, and two German Sheppards fighting over the partridge he had shot. They were playing tug of war with it and in no time, had shredded it to pieces, leaving nothing but a few feathers behind as evidence.
With the partridge gone, the dogs had turned their attention to Dan. The bird was obviously not enough food for the three 100 pound dogs. They were slowly creeping towards Dan with their lips curled back and their fur standing straight up on their backs, all three now making the menacing low growl from their stomachs.
Dan frantically looked around for the shotgun. He noticed it laying just below him in the water. He tried to reach down for it but it was no use, it was too far away.
“GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM!” Screamed Dan, thrashing his arms frantically towards the dogs. “GO! GET AWAY FROM ME!”
The dogs paid no attention to his empty threats and moved in closer and closer, staring Dan right in the eyes as they did. It was clear to Dan, these dogs had been abandoned shortly after the power had gone out. And, after a few weeks without food, their animal instinct had kicked in and they were no longer domestic obedient dogs. They were now more like wolves.
The Lab had finally had enough waiting. It lunged at Dan’s throat, but Dan managed to block the attack with his arm. The dog clung to his forearm and began shaking its head, violently trying to rip off a piece of Dan for itself. Dan screamed in pain and punched the dog twice in the neck. The Labrador let go but, before Dan could prepare for another attack, one of the German Shepards clamped onto his side and was hanging off Dan’s skin. The dog jerked it’s body, forcefully trying to pull Dan to the ground.
The extra weight of the dog caused one of the branches holding Dan to snap. He and the dog splashed into the shallow water and Dan immediately reached for the shotgun as the Sheppard continued to tear at his side. Screaming in agony, Dan pointed the gun at the dog and pulled the trigger. The dog yelped as it released its grip and flew back almost four feet from the force of the gunshot. It slumped on the ground, motionless and no longer a threat.
Before Dan could react to the other dogs, the Labrador was back on him, this time grabbing his broken leg and trying to drag Dan out of the water. Almost instantly, the second German Sheppard grabbed Dan’s neck and began pulling the other way. Dan let out one last gargled scream as he frantically tried to beat the dog off with the butt of the gun. The two dogs didn’t let up, and eventually, Dan’s fight with the wild beasts was lost. They continued to pull at him, picking off pieces of skin and bones until their bellies were full and Dan was just an unrecognizable heap of bones and flesh. Then, they disappeared back into the forest as if they were never there.
And just like that, the forest was silent again, except for the peaceful, never-ending flow of the creek, and the gentle rustle of the wind through the trees.
Three weeks later, Kyle was filling his canteen at the creek when something glistened in the sun and caught his eye a few feet up small stream. He moved up to inspect further and to his surprise, there was a 12-gauge shotgun sitting there on the edge of the water. Looking around, he noticed there were a number of bones strewn around the area and some torn clothes. The bones had been picked clean, but kyle could tell they were human.
Picking up the shotgun, he noticed it was starting to rust, but nothing that couldn’t be easily cleaned off. Continuing along his way, Kyle couldn’t help but wonder what had happened to the guy.
He supposed it didn’t really matter, it was his gun now.