Author : Travis Gregg
The snow was falling gently all around, big thick snowflakes that stuck to everything. It was the first real snow of winter and in a few weeks the whole area would be under a couple feet. I’d been out an hour before sunrise, my joints stiff and aching from the cold, my feet numb. After following a familiar trail deep into the forest I’d found a good spot where I could nestle down and try to keep warm while I waited.
It was two hours of patiently keeping still before the buck ambled into the clearing. As he casually strode through I slowly readied my bow and waited for the deer to turn broadside. When he was almost out of range, right on the cusp of the distance I could reliably shoot, something caught his attention and for just a brief moment he turned. I squeezed the pull while exhaling and the arrow flew true, impacting just behind the shoulder. The buck let out a wheeze, his breath visible in the cold air.
It didn’t take long to dress the deer and I headed back to the cabin with a pack full of fresh meat. Even though it was getting cooler we’d need to smoke it soon.
As I made my way up the trail I heard something I hadn’t heard in years, something that chilled me to the bone. I squinted against the bright morning sun and there, way off in the distance was an unmistakable iridescent ovoid. It was flying low and very slow, just skimming the tree line, and I could barely make out the sound of the engine as it passed to the south.
It had been three hundred years, but still they’d found me. I’d gone full native this time, didn’t even have medi-nanos. Years and years of living in these mountains, living off the land, and staying as inconspicuous as possible. I even looked just like these barely sentient ape men but still they’d found me. I hustled back to the cabin, abandoning the kill to the bears that roamed the mountain, hoping there was still time to get off planet.
Rounding the last corner up the trail to the cabin I froze. Something was wrong but in a way I couldn’t easily define. Someone watching me? The birds had gone quiet which was a bad sign. Standing still I scanned the familiar scene, looking for something out of place, some source for the wrongness. Too late I realized my mistake. I’d thought it had been pure luck spotting the craft this morning but now it was clear that I was meant to see that ship. Three hundred years had made me too soft.
Crouched down deep in the leaves I’d seen my prey leave hours before the sun rose. I hadn’t been ready for him then but my photon suit ensured I remained unseen. Now he was back and I calmly leveled my sights, waiting for him to come a little closer.