The Hunters and the Hunted (Short Story)

This was based on a prompt, which is the first two sentences.

“Should we let him know we’re on to him?”

“Now where’s the fun in that? The enjoyment is in the chase and capture, not the fear!”

Whispering voices are audible from my place deep in the alley. I hang in the darkness, watching, waiting. The two figures hover near the walls of the alley, looking out into the dimly lit street.

If I didn’t know better, I would assume they were speaking of someone else. But I do know better. Lucky for me, the speakers are oblivious to my location. They seem to think I am roaming the street, which I was, shortly prior to overhearing a small portion of their dialogue.

“Where is he? He should have passed this alley by now!”

“How should I know? Doesn’t he live near here?”

“Yes. Unless he ran away from home… At which point he’s unpredictable.”

I never had a home. Not that you could know that.

I bring a hand to my forehead as I notice one of the figures flinch. I sent that thought, albeit accidentally.

“He’s close by. He heard us,” the voice shivers, hardly a breath.

“How do you know?” Suspicion from his counterpart, though his voice lowers as well.

“He spoke to me…”

It was unintentional, I swear.

Both figures stiffen at my now purposeful invasion of their minds.

“Where are you?”

Not your business. Close enough to hear and see you without being seen.

They bolt from the alley, unsurprisingly. Once they are gone, I sigh, realizing I had been holding my breath. Had they heard me, found me… I hate to think what would have happened… What I would have been forced to do

I release the brick of the building I was perched on, dropping silently to the concrete below. My cloak fades, the fabric dissipating into the surrounding air from whence it came. I could not explain how I was able to accomplish this feat if I tried, I still do not know.

My fingertips graze the red-black brick as I lurk out of the alley. A filmy encasement materializes around me, invisibility of a sort, matching my movements.

I stand under the street lamp, deliberating. Do I go home, or do I leave entirely?

Home, as I call it somewhat jokingly, is barely a suitable shelter, and I am alone. Leaving entails forsaking all I have ever known, all I have assumed I would ever know.

But those people… I call them Hunters, and I have no clue what they could do to me. Not long ago, there were others like me, living with me, but they are gone. I do not know what happened to them or where they have been taken, only that it was the Hunters who took them. All the things I might be able to do to them, it might be futile if they are truly Hunters, like those who took my friends…

Leaving is the best option, in the morning I’ll gather my few things and disappear from this place.

Nothing more could be done. Later, perhaps it would be safe to return. Perhaps leaving would prove more disastrous than remaining, but I couldn’t know that until afterwards. I do not know what the world beyond this single city entails, but I will risk that discovery.

I slink home, thinking along the way about departing and what I will need for the journey. Even as short as the trip will be, it will be exhausting. Moving discreetly always is, especially as I will need to steal the provisions, using more energy.

I arrive at the building, lifting myself to the roof in a seemingly effortless manner. I quietly enter the dilapidated roof apartment, falling onto my heap of moth-eaten blankets.

“Good night, world,” I mumble as black overtakes me.

Morning light streaming through my dirt streaked windows wakes me. I roll over onto my back, rubbing my eyes with one of my dirty hands. I pull myself to my feet, looking out the dingy window closest to my bedding.

My thoughts jump back to the previous night and my determination to leave.

No, I can’t. My friends might still be here. If I had been taken, I wouldn’t want them to leave me. I have to find them, even if it puts my life on the line, or almost kills me.

I still need supplies, and I still need to avoid the Hunters from the alley.

~*~*~*~*~

“Hallan, be careful!”

“It’s okay, Analyn, I can do this.”

I clung to the side of our building, most of the way up, about to let go.

I released the building, and Analyn screamed. My feet gently touched the concrete before I immediately returned to stand by Analyn.

Tears streamed down her face and violent sobs choked her.

“Analyn, I’m okay,” she looked up, eyes already red.

“Hallan, you could have died! I thought I’d never see you again!”

I pulled her into my arms, struggling to console her, “Shh, I’m alright. I wasn’t going to get hurt.”

“Don’t do that to me again! I couldn’t bear to lose you, you’re like a brother to me!” She wrapped her arms tightly around my torso, tears beginning to soak my shirt.

“Okay, Ana.”

~*~*~*~*~

“Hallan! You’re back! Oh, I’m so glad you’re safe!”

“So am I. How was everything here at home, Colby?”

He smiled, “Analyn worried about you the whole time, saying things like, ‘He promised he wouldn’t do this to me!’ and ‘I can’t believe he’d do something so reckless!’”

I laughed, “That’s just like Ana! Worried even when I’ve done this a million times.”

Colby nodded, “She wasn’t the only one worried when you didn’t come home on time, though. Leynard and Shelly were too, as was I.”

My face hardened, “I had to take a longer route because there were Hunters.”

His voice shook, “Hunters? You almost got caught?”

I shook my head no, “Of course not. I noticed them, heard their thoughts, and moved away from where they were posted.”

He sighed, “Thank goodness! Were they close to Garter’s?”

“No. They were halfway between his grocery and here.”

He nodded, “Good. I’m glad you’re safe, and the others will be too.”

~*~*~*~*~

“Hey, Leynard! Wake up!”

A grunt escaped the sleeping boy, “No!”

“It’s morning. We have food!”

He sat up sleepily, but with sparkling eyes, “Food?”

“Mhm, food. Want some?” I knew he did, we all did.

“Duh!”

Analyn and Colby laughed. Of all of us, Leynard was the most obsessed with food, eating as much as we would let him and asking for more if there was any.

“I made a cake!” Shelly exclaimed excitedly, having used her powers for one of the first times.

“Mmm, cake!” Leynard practically drooled as Shelly handed him a chunk of icingless chocolate cake.

Each of us received a chunk, leaving only a piece for Shelly to eat.

“This is so good!”

“Leynard, stop spewing cake in the house! Keep your mouth closed!” Analyn scolded him.

~*~*~*~*~

“Shelly!” Analyn screamed as Shelly fell off the roof, reaching an arm over the edge desperately.

I jumped over the side, quickly hovering just below the youngest of our group.

My feet hit the concrete and I bounded back to the roof. Shelly clung tightly to my neck, eyes  squeezed shut.

Safely on the roof once again, I set the girl down.

Tears streamed down their faces, sobs cracking their throats. I understood the fear they had experienced, adrenaline was pumping through my veins too.

“Are you alright?” I fought to keep my voice steady, to be strong for them.

She nodded, shaking, “I-I think so. Th-thank you, Hallan!”

“You’re welcome. Are you okay, Ana?” I placed a hand on her shoulder reassuringly, concern laced through my gaze.

She nodded, and I engulfed both of them into my arms, glad everyone was alive.

~*~*~*~*~

I have to save them! If they’re still alive, I must save them! I just… don’t know how.

I left my small shack, soaring from rooftop to rooftop for about fifteen blocks. Garter’s small grocery store was still in business, thankfully.

Garter’s Family Grocery was the one place I was unafraid of showing my face, unafraid of the regular human population. Mr. Garter was a kind old man and often gave me food, so long as I helped him out a bit in the grocery and washed my hands and face.

Hello, Mr. Garter.

The old man looked at the door, startled. He saw my dirt-covered face and smiled.

“Hello again, Hallan. How can I help you?”

“I came to help you in exchange for more food.”

His smile continued, “Wash your face and hands in the bathroom first. I could really use some help today, a new order came in recently.”

I nodded, walking to the back corner of the somewhat small grocery.

An hour later, I left Mr. Garter’s grocery behind, carrying two paper sacks with supplies. Some things were perishable, and some needed cooked, but nothing required refrigeration.

I walked a distance down the sidewalk before pulling my invisibility fog into existence. Several pedestrians’ eyes widened, looking at where I had just stood.

You’re not as crazy as you think.

The pedestrians quickly turned to face forward, unhinged by my invasion of their minds. They would definitely think they were crazy, after watching me disappear and then hearing my voice in their heads. Luckily, I would not be sending them more thoughts any time soon, if ever.

I quickly bounded home in the same way I left.

Upon closing the door, I simply deposited both bags on the floor.

How can I save them? How can I even find them? The only people who know of their location are the Hunters… Obviously the Hunters won’t help me rescue them… But they could lead me to them!

I began pacing the small front room, finger to my chin, elbow resting against the arm crossed over my chest.

As I turned towards the door again, an arm wrapped around me from behind and a hand pressed a cloth forcefully against my mouth and nose. I shoved the hand away quickly, a dizziness pulsing through me. A strong hand clenched over my wrist, and the cloth again smothered me.

~*~*~*~*~

I groaned, rolling onto my side, my head throbbing. The surface beneath my skin was searingly cold, and I shivered as my cheek rested against it.

“Hallan,” a soft voice whispered, “are you awake?”

I cracked my eyes open, Is that you, Ana?

Yes, she responded calmly.

How long have I been here?

I’m not sure. The Hunters brought you in unconscious and locked you in with us.

All of you are here?! I start to sit up, but groan and quickly lay down again.

Yes, but Colby was taken out not long ago. Shelly and Leynard are resting.

Where did they take Colby?

A sadness seeped into Ana’s thoughts, We don’t know. Whenever they take us out, they blindfold us.

I wanted to save you all, but it seems I was too late.

I don’t know that you’d have been able to. They know how to fight back. How to resist our powers.

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