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Reflecting on today, plotting tomorrow.
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He’s out there, hunting.

     My hands are shaking right now. I don’t know where to begin.  My heartbeat is racing. I fear he is following me. I can’t catch my breath.

     It started innocently enough. I had no warning. Well, maybe I did. I don’t know. I know, I’m rambling. My thoughts are all scrambled. My fingers are trembling.  Please forgive me.

     I was out hunting. You know, like I always do. Sitting in my tree stand, out back behind my own house, not seeing much anything of note, minding my own business.

     I must have dozed off for a moment. Something startled me awake. A small noise of some sort, rustling leaves, or maybe my hunter’s sixth sense. I’m not quite sure.  At any rate, I was suddenly wide awake and alert.

     There it was. Appearing in my peripheral vision, stealthily approaching on a game trail that meandered past my tree stand on my left side. It was skulking deliberately through the underbrush, stalking something.

     It looked up and saw me. Our eyes met. It froze in its tracks. I smiled and chuckled silently to myself, recognizing the form sharing my afternoon hunt. It was our neighbor’s black cat.

     The cat quietly turned tail and bounded off in the direction from whence it had come. I thought nothing more of it.  Afternoon faded to evening. Sunset descended to darkness. I quietly unloaded my rifle and debarked my tree stand as I finished my day’s hunt.

     The following afternoon I returned. As I prepared to climb into my tree stand, I sensed something was different. I surveyed the ground at my feet. Then I spotted it, a small pile of something. I knelt down for a closer look. It was a pile of dead crickets.

     Puzzled for a moment, I crouched there, motionless. Where had that pile of dead crickets come from? What creature put it there? A fox maybe? A raccoon?  Both hunt crickets. There were certainly plenty of each critter around. I’d never seen a pile like that though. It was a bit unnerving.

     Then something made me look up. My hunter’s sixth sense again.  There it was, watching me. My neighbor’s black cat. It had brought me a trophy. I smiled and nodded as it bounded off. I swept the pile of dead crickets aside and climbed into my tree stand. I clearly was not the only hunter out there. I did not know my neighbor’s black cat’s real name. I nicknamed the cat “Demon.”

     It was another quiet afternoon. I saw no further sign of the cat. Sunset once again descended. Darkness enveloped me. I finished my hunt, unloaded my rifle, descended my tree stand, and returned quietly home.

     It rained the following day. One of those hard, driving rains. I did not hunt that day. I don’t enjoy sitting in a tree stand, hunting alone in the rain as I slowly get chilled and wet, like some kind of sad frog.

     I returned to my tree stand the next afternoon. Once again, there it was.  A trophy pile at the base of my tree stand.  I spotted Demon, tail twitching. The cat appeared to smile as it watched me discover its offering.  This time it was a slightly gnawed guts exposed pile of frogs.

     I once again brushed away the pile with a sweep of my boot, wiping away the residual blood, slime and guts on the grass.

     I ascended my tree stand, then quietly loaded my rifle. Once again, I saw nothing. The setting sun filled the sky, darkness arose. I finished my hunt, once more unloading my rifle as an eerie quiet descended.

     I hunted again the next afternoon. Just as before, there was Demon, watching me. I looked down. Another trophy pile had been assembled at the base of my tree stand.  This time it was mice. Most of them headless.  I looked up. Our eyes met. Demon once again smiled.

     The afternoon passed.  I found myself feeling a bit unsettled.  A bank of dark clouds rolled in as dusk settled in. The evening’s sunset was masked. I finished my hunt and went home.

     It sprinkled off and on overnight.  A stiff breeze picked up, rustling wet falling leaves. Sleep never found me. I tossed and turned through the night, wondering; “Was that black cat still out there on the prowl?  What was he up to? What would I find next? What was Demon hunting?”

     The next afternoon I found out. This time it was birds. A messy pile of sparrows, feathers and bones strewn about. Demon clearly had feasted.  I looked up. There he was, once again, quietly watching me. I found myself fingering my rifle.

     The next day it was rabbits, or what was left of them, entrails protruding, I counted at least five of them, all in one big, mangled pile.  Demon once again watching me, tail twitching back and forth.  A sudden chill coursed through me.  I swore I could hear Demon purring.

     I climbed into my tree stand and loaded my rifle. Demon stood the watching me for a moment, studying. I felt almost as if I was being scouted.  Our eyes met once again.  The hair on the back of my neck stood up.  I thought momentarily of raising my rifle. That black cat must have read my mind. Before my being could translate impulse to movement. Demon took off.  A thought stalked my mind.  “Was I the hunter, or the hunted?”

     I almost did not hunt the next day. I felt uneasy. I shook my head and scolded myself. “It’s just your neighbor’s black cat. This is silly.”

     Then I walked out to my tree stand. Another blood-soaked trophy pile awaited.  Demon sat there licking his paws clean.  This time it was muskrats.

     The next afternoon it was a pair of small raccoons. The day after that, what was left of a turkey carcass. Following that, Demon left me the front half of a fox.

     “That’s it.” I thought to myself. “I’ve had about enough of this crap! The next time I see that black cat, I’m putting a bullet through its brain! I’m going to kill it.”

     The next afternoon I loaded my rifle as I left my house. If I encountered Demon, I was determined. I would be ready.

     I was not prepared, however, for what Demon had in store.  As I approached my tree stand with my rifle, I saw another trophy awaiting.  As I got closer, I recognized what it was.  I felt sick to my stomach. I retched and dropped to my knees as I stared at the bloody carcass in front of me. It was what was left of what just a few short hours ago had been one of my dogs.

     I stood, rifle over my shoulder, cradling my dead dog in my arms.  Then I spotted him. Demon was once again watching me. I clutched my dog to my chest and ran back to the house, filled with angry fear. My broken heart pounded.

     That was just yesterday. I shared my story with my wife.  We shared angry tears. We called our neighbor, who of course, denied everything. “Oh!! I’m sorry to hear about your pup. But it couldn’t have been my cat.  That cat wouldn’t hurt a flea.  He’s a cuddler.  Though, come to think of it, he does like hunting.” We buried our dog this morning.

     I went back out early this afternoon with my rifle, determined. I was going to kill that cat. Nothing would deter me.

     There was no trophy pile today. I felt almost relieved. I saw no sign of Demon.  Afternoon descended to evening. Sunset ensued. Darkness descended. I decided to sit a bit longer than I normally do. I was sure Demon would be out there at some point, hunting.  My instincts proved correct.

     There! In the moonlight, suddenly, I saw movement. Sure enough, it was the outline of a cat. I’d spotted Demon. I raised my rifle and zeroed my scope on his torso. He stopped and looked up. His eyes reflected the moonlight. Demon smiled. I fired off one panicked shot and ran for my life.  That black cat was dragging something.

  I swear to God it was a body. 


Until Our Trails Cross Again:

Happy Spooktober!