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Monday, May 25, 2020

Prey


written & illustrated by Chakriya PHOU

On the plane, Simon looked through window.
'Are you going to hunt too?' A black guy sat next to him said.
Simon looked at him and said, 'Yes.'
He showed his hand, 'I'm Simon.'
'I'm William.' That man showed hand back to him.
'Where are you from?'
'Texas.'
'I'm Hawaii.'
'Great. You like hunting?'
'Yes. I usually go to hunt with my grandpa and my father.'
'I don't like hunting. I've never been to forest or jungle to hunt.'
'Then why you join this event?'
'I practice shooting since I was young. And I want to try outdoor.'
Simon nodded.
'How do you know about this event?' Simon asked.
'My friend at shooting practice camp told me.' William said.
'Me, I got information from best friend of my father.'
'And I got from this.' A man sat next, different row, handed announcement paper to two of them.
'I'm Long.' He showed his hands to the guys. 'From Washington.'
'Nice.'
Simon and Williams showed their hands to him.
'You hunt or shoot?' Simon said to Long.
'No, I don't both.' Long stated, 'I take photography.'
'Really?' William narrowed his eyes-brow.
'Yes, I am. I bring my beloved with me.' Long showed them his camera. Professional model.
'I cannot help you hunt. He added, 'But I can help you a very great picture for your memory. I bet you need me.'
Simon and William showed smiling to each other.
Then a sound echoed the plane.
'Dear gentlemen, we are arriving, Takaboka, our destination in 20 minutes. Please remain in your seat. If you are out of seat, please hurry up come back. You are invited to see presentation of our event through screen before your seat in 2 minutes. Please take attention to the information we present you. You can find earphones in box next to the screen. Please enjoy. Thank you.'
'At last.'
Long stated and organized himself in his seat.
Also Simon, William and everyone were guarded their bodies in seat properly.
When 2 minutes met, upper wall of the plane was opened and a screen fell down to stay before passengers' faces.
Everyone opened box on right of screen and took out earphones to wear. Then the screen showed image and voice expressed inside their ears.
All of hunters paid attention to information they heard. Also image.
All of them were told to enjoy hunting event prepared by GoRO. They were gathered to hunt deer in Takaboka. There were 500 deer. One deer awards 1,000 USD, even dead or alive.  The screen showed picture of deer then picture of king of deer. All deer looked same, no antler, but the king of deer got big antler. The big prize was king of deer that awarded 1 million USD.
As voice ended, the screen became black.
The passengers returned earphone into box then the screen moved up back into wall of the plane.
After the announcement voice be heard again.
'Thank for your cooperation. Our gentlemen, we arrive at Takaboka. Please stay in your seat and fasten your seat belt. We hope you enjoy our serving and we wish you goo luck. Thank you.'
No wonder, the plane was about to take off now.
Everyone kept silent and remained in their seats.
Not so long, the plane reached the land.
Door opened and everyone got off.
They were directly into three vans that were waiting for them.
Simon, William and Long chose same van.
Next, the van moved to location.
It was not far from plane port.
It was big hill, about 300 height, covering by green grass and plants.
Long got off the van. He stood opening mouth and shook his head.
'What a beautiful place.'
Simon was behind him, 'You block way.'
'Oh sorry.'
Long moved forwards.
Everyone got off the vans.
Well, all were men. Gentlehunters.
Each of them carried gun - they were informed to bring their own guns and bullets and their necessary things by themselves - only Long hold camera.
After, a blond lady in office suit appeared. She gave pretty smiling to our hunters. Then she showed her beautiful voice.
'Our gentlemen, welcome to GoRO hunting event. I think you all are informed of what you have to do when you were in plane. I don't repeat it.' She gave eyes to everyone and stuck with Long present before she continued, 'Now, each of you will get sticker with your name on it. You don't need to be worried if you catch deer. Leave it and make your sticker on it to evident us how many deer you got.' The lady raised her finger and male assistants brought box to hunters.
'Inside this box had some food and water for you. Also, primary nursery thing such as bandage. If any question, please raise your hand.'
A man raised.
'Please.' Lady said.
'If we got shoot, do you have ambulance for us?'
'Well, we have. But I want warn you better not to shoot your colleague or be shot, because we have ordinary nursery, not doctor.'
'Do you serve us meal?' Another man said.
'We give you in box, but it is like snack. I'm sorry I think you are already informed to bring your own food and beverage when you registered.'
'Oh, I know. I just want to clarify.'
'Thank you.' Lady gave little bow head. 'Anymore?'
'Me.' Simon raised his hand.
'Yes, please sir.'
'You told us to put sticker on deer. But if I shoot and put it, after I go to hunt and my sticker is removed and...'
Simon did not finish his word. He thought the lady understood his question and also everyone did.
'Thanks for your question. Don't worry this point sir, because sticker cannot be removed once you put it on deer. If it is removed, the skin of deer will be removed too.'
'What if it happens?' Simon looked straight into her eyes.
'We will investigate to find true hunter.' The lady gave confident-answer. 'All you have to do is to shoot it to die. If it is alive, you have to make sure it stays where you shoot it or we cannot help if it runs and is shot to dead by another hunter.'
'And if we shoot a deer at same time, then who will own the deer?' William raised his hand.
'Well,' the lady thought for a short moment then replied, 'I think all of you use not same bullet. If this kind of thing happens, we will examine. But I wish it will not happen.' She gave a smile.
All of them laughed and looked at each other.
'You have three hours to complete. Now, it is 11: 04 and the event will start at 11:07 and end at 12:07. We will make firework to signal you. Once the firework shows, all of you need to stop. Person who fails at our word, he will be not given any award even he got king of deer. Clear?'
Everyone nodded head.
'OK. Good luck to everyone.'
The lady opened way for hunters. When Long passed her, she gave a staring, and he escaped his eyes from her.
The men climbed the hill. It was really big. It was only grass and some trees so if deer showed itself, its chance to escape was low.
Simon and William walked together. Long walked with gun-men but he was enjoying taking photographs. He clicked every step he walked. Also, he took photo of his two new friends.
'See.' He showed photo to Simon and William.
'You are professional.' William praised Long.
'I told you.' Long smiled.
Bang. Bang.
Shooting voice echoed the hill, from another direction.
'I think they got one before us.' Long said.
'Don't say it yet.' Simon said. 'Sometimes, just shoot only.'
William and Long nodded head agree to Simon.
They continued.
They walked up and down the hill.
Shooting sound appeared one after one. It was from other hunters.
Well, even though it did not bother the true hunters.
They did not come here to get prize but to enjoy their hobby. Also, their target was king of deer. It was better to get one golden than get 100 silver.
Simon and William eyed for deer while Long was attracted to photo taking.
He clicked right and left then front and back. After, he checked image.
'Wow, look...'
He wanted to present to his friends, but Simon gave SHHH. Long shut his mouth.
A deer showed up.
Bang.
It fell to the ground.
It was Simon's. He put his sticker on it.
'It dies?' Long asked.
'Sure.' William said.
'Poor guy.' Long shook his head and took picture of dead deer.
Then he called Simon.
'Sit behind it. I take photo of you.'
Simon followed.
'Good. I'll send you via email when we got back home.'
'OK.'
Three guys continued walking around the hill. 
Then butterfly flied inside stomach and Long claimed to his friends, 'Let have lunch.'
Simon and William looked at each other then they agreed. They chose to sit under a tree to open the box. It was sandwich.
Long grabbed it and put it into his mouth.
'Ham.'
He said.
He bit sandwich. The way he ate showing he was hungry and he was happy to fulfill his stomach.
Simon and William looked at each other laughing little when they saw Long action.
After, they drank some water and then continued hunting.
Shooting sound showed from another part of hill.
Hearing that, Long said to Simon and William, 'It seems deers are over there. Let join them.'
'No need.' Simon said.
'You don't want money?' Long said.
'Not really.' William stated.
'Don't tell me you come here for pleasure.' Long stated.
'Yeah.' Simon laughed.
Long rolled his eyes and shook his head. How come?
They walked for moment then William got image of a deer. He quickly pointed his gun and BANG. Bullet ran towards the deer, but it could run.
'You almost got it.' Long said.
There was blood trace. 
'Follow it.' Simon called. He and William followed trace. Long was after them.
It was long trace into jungle.
They kept following it.
They almost reached edge of jungle.
Before them, few deers appeared.
Long was surprised.
Simon and William raised their guns.
BANG. BANG.
The three were shot. Two was dead. Another one ran with injury.
William put sticker on one. Simon put on one.
Long shook his head after he took picture of both of them.
'In general, deer runs fast, but deer on this hill run slower than my princess.'
'Princess?' William said.
'My pig.' Long replied.
'I see.' William said.
'Yes, they really slow,' Simon narrowed his eyes-brow, 'and they seem stupid.'
'Those guys are happy now.'
Long smiled.
Simon got up.
They walked off the jungle.
William looked at Simon face. He seemed not happy with this hunting.
'What's wrong?' He asked Simon.
'I don't know.' Simon said. 'I just feel something strange.'
'Perhaps it is different from your hunting before that's why you feel like this.'
'Hope so.'
Simon took breath. He held gun tightly. He reached edge of jungle with William and Long.
When they got out of jungle, the two deers appeared before their eyes.
They were previous deers. One was first deer, fail shooting by William and another one was injured deer among deer they shot in jungle.
Simon finished the injured deer while William added bullet to his previous target. They got them.
Long gave one thumb to both of hunters.
The three walked towards their prize. First, they reached Simon's deer.
They bend knees and looked at dead deer. Simon took out his sticker name and placed on its skin.
'Well, let me try.'
Long wanted to testify what the lady said. He pulled sticker off. Like the lady told, it removed skin of deer along with sticker.
'Well made.'
Long said. He wanted to put it back on the deer, then he found something.
'Guys, look.'
'What?'
Long pointed to where he took off sticker.
Three men noticed something.
'It looks like human flesh.' Long said.
Simon checked it.
'What is that?' William asked.
'No.'
Simon expressed. His face became pale. He hurriedly put down his backpack. He took knife from it and he sliced skin of deer. He removed like he removed skin of fish.
After Simon removed skin of leg of deer, all of three were shock.
Legs of deer were legs of human.
Font legs of deer were arms of human.
It was woman.
'What happen?'
Long covered his mouth.
'I don't know.' Simon said.
There was a sound MOO MOO. It was from deer William had shot. It was still alive. Simon rushed to it. He used knife removing its face skin.
William grabbed his head when he saw face of a man inside deer face skin.
Simon carried his head. The man tried to speak, 'Please save our king.'
'King?' Simon said.
The man nodded, 'We are citizen of Takaboka. They want to take our treasure. They make us inside of deer skin even our king. They want get rid of all of us.'
Long opened his mouth for shocking. He could not believe his own ears.
'The king must be survived. Only him knows where treasure is. Please save him.'
It was his last words.
Simon shut his eyes for him.
William three gun onto ground and grabbed his head. He knelt down and sobbed.
Long turned his face.
'What does it mean? We are killer?'
Before him, down the hill, dead bodies of deer were everywhere. Along with gun voice.
Simon stood up.
'No, we are prey.'
He took his gun, checked his bullet.
'What do you want to do next?' Long said.
'Find his king.'
'Where?'
'King of deer.'
Long opened his eyes. True. Because he was king of deer.
'We have to find him before everyone.' Simon took gun from ground and threw to William. He caught the gun and lifted himself up.
The three guys walked along the hill to find king of deer.
They needed to hurry because only one hours left.
Sound of gun continued happen.
Simon and William did not care. They paid eyes to seek for king of deer.
Long walked after them with confused face. He felt uncomfortable of what he saw in this shooting field. He was quiet.
Simon did not hear Long voice. He paused walking and turned face back.
Long was walking, but his soul seemed not inside his body.
'What's wrong?' Simon called him.
Long approached and said, 'I feel I see him somewhere.'
'What!! Where?' Simon asked.
'Wait.'
Long tried to think. Then he reminded of something. He took his camera and checked.
'Here.'
He showed image to Simon and William.
Although, it was not clear, but they could see shape of deer among hawthorn bush and it had antler.
'That's him.' Simon said. 'Where you took this photo?'
'I thin...' Long tried to remember, 'where we had lunch.'
'We back.'
Simon called. Then three of them hurried up return to tree that they had had lunch.
Long held camera. He filmed. Then he said, 'Over there.'
He saw figure of king of deer at same bush.
'Hurry up.'
They walked quickly.
When they approached the tree, two hunters appeared.
Three guys paused.
William whispered, 'What should we do?'
Simon looked at the hunters. He said to Long, 'Keep filming.'
Long nodded head. He understood Simon want him to follow up the deer. He put his eyes only on camera.
Then Simon and William walked to the hunters.
'My friends, how many deer you got?' One of hunter said to them.
'Perhaps ten each.' Simon said.
'Really?' One of hunter said. 'We got nothing.'
'If you want, get into jungle. There are many at edge of the jungle.' William expressed.
'So, why you come here?' First hunter said.
'Because of that guy,' said William and stared to Long.
The hunters showed question on their faces.
'He is crazy with photo. He asks us to bring him here to take photo and he will give us one thousand dollar.'
The hunters raised their eyes-brow and laughed.
'Are you rich, kid?' One of hunter said to Long.
'I am not. My step grand mother is.' Long answered.
All laughed.
'OK, enjoy photograph.'
The hunters said and left themselves into the jungle.
Long hurried ran towards his friends.
'He still there.'
'What should we do then?' William looked at Simon.
'Surround him.'
Simon gave a call and three of them nodded head.
They divided into three walking to the bush.
The deer wanted to escape from the bush, but he got surrounded. He froze, looking around him. Simon and William pointed gun towards him. He looked fear.
Then Simon called, 'We know who you are. Don't be afraid. We are here to help you.'
Long thought they were wrong that the king of deer was king of Takaboka. As he saw his action when he heard Simon said, he believed that Simon was right.
The king of deer downed his face.
Simon and William dropped their guns and walked near the deer.
He showed fearless. He trusted.
'What should we do?'
William asked. Simon shook his head.
'I don't know yet.'
'We have to hurry.' William said.
'I know.' Simon nodded.
'They come back.' Long called.
Two hunters returned.
'What should do?' William asked Simon.
It was urgent that Simon could not think of any idea.
The hunters reached them. They saw them and yes, they saw king of deer. They ran to them.
Simon saw trouble was coming.
He called, 'Long come behind us.'
Long ran to stand behind Simon and William with king of deer.
'Stay calm.' Simon gave speech to king of deer. He nodded head.
The hunters reached them.
'You got it.'
'It ours.' William said.
'Come on. Let share.'
'We are poor. We need money.'
'No.' Simon shook head.
A hunter smiled.
Then BANG.
That hunter wanted to shoot the deer, but Simon was quicker. He shot his hand.
Another hunter wanted to shoot, still William failed him.
The two hunters laid on ground. Their hands were shot. Bleeding.
They were angry. In their mind, they could not let three men took the award. They shouted, 'King of deer is deer. Come.'
Their voice echoed the hill. All hunters heard. They ran to scene.
'Shit.'
William wanted to open gun to those hunters, but Simon stopped him.
'Don't. You will be in trouble.'
He looked at the deer.
'What do we do?' Long said.
Simon thought then he said to Long, 'Do you know how to ride a deer?'
Long opened eyes, 'Huh?'
No need to think. It is true Simon wants Long ride deer escaping.
His plan was to have someone with the deer - he thought - then no one would dare to shoot. He and William would protect them.
It was not good plan, but it was best in such situation. And Long took his idea.
'Sorry.'
He climbed up the deer back.
It was human carrying human, but king of deer had no choice. He had to carry Long on his back and walked out immediately.
They disappeared behind the bush before the hunters gathered.
'Where is kind of deer?'
Hunters ran asking.
'It goes there.'
Injured hunter pointed to where Long had gone.
When the hunters wanted to follow, Simon and William pointed gun to them. The hunters pointed gun back to them. They confronted.
'Get out.' Hunter said.
Two hunters got up.
'They shot us.' They told other hunters.
'Because we found him and you want to take it.' William said.
Two hunters were shut up.
'But we have rights to get it unless you shoot it die.' Another hunter said.
'We got him first. It's our choice to keep it alive or shoot it die.' Simon claimed.
'Where is it now?'
Simon and William kept quiet. They held gun tightly. They realized what would happen.
Long was riding on deer-human back. He heard gun shooting.
Even though, he had to carry on.
At the bush, Simon and William were fighting with about 80 hunters. It was like battle. The gun voice repeated loudly.
Simon and William hid behind the tree and shot the hunters. The hunters found their hidden spot and shot back.
Two guys wanted to block them not to after the deer. Also, they wanted to prolong time. It was almost time. They did not wish to shoot them.
But other hunters thought differently. They wanted to take their lives for they thought they blocked their luck.
Their guns ran out of bullet. William said to Simon, 'What should we do then?'
Simon shook his head.
He smiled then he raised his hands up and came out of the tree.
'What are you doing?' William yelled. 'Don't. They will shoot you.'
But Simon did not listen. He walked out of the tree showing himself to the hunters.
William did not dare to step out. He stayed behind the tree, peeping.
The hunters saw Simon, they stopped shooting and came out too. They surrounded him. A hunters, among the two had shot by Simon, came out wildly and kicked his stomach. Simon knelt down to land, covered his stomach with hands. Second hunter added another kicking his chest. Simon fell on ground. The second hunter kicked him repeatedly.
Other hunters tried to stop him, but he did not listen. He continued kick Simon. Then first hunter pulled gun from other about to shoot him.
Suddenly, firework showed in the sky.
Both Simon and William took breath.
It came on right time.
Simon smiled when he saw firework in the sky.
The first hunter still wanted to take Simon life, but William shot his gun down from his last bullet.
That shooting brought the pretty lady and her men arrived at the place.
'Who shoot?' She asked.
'I.' William said. He lifted Simon up.
'You lose your deer.' She claimed.
'OK.' William raised his shoulders. He showed smiling.
Pretty woman turned back to William then BANG.
Simon shot gun up to the sky.
She turned her face back.
Simon smiled and blew his gun.
'You said you ran out of bullet.' William said.
'I remained one.' Simon said.
'You did not tell me.'
'You did not tell me too.'
Both Simon and William laughed looking at each other.
The lady stared at them. She was about to open her mouth, but Simon spoke first, 'I know. I don't get money.'
Then William slapped his shoulder lightly.
Simon looked at William and they shook hands.
The lady smiled at both of them then she called, 'Who got king of deer?'
No one answered.
The injured-hunters gave mean face to Simon and William and they told the lady, 'They free him.'
It was surprised to hear that.
The pretty lady stood before them and said, 'Where is he?'
Simon and William looked at each other. They kept quiet.
The pretty lady watched each of them.
After her guards lifted gun towards them.
Simon and William gave question expression. Also the hunters.
'What do you mean?' Simon said.
'Cooperate with us.' The lady said. 'Where do you release king of deer to?'
'We don't know.' William said.
The pretty lady walked backwards. Simon and William glared. They seem knew what she planned to do with them. She would call her guards to shoot them.
At that time, Long was running to and yelled, 'Stop. Stop.'
The pretty lady Long. She gave signal to guards to drop their guns.
As Long arrived, he got the lady to talk only two of them.
No one heard they were talking about. Just after that, Long was taken away and all hunters were brought back to the plane.
Everyone was silent.
Simon and William sat in their same seat.
They looked at Long seat. It was empty.
They were frustrated and worried about him.
The plan took off. Still, Long did not show up.
10 minutes after, the plane made announcement.
'Dear gentlemen, we do hope you enjoy your hunting. Soon, our staff will provide you cheque based on number of deer your shot. Please be informed that there were three guests do not get awards because they break respect to our rule.'
Name of Simon, William and Long were mentioned.
Everyone looked at them with serious eyes. They were still happy even they did not get money. Everyone laughed at them for they thought they were crazy.
Even though, they were worried about Long.
'We should ask.' William said.
He looked around to find attendant. No one. 
Then the pretty lady showed up. Simon and William were on walking towards her.
'Where is Long?' Simon said.
The pretty lady stared at them.
'Where you take him to?' William said.
The pretty did not say anything. She walked. Then the two were called to walk after her.
They reached into a room.
The lady sat and Simon and William stood before her.
They looked around, still they did not see Long.
'Where is he?' Simon looked straight into her eyes.
'Don't worry. He is safe.' The pretty lady expressed.
'So where is he?' William said.
'He is going home.'
'Home.' Simon narrowed his eyes-brow.
'Yes. He's going home. Please sit down.'
Simon and William looked at each other before they sat before her.
Then a man provided them a document.
'You know what happen on Takaboka.'
Simon and William met their eyes.
'So, please sign then you two will be able to go home.'
'Sign?' Simon said.
'Yes. Sign to promise that you will not tell anyone about what you know on Takaboka. You understand what I'm talking about..
Simon and William knew they realized they had found out that their secret. They had no choice but to sign.
After, their document were collected, and the lady got off. Only two of them stayed in.
William tried to look around. Then sound appeared at his ear, 'Is it me you're looking for?'
Simon and William looked. It was Long.
'Hey.' William said.
Long put himself in seat before them
'Are you OK?' William asked.
'Fine.' Long said happily.
The three were glad to see everyone were safe.
Next, Simon stressed Long.
'What did you say to her?'
Long took breath. He realized that he had to be questioned and he did not want to hide from his friends.
'Well, my father is GoRO.'
'What!!!'
This surprised Simon and William.
'Don't misunderstand. He does not own GoRO, just one of GoRO members.'
Simon and William looked at each other.
'He did not know I came here.' Long continued. 'I have no any clue of his work. I just study and like taking photograph. I thought of seeing new thing that's why I joined the hunting, but I did not know I had to meet such thing.'
Long took long breath.
'That lady knows you.' Simon said.
'Yes,' Long nodded.
'You save us.'
Long smiled, 'I just told her what we had found out. Then I told her that you will not express any word about that hunting.'
William nodded head. He understood.
'Where is king of deer?' Simon asked.
'GoRO wanted to own Takaboka, but they can have only the hill. I released him to the forest out of the hill. He is safe there.'
'His people?' William asked.
Long downed his face, 'They are all dead.'
Three men were sad.
What a tragedy.
Simon, William and Long returned to seat. They remained silent until the plane arrived at airport.
They got off and turned themselves to transit to their own flight to their home town.
Although, they stayed silent in each plane.
Sky was about to be dark.

One week after.
Simon was in his house.
William was in his house.
They got email from Long.
They opened and it had one attached file.
They clicked.
It was photo of king of deer of Takaboka that he had taken when he had released him to forest.
Simon and William looked at this photo with sadly smile on their face.
From now, no Takaboka anymore. No country nor people. Only their king remained alone in deer form to protect their national treasure.

Note : The word, name of characters, place and event are used for fiction only. If any resemble to actual person, place or event etc, it is purely coincident.

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