By Jonathan Rae Rivera
Meat was all he could think of.
After days out here—lost in the middle of god knows where—he hadn’t had a single morsel of protein
and it was beginning to wear on him. He had managed to scrounge up some wild berries here and there
but may have made the mistake of consuming some questionable fungus earlier in the day. His body
ached, his stomach churned, and his vision grew hazy as if his eyes were two dirty windows.
But no, he refused to blame it on the mushrooms. On his survivalist skills. It was the protein. The lack
thereof. It had to be.
Squirrels, raccoons and other tiny vermin proved much too fast for him. He needed something big and
slow, something that would be an easy target.
He was so famished he couldn’t quite think of why he had come out here in the first place. The days
have gone by—or has it been weeks?—and his thoughts have grown unclear.
He gazed down at his rifle, still in hand, where it has been the whole time. Why? He wasn’t sure, really.
Nothing made sense anymore. He checked his clip in an automated response, jotting down on a mental
note pad that he only had two bullets left.
Two measly bullets.
He couldn’t help to think that maybe he should save the last one for himself if need be. He couldn’t
come up with a need that would call for the occasion but it seemed like a reasonable thought nonetheless.
He walked to his dissipating fire. A fire he made more as an SOS than to keep himself warm.
But how long has it been? That fire had once raged, had crackled with life. His time out here was filled
The fire: a memory. Perhaps his only recent memory.
But how long ago?
His hunger made him numb to everything but his thirst for meat. He sat half lotus around the fire and
placed the rifle at his side when, within earshot, he heard footsteps, crunching through the leaves.
He snatched his rifle from the ground and sprang back to his feet, flanking the area of where he thought
the noise had come from.
But the footsteps were gone.
He brought the butt of his rifle high on his shoulder and placed his eye over the scope. He moved his
rifle across the horizon. But there was nothing. As far as he could see, everything was the same: trees
and trees and nothing.
His stomach screeched in plea.
He closed his eyes and lowered his rifle. But again, the footsteps began crunching through the brush.
His eyes jutted open and he swung his rifle back up to his shoulder. His heart was pounding in his chest
and his empty stomach sunk low into his pelvis. He closed his eyes and counted to ten, controlling his
He opened his eyes and searched the landscape through his scope again when finally, he saw it. A
dark blurry object panning its head back and forth, about 250 yards away.
He remembered his tally of bullets: only two.
He had to make his shot count.
He took a deep breath in through his nostrils and held it there, aligning his crosshairs with the blurry
object. Whatever it was—a deer, a moose, a bear—it was meat, it was protein, it was power. And that
was all he could think about.
He exhaled and pulled the trigger, a loud thunderclap filling the forest around him.
He connected. He knew he did.
He slung his rifle over his back and ran full speed to claim his kill.
Weaving through the trees, his boots demolished branches and leaves that stood in his path. His eyes
grew wide and his mouth hung agape. The wind blew cold sweaty tendrils of hair across his face.
Approaching his kill he heard the faint familiar sound of human chatter. He swung his rifle back into his
grip and approached the animal, quickly discovering the source of noise.
There was a voice was coming from the walkie-talkie on a ranger’s chest. A ranger who laid bleeding in
He lowered his rifle and moved closer, closer to his “kill.” The ranger clutched both hands around the
bullet wound in his neck. He moved his mouth as if to speak, but no words came forth. Only blood. He
kept moving his mouth in the same pattern, trying to say something. Struggling to mutter the words Help
The voice from the walkie-talkie was asking “Did you find anything out there? Come in. Come in. Did
you find anything—”
He reached his hand down to the ranger’s walkie-talkie and clicked it off, raising his rifle back up to his
shoulder, aiming down at the bleeding ranger, who was still pleading his silent plea.
He held the gun steady between the ranger’s eyes, remembering his bullet count: just one.
Remembering it was supposed to be for himself. But his stomach growled again and all he could think of
was meat—delicious succulent meat.
He took a deep breath and pulled the trigger. The air filled with smoke and deafening sound.
He dropped his rifle to his feet and pulled a large knife from his waistband, using it to slice open the
ranger’s shirt. He stared down at the dead and bleeding ranger and stick his blade into the tempting
looking flesh. In a sawing motion he began to flay the crimson flesh from the chest of the ranger. He stuck
the rubbery meat into his mouth and devoured it raw.
He ate and ate and ate, chewing on the dead ranger’s tough flesh. Refueling for his purpose out here.
Wondering still what that purpose was supposed to be.
With thick crimson blood spilling down his chin, he remembered the walkie-talkie’s question.
“Did you find anything out there?”
Meat. Meat was all he could think of.
|About Jonathan Rae
I am an artist and writer
from Chicago, IL. I have
previously been published
in Dark Dossier Magazine,
Sanitarium Magazine, and
Sirens Call Publications. I
will also be published in
the upcoming Issue #24 of
The Literary Hatchet. You
can follow me on
|To read other short stories,
click one of the titles below.