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Originally published 2016/05/17

If the colouring here is awful (I suspect for many people it is but I've not got round to trying to fix) you can also view this as a text file.

A Fair Game

It all went exceedingly well: the primary East European chapter of the International Hunting Society had just had their best hunting trip in their favourite wildlife reserve. Despite some close calls they showed the brutal beasts who's boss - from a distance, of course.

They were on the latter half of their return flight and all seemed great; if everything went well they would be in the air for another 6 hours. Once they landed most of them would be back at home within another hour. They were socialising - some were telling jokes, others were having drinking contests and the rest were chatting. All was indeed well.

And why shouldn't it be? How could it not be? Is it not scientifically proven that humans are the superior race? What other race could make artificial flight possible? Yet there are other things besides humans that have a will of their own - and power beyond the reach of mankind. But the superior are not always wise; they were still in flight and things were to quickly change course.

As all things come to an end, sometimes unexpectedly, the luck of the hunters was about to run out. The sky suddenly became dark; the plane had gone off course in the heavy clouds and the worst was to come. Along with much turbulence there came a heavy storm. Rain was pounding against the windows and in the distance one could see flashes of light - followed by the roaring sound of thunder. And then it happened - the jet was struck by lightning; there was nothing the pilot could do except to descend and hope for the best.

It so happens that the descent was better than hoped for but they were running out of time. As if by great fortune they were able to safely land in the sea near an island. Fearing that the jet might explode soon the passengers got out as quickly as they could and rushed inland. In their fear of immediate danger they left all their belongs behind (though they secretly hoped they could return to the wreckage so they could reclaim their guns and their precious trophies, later on). This was fortunate because not a minute later would the jet burst into a massive fireball. Or was it fortunate? They escaped death, yes, but they were now stranded on an island that seemed uninhabited and for all they knew it was quite remote - long devoid of mankind.

There was nothing else they could do: they decided to explore the island and see if there might be a source of food. It wasn't long (in truth they had just started their exploration) before there was a glimmer of hope, for they had incorrectly guessed that there was no human life - just ahead they saw some men approaching them.

The islanders all seemed well built and perhaps somewhat burly - especially the one in the front. As luck would have it, they were wielding firearms; perhaps these men were hunters? Maybe this island has good game? Life was at times difficult and even though they would miss their family an island of game seemed somewhat appealing - even if they had to share it. The islanders seemed quite intrigued with these stranded travellers but this certainly wasn't surprising because the island is quite remote.

Whether because the stranded group felt intimidated or something else they could not really put their finger on but they were hesitant to speak - or were at loss for words. As if the islanders understood this and because they all seemed equally as intrigued they had a short conversation - in what seemed to the stranded to be a strange tongue. Shortly after the one in the front (who did indeed seem to be the leader) spoke.

'We do not often get visitors here. What brings you here?'

Yet even though the stranded hunters could understand it they would have all agreed it was a fairly brusque voice. Perhaps they were mistaken to believe this would turn out well? After some time one of the hunters spoke, telling the islanders of their amazing trip and how things took a terrible turn on their journey home. The islanders once again spoke in their own tongue for a short while and once again the leader spoke to the islanders, 'You must come meet our boss.'. It was obvious to the stranded hunters that there was no way round this and so followed the islanders.

Going deeper inland the stranded hunters might have made some guesses that this island was once a prosperous village but is now somewhat in ruin. Still, the islanders seemed content so maybe it was more a fear than the looks that bothered them. At last they arrived at a large cave on the side of a hill. Were these islanders somehow related to cavemen of old?

It was soon made clear that the leader of the islanders the stranded hunters met was not in fact their leader as a much stronger looking man approached them; he was more intimidating and his voice was much more hostile. Worse still is that he seemed quite pleased with his new guests - or at least quite pleased they had new guests. The stranded hunters soon found out why:

These were no ordinary people; they were shape-shifters: they could all transform into an animal. To make matters worse these animals were able to bear arms - in any form. It would be understandable if the stranded hunters wished they had not said as much as they had about their trip. But yet somehow there was the thought that they might be just as threatening to people who weren't nearly as cowardly as they were, killing a helpless animal from a distance. As it happened they would be threatening but sympathetic; but these bloodthirsty cowards could not be let off the hook. No. To murder an animal for bragging rights, for a trophy, for fun, can never be forgiven. Could all this be a dream? It certainly seemed real but to say they hoped it was a dream is an understatement. What would become of them? It wouldn't be long before they would find out; truthfully these thoughts crossed their mind in very little time at all.

These stranded hunters were no longer hunters; they were the hunted - they were not the boss. There could not be any other possible outcome. If these islanders were only animals they probably wouldn't have been so intent on destroying these people - for animals are innocent beings. But these were also people or at least they took humanoid form. Was there any hope of escape? Would begging for mercy help? Inevitably they would be slaughtered. But these islanders were not cowards: the stranded hunters (that is the hunted hunters) were given some time to prepare for their doom; they could run as far as they could get, try to hide or do anything they felt they wanted to do before they would be slaughtered. They had one hour. Terror flooded the hunted hunters minds. Screaming in horror they all ran in different directions, hopelessly trying to find escape. Whether they now understood how the hunted might feel (if they knew they were about to be murdered) is not all that important because what they did not know is there were scouts all about the island.

What was the fate of these hunted hunters? They were all tracked down and killed. But no evidence remained for the islanders rarely got such a treat.