Modern Day

The Hunters in Komi

It was minus 10 degrees in the Republic of Komi. It had snowed for several days. Hadrian was lurking around the white ice castle that peaked over the Ural Mountains. The cathedral ceilings and the large stained glass bay windows inside the castle bored Hadrian on this day. His eyes were dark and empty; and his skin was so pale that it was nearly translucent. Hadrian stood about six-feet tall, and he was so thin he appeared emaciated. He wore a black leather skull cap that covered his bald head. His fingernails were long, stained by a yellow tint, and they were extremely thick. He wore a red sweater, black leather pants, and black knee-high riding boots. He felt thirsty for life, so he went outside to see what he could kill.

Everything around the white castle was either frozen or dead. He noticed a black crow circling high above the castle. This excited him. Hadrian loved drinking the life from a crow.

He began to focus his eyes upon the flying creature. He felt his strength pump through his veins.

As the crow began to fly higher above the castle, Hadrian began whispering, “Fly and fly, my black-winged friend. Fly and fly until your back begins to bend. When it bends, may it break because you are my meal and my life to take.”

Hadrian began to raise his voice as he repetitively chanted his omen upon the bird; “Fly, fly, my black-winged friend. Fly, fly until your back begins to bend. When it bends, may it break because you are my meal and my life to take.”

The bird began to fly wildly out of control. Hadrian continued his chant, only now he spoke louder and faster, and his stare was locked and focused on the suffering bird. The bird began to bend and gawk before its body snapped in half and fell to the ground.

The crow landed nearly a foot away from Hadrian’s feet. Hadrian was pleased with his performance, and he bent over to pick up the crow flesh. He smiled at his achievement, and he stared at the blood stained snow. He bent down and poked the bird corpse, he then immediately smelled his fingers. Hadrian loved the smell of death; and with a sigh of relief, he grabbed the head of the crow and stuffed it in his mouth and began to chew. Hadrian, the hunter, enjoyed his crow.

Once Hadrian finished devouring the entire crow, he burped. As he stood up, he spotted Akuji’s black SUV driving up the hillside. Hadrian could sense death approaching, and he felt excited.

Shortly behind Akuji, followed Eris and Brone in their dark blue sedan. As Hadrian wondered what was being brought to him, the cars approached the front of the castle and stopped. The driver and passenger doors of the sedan flew open, and out stepped Eris and Brone. Eris had long jet-black hair and deep, burgundy stained lips. Her eyes were the color of steel and her skin a shade of alabaster. Her long white leather coat flowed over her billowy black dress.

As Eris shut her passenger side door, she immediately looked at Hadrian and yelled, “My dearest Lord, I hope you have not eaten.”

Hadrian stood there waiting to see more of what their arrival brought him. He released a half-smile.

Brone then shut his car door, and said, “Even if I just ate, I can’t pass up the flesh of a fallen hunter. She’s still alive, Hadrian, and her heart beats blood!”

Hadrian then became intrigued at the idea of turning a half-dead human hunter into a slave spirit. He thought the more slave spirits the hunters accumulated, the closer the hunters were to reigning over the world.

As Brone turned to look at the SUV, his tall stature blocked Hadrian’s view of the car. Brone’s thick, curly blonde hair glistened in the sun, and his violet eyes held a spectrum of color that Eris found mystifying.

Brone and Eris walked towards Hadrian, and Akuji exited the SUV and slammed the driver side door shut. Akuji’s short stature was athletic and strong. She walked over to the passenger side of the SUV and opened the door. There sat a beautiful redhead with light green eyes. Her skin was warm, and her cheeks were flushed.

Akuji looked at Hadrian, Eris, and Brone and yelled out, “Sweet meat has arrived.”

The redhead stayed in her car seat as if she already knew her fate. She did not squirm and she did not scream. She kept her head down, and she did not make eye contact with any of the hunters. In her lap rested a bouquet of freshly cut pink carnations.

Hadrian knew the young girl was trying to break away from her spell of being a hunter; and this made him not only angry, but hungry again for life. Even though Hadrian just ate, he knew fallen hunters provided nourishing strength that made his family stronger.

Akuji left the passenger door of the SUV open, so Hadrian could inspect the redhead. As Akuji walked towards the front of the castle door, Hadrian began walking slowly towards the vehicle. Each step Hadrian took crushed through the heavy layers of ice and snow beneath his feet.

Once he arrived at the vehicle, he stopped and smelled the air. He immediately knew the redhead had eaten bread, cheese, and potatoes. As he leaned in towards the girl, he placed his right index finger under her chin to raise her head. Hadrian studied her face. He saw nothing in her eyes.

He immediately asked her, “Did you forget your role as a hunter, my dearest?”

The girl sat motionless in her seat. Hadrian began touching the flowers placed on her lap, and the flowers turned from pink to a decayed brown color.

Hadrian looked at the young girl closer, and then he asked, “Were you trying to break free from your spell? Do you not understand the agreement you are supposed to keep?”

The girl raised her head and stared into Hadrian’s black eyes. She quietly said, “I can no longer kill everything around me. I started eating the food I remembered liking to eat. I remembered my life before my heart began to slow down, and before I had to live on live bugs, live animals, and humans. I remembered playing in flowers and eating creamy cheeses. I remembered my body being warm and not cold. I only wanted to taste cheese, bread and potatoes one more time, but the taste was so good that I wanted more to eat. I couldn’t stop eating the food of my childhood. The food I ate before I was turned into a hunter. I hate to kill.”

The redhead stopped talking, and she looked down at her hands.

Hadrian stood and listened to her speak. He liked the warmth she held in her body. He knew her recently restored healthy heartbeat would strengthen his body, and he became excited. Hadrian grabbed her left hand and looked into her eyes. As the girl pulled her hand away, Hadrian stared deeply into her emerald eyes. He could see her soul; and he could see what she had been doing, and what she was thinking. Hadrian was searching for any information that would bring him satisfaction, but he found nothing.

What Hadrian had in his possession was a fallen hunter that was captured. Hadrian continued to smell the air and questioned, “Did you like the cheese, my pretty young girl?”

The girl remained quiet.

Hadrian continued to inquire, “Were the potatoes boiled and was the bread toasted?”

The girl stayed in her seat and dropped her head.

Hadrian continued to question, “you do know what happens to the fallen, I suppose? You do understand the life you were brought under requires your responsibility to rid all living things from your path?”

The girl was too young and too new to the life of a hunter to fully understand her fate.

Hadrian turned his back to the girl and said, “Insects are full of protein, my pretty. Live animals are full of iron-rich blood. Is this life not good enough for you, my dearest?”

The girl only mumbled, “I ate the cheese and stopped killing animals, and I began to feel my heart beat again. It’s not a strong beat, but I thought I could change back to my former self.”

At that moment, Hadrian whirled around, locked his eyes on the young girl and screamed, “You can never turn back! Once you are a hunter your soul is mine and you belong to me!”

The girl became flushed.

Hadrian noticed her skin turning pink and said, “Once you neglect your responsibilities, my dearest, we always know; and we must swiftly take care of such a serious matter.”

The girl asked, “Will you hurt me?”

Hadrian only smiled and replied, “You might feel a slight pain, but what a feast you will provide us, my pretty young thing. It’s been awhile since we feasted on warm flesh from a fallen hunter; much too long.”

The girl looked scared.

Hadrian then said, “Don’t worry, your spirit will become our slave and you will work among all the other slaves on the far side of the mountain. You won’t have to eat insects anymore, but you will have to patrol the area and make sure no life ever enters. If you see life, your slave spirit will instantly know to kill. You will no longer have the ability to break away, my dear. Your soul is forever mine.”

Hadrian studied her reaction, but the girl was emotionless. She was numb.

As Hadrian finished talking, he pulled the girl out of the car and watched the brown flowers fall from her lap and land on the snowy ground. He slowly walked her up towards the castle.

The girl walked with her head down. She no longer showed fear, and she no longer showed life. Her hands began to curl up at the fingers and turn brown.

As they walked, Hadrian began to sing, “My fallen hunter you were lost, you thought you could escape and wander off. We found you once your heart gave a beat, so now we must gorge upon your meat.”

Inside the castle, Eris, Brone, and Akuji patiently waited to feast upon the fallen.