Ch 1: Strangers 1

    The sun kissed the sky good morning, making the sky blush with purples, pinks, and oranges. It was my favorite time of day, and I watched as night transcended into morning, giving me more light to see my prey by.

    Hunting was one of my favorite things in the world to do. There was just something about being in the forest, so far from civilization, that changed me. I felt freer, I connected with the wilderness and allowed myself to rely more on my natural instincts.

    Me, Dale and Sue had already been out here for about two hours or so, finding a good spot to settle down and wait for our furry little friends to arrive. We were all spread out along the tree line, but when they continued not to show, I decided to take a chance and made my way into the fields toward the hill before us.

    “Kota!” Dale whispered urgently, but gave up when I dropped to all fours and crawled the rest of the way to the hill’s edge.

    There they were, a herd of pronghorn grazing lazily in the pinkish light of the rising sun. Turning back to the trees, I waved Dale and Sue over. “That was risky, Kota,” Sue commented as she laid down beside me with her compound bow on her right.

    “Well it paid off,” Dale countered, taking in the sight. “Okay, let’s do this. I’m starving.”

    We all smiled and returned to scanning the herd, picking out the buck of our choice. Our bows at the ready, we all fired at the same time, my arrow aimed at one nearest to us. For the few seconds the arrows soared toward their marks I crossed my fingers and hoped with all my might mine would stick. Getting a good kill right before school started was a good omen, or at least it was to me.

    Suddenly the herd bolted, taking off away from the hill, but thankfully I saw two still bodies out there, and one of them was mine! Well, mine and Sue’s, since there were two arrows sticking out of it, my orange-tip sticking out of the side of its chest and her pink-tip sticking out of its stomach.

    “Whoo!” I exclaimed as I jumped to my feet. Dale and I high-fived, but Sue looked disappointed. “Sue, so we shot the same buck, not big deal. We’ll just half it.”

    “I know I just, I thought I was getting better with this thing,” she looked sternly at her bow.

    I smiled, saying, “Sue, you’ve only had it for a few months and you know you get nervous when you come out here.”

    “Hey, at least you hit it this time,” Dale added, and that made her crack up a bit.

    “Fine, fine,” she said, “but I hope this doesn’t ruin your omen thing, Kota. Does it?”

    “No, I think it just means… well I don’t know,” I chuckled, “Maybe we’ll be involved in something together this year.”

    “We’re always involved in something together,” she said, smiling as we all made our way down to the prong bucks.

    “Sometimes I seriously think you make that stuff up,” Dale commented, pulling the arrow from his kill.

    “She’s superstitious,” Sue said in my defense, even though she sounded like she agreed with him. She held up his phone and took a picture of him holding up the deer’s head, then he took a picture of Sue and I kneeling next to our deer.

    “You’re right I’m sorry,” he said, grabbing his buck around the middle with both arms. “That’s only a little less than being crazy.”

    “Hey!”

    He let out a laugh and hoisted the carcass onto his shoulder, making his way back up the hill and taking a picture of himself while doing it. It was amazing how he could lift something 120 lbs or more, but of course he could the way he was built all tall and brawny. He almost made it look easy. “Okay, I’ll be right back with the ATV.”

    “Oh okay, well thanks for bringing our buck up there too!” I called up to him.

    “You kill it, you drag it, you gut it!” he called back before smiling and walking away.

    “You seriously thought he was gonna bring ours up there?” Sue asked, raising one eyebrow.

    “No, but it never hurts to try.” We smiled and then proceeded to drag the buck up the hill, which took almost as long as it did for Dale to get back. At least he was nice enough to help us get our buck in the hitched wagon with his, but only after having a good laugh at our miserable efforts to lift the darn thing and dropping it twice.

    On the ride back to Dale’s pickup I savored the morning. I took off my camo cap and wiped the slight perspiration from my forehead. It was full-on morning now, about six or seven if I had to guess. I tried to take in everything around me, the sunlight fighting its way through the treetops to illuminate the greenery below, the smell of cedar and pine, of nature. It would be a while before I was out here again.

    We finally arrived back at the truck, where Sue and I jumped off and watched Dale load everything back up. “I really think this year is going to be different guys,” I said, opening the truck’s passenger door and throwing my hat in.

    “Of course it’s gonna be different,” Dale said, “It’s our last year of high school. Then after a completely wild and guilt free summer, it’s off to college.” Sue and I laughed at his wild happy look before all jumping in the truck and heading home.

    I opened my mouth to say I was serious, but decided against it. I knew this year held some big things for me with being a senior, still not knowing what college I was going to, or if I was going to one at all and what that meant for me if I wasn’t. There was that, but there was something else too, an odd feeling I couldn’t shake that I was supposed to be expecting something big, something unexpected.

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