He stares past his reflection and out the window, watching, waiting, with a patience so silent and lethal it’s taken him years to perfect. Something – someone, perhaps – stirs behind him, but it does nothing to divert his attention from the activity he anticipates before him.
Today is the day, the day he’s been imagining. The day he’s been training for every moment he isn’t eating or sleeping, though he sometimes wishes he could stop with the latter two altogether.
Today is the day he fights, and today is the day he will win.
It wasn’t always like this. They hadn’t started out as enemies, but as equals. Friends, even. Summers were spent lying in the grass, warming their faces in the sun before cooling off under the shady elm; in autumn, they huddled around the fire, relishing in the cool breeze that signaled the coming winter.
Then one spring, things changed, seemingly out of nowhere. Shared looks, once warm, grew cold and skeptic until eye contact ceased completely. Jokes became jeers, laughs to insults, embraces to altercations.
They’d left each other alone for awhile, giving one another space as if in the hope that time or distance could somehow return their friendship to its original course.
But it hadn’t. And now, prior feelings aside, simply leaving the other alone was no longer an option. To rid his life of this hatred, this contempt that sat unmoving in his core, he had to eradicate it once and for all. Which meant eradicating him. He had no other choice – he had a family to protect, after all. And his family needed him, to secure their safety and extinguish their lingering fear. And that’s the only thing that mattered to him in the world.
He stares, the glass now fogging with his every breath, willing him to appear. A movement, ever so slight, catches his trained eye, and he slowly nudges open the door, expertly avoiding the persistent creak. He slips out and steps forward with unhurried intention. The slightest move, the smallest mistake, and he’s lost his chance forever.
Don’t fuck this up, he warns himself.
He pauses and crouches low, eyes scanning, searching for signs of life. Only one of them will make it out of this alive, he knows.
The grass rustles; his heart drums in his ears. A pair of eyes lock in his, and his stare hardens. He feels strong; he knows he can win.
He readies his legs to launch, his arms to attack. He perches on his toes.
This is it, he thinks. It’s time.
Hands outstretched, teeth clenched, his feet leave the ground.
He makes contact, hard, and they’re spinning in the air. But something’s off. Something’s wrong. He isn’t in control; something has control over him. They twist and turn and then he’s pummeled, pinned to the ground by a beast many times his size and weight. He can’t move; he can’t see.
He can’t breathe.
This is it, he thinks. It’s over.
The beast shifts. His lungs gasp as he inhales; his vision goes from black to blurry. The beast stands over him, readying another attack. The blurriness subsides, and his assailant becomes clear.
His brother, his stupid fucking idiot of a kid brother, looms over him, grinning. As if they were roughhousing instead of ruining the most important hunt in his – and their family’s – life. Anger spreads like fire through his body, and he turns his gaze to the space his intended target occupied just moments before. But the spot now lays empty, taunting him. He jumps to his feet, roughly swatting away his brother’s outstretched hand.
His baby brother has always had a knack for screwing things, but this is just too much. Too far.
He spins on his heel and stalks back to the house. He resumes his post by the window, biding his time until another opportunity presents itself, and adds another enemy to his list. He failed this time, but he won’t again.
[That’s Preston, hunting squirrels. Or so I imagine.]