The Vigil

By Docsov 


He had chosen his vantage point with care and settled down to wait.  Initially the rocks had felt fairly smooth beneath his prone body, but after a couple of hours some of the smaller loose stones had become downright personal.  He desperately wanted to move, to ease the stiff muscles and aching bones, but didn’t want to give his hiding place away.  The sky had paled to grey as dawn approached and the stars faded, a chill mist penetrated his clothes and he felt damp and uncomfortable.  At his side his rifle rested on his bedroll, where he could reach it easily and it was cushioned against the stone – no chance of making any noise when he picked it up.

A few birds began a tentative chorus, indicating that the sun would soon be making an appearance over the horizon.  He didn’t want to still be here when the sun got too high – he would be baked alive on this outcrop.

He scrubbed a tired hand over his face and rubbed his tired blue-grey eyes to try and clear them.  He resettled his hat on his blonde hair and sighed quietly.  The mist wreathed through the trees below him, creating shifting illusions between the silvery grey trunks.

A sudden movement to his right caught his attention and his hand moved to the cold metal of his rifle, then stilled.  A pair of squirrels scrambled up the ragged bark on a nearby tree and disappeared amongst the foliage, the leaves shedding drops of moisture as they were shaken.  He allowed a small smile to curve his lips at their antics and then returned to his vigil.

His thoughts drifted as he waited and he allowed his mind to wander over the new life he had claimed since leaving Boston.  He loved the freedom of the open  spaces, the wildness of the terrain, the fresh clean air and lingering scents of the vegetation and earth.  The cattle were another matter entirely – he could take or leave them.  But the joy of having a family to belong to and love was something he could never have anticipated.

The first rays of the sun crept over the surrounding land, lighting the grass and flashing off the skittering leaves on the trees as they were stirred by an errant breeze.  The mist began to dissipate and the noise of the woods awakening began to increase slowly.

He began to wonder if his wait had been for nothing and the suffering would have to be repeated another morning, when a movement and a flash of colour caught his eye.  As slowly as his cramped, chilled muscles would allow, he reached for the rifle and pulled it against his shoulder, the stock feeling slick and cold against his cheek.

Slowing his breathing, he sighted carefully down the length of the barrel and gently, slowly squeezed the trigger.  The sharp crack scattered shrieking birds and he felt the rifle’s recoil even through his heavy jacket.  After the sudden noise, the silence was tangible.  Nothing moved aside from the wind in the trees.  The smell of gunpowder was sharp and acrid.

This time his smile was broader as he climbed stiffly to his feet, the rifle held loosely in his right hand, his left slipping a broad bladed knife from its sheath.  His steps eased as he walked towards his quarry, the blood flowing quicker as his body warmed.  It had been a clean kill.

‘Well,’ he thought with satisfaction ‘at least beef is off the menu tonight!’




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