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Buck- Chapter 8

The monster truck was more than big enough to hold the three passengers. First to come out, two human males, each 6 ft tall. One 50 years old had a bushy beard and had a gut that extended a bit too far. The other human was skinnier, bald, perhaps 70 years old.
Each of them had been hunting for their whole lives, neither of them had seen Marco in quite a while. “Charlton? Seems kinda quiet here huh?” The bald old man spoke as he approached Marco’s front steps. Charlton turned to his friend as he gently nudged the front door open,

Stetson had made one little error. Leaving the front door unlocked. In among the chaos and finding Aiden, it probably didn’t even cross his mind. “Think someone broke in?” Heston asked in a whisper, wondering if the perpetrator was still around. Approaching from behind was the tallest of the two. A 7-foot tall canine, a beagle to be exact. His ears floppy, his tail and backside black with white spots.

To a lot of people, beagles were overall cute, but Trigger was covered in old scars and he got his teeth sharpened at a dogfighting ring about an hour away. He made sure no one thought he was cute-and if they did, he’d think they were as messed up as he was.

Busting in with no fear, Trigger aimed the shotgun he held in his two hands. Poking into every room. The two hunters behind him let him do his thing. His sense of smell got them through a lot of situations. Even though he was a furry, he looked down at his own species. Sometimes he even indulged in cannibalism. Truth be told, Charlton and Heston were both a bit afraid of him.

Looking at the kitchen, he saw the trap door where Aiden was kept was flung open and Marco’s bloody body lied on the tiled floor a few feet from it. “Looks like someone went vigilante on Marco.” Heston and Charlton each walked to the kitchen, Charlton stroked his beard. He sighed deeply. “He was a good hunter. Ol’ Marco.” Heston just stared at the corpse,rarely had he seen such a bloody mess.

Trigger put his gun down and began to raid the fridge,fetching a cold beer. “Wonder if a furry did it?” He sipped. Heston spoke up,eyeing the dog. “Fincher’s bar said some guy was looking for him. Beat up a few hunters while he was at it. A deer. Stetson, I think it was.” Kneeling to Marco, Trigger sniffed his chest. “Yeah. It’s a deer alright. If he’s as big as everyone says he is, he’d be good game.” He smiled and finished the beer with a gulp. “I think it’s about time Stetson got a taste of his own medicine.” The three were shocked at Marco let out a deep and sickly breath. Blood pouring from his wounds and his eyes wide.

***

Connie was more than a little surprised when she saw Stetson looking tired at her doorstep and a human who looked up at her with a slightly curious gaze. “Connie, I need to talk to you” Stetson proclaimed softly. She quickly let the two in, the night air is a bit cold, especially for the human with no fur she thought to herself.

Stetson told her everything. She didn’t know the true darkness that stirred within him after his daughter was shot. The deer never seemed to have violence in him, as scared as she was, she wanted to help her friend. Hehad been there for her, whether it was to fix pluming or to watch her house ifshe was gone on a trip. That was years ago though. He was a different animalthan she once thought.

Leading Aiden to the couch, she made him some hot chocolate. The human didn’t talk much, perhaps he was a bit unsure of where all of this would lead. “Can Stetson stay with me?” he asked in a soft tone as Connie and the tired deer stood talking a few feet from him, the couch was large and comfortable. The living room had a small TV, which was now on low. Behind the couch, a doorframe stood leading to the small kitchen. In front of Aiden was a large shelf of old books, the chill from the outside had gone away for the most part.

After showering and throwing on a tank top and jeans, Stetson sat by Aiden. Not too close, as he admittedly still felt odd about a human obsessing over him so much. Under the couch, the deer kept his rifle and hunting knife.

 Aiden sipped his drink, looking towards the television, but his mind was certainly not on the football game that was playing. “Stetson? Are you going to run away if police find you?” Leaning back, Stetson sipped a Redd’s Apple Ale. Aiden looked to his manly mannerisms and huge demeanor. “Well, I guess that all depends on what’s going on. To tell you the truth, I might regret what I did.”Aiden stopped sipping his beverage as soon as those words reached his ears.“You mean, if you could go back you wouldn’t have killed Marco?”

 Pausing, he set his drink on his lap, holding the top of the bottle with one hand, the gears in his brain turning. Something about Aiden’s soft tone and naïve approach was cute. “I think if I could go back, I would have tied Marco up and gotten you out of the house. I don’t think torturing him was good. Now I have blood forever on my hands and consciousness.It’s not what Daisy would have wanted.” His tone slumped into a softer volume as well. Aiden had trouble reading emotions, but something in his heart told him Stetson was a good guy. Despite his crimes, despite his road to vengeance, something told him he was far from heartless. His father was heartless. That was true evil incarnate. Thinking of Marco made Aiden uncomfortable though. No reason to burden himself with his horrible abusive past.

Stetson looked off into space, forgetting where he was. Until he felt something lie on his leg. Glancing, Aiden had put his head in his lap. At first, he wanted to flinch and move over. Human contact was something he defiantly wasn’t used too. Daisy was cuddly and so was his wife, and Connie liked hugs too, but they were furries. A human doing this at first seemed odd and maybe gross. The more Stetson looked at Aiden however, the more he didn’t mind it. Maybe Aiden needed rest too. Truthfully, that was only one part of it. Sincerely, he wanted to feel that the deer was there. He knew then he was far from harm.

The night only became quieter. Both Stetson and Aiden were now fast asleep. Aiden’s arms are wrapped around the deer’s waist, his face buried into his abdomen.Connie had just finished cleaning the kitchen, she was still in her denim shirt and black khakis and was ready to change into her night wear. Turning the lightsoff in the kitchen, the coyote heard an odd sound from outside. Something sheknew wasn’t a natural part of the night. The sound of a door slamming. Runningto the kitchen window, she saw a pair of bright headlights. She picked them outsimply because coyote’s had vision that surpassed humans.

Trigger, Charlton, Heston and perhaps ten other hunters split up once everyone had rifles and hopped out of separate vehicles. They knew Stetson wouldn’t be the only furry, so bringing along reinforcements seemed like a good idea. Hunters loved game, and these woods held plenty of it. The evening air cold, the hunters were bundled up. None of them were nervous, in fact, everyone seemed to be overly confident. Trigger and Charlton made their way towards Connie’scabin. The dog sniffed the air as he led the way. The beagle held a pistol, Charlton held a shotgun, his bald head covered by a baseball cap.

Connie reached into a hidden compartment in the kitchen and loaded her .44 magnum. Stetson walked into the kitchen tiredly, hearing the clicks of the weapon as she fiddled with it. “Everything okay?” She sighed. “Heard a vehicle and saw some headlights. Looked like a bunch of guys with guns.” Putting his vest on quickly, the deer woke Aiden up from his gentle slumber. “Aiden, go upstairs to the guest bedroom and lock the door. I’ll be up there as soon as I can.”

With terror behind his eyes, Aiden sighed. He couldn’t lose Stetson. The only other being who cared for him besides Connie. Truthfully, he didn’t trust Connie as much as Stetson. After a quick hug, Aiden does as he’s told. Dreading the future. More violence and bloodshed were not ideal.

Hiding behind a tree a few feet from the front of the cabin, Charlton crouched and readied his gun, he knew once Stetson came out, he could get a clean shot if he killed Trigger and made his way outside. With no warning, Trigger busts the front door open with a crash that was both loud and extremely violent. The dog huffed and puffed as he made his way into the cabin. Stepping into the livingroom, a TV on low, a large couch in front of it. He smelt Stetson and a coyote, holding his weapon in a position that was ready to fire. He licked his lips and walked threw the house, purposely knocking over glass items which sat on counter tops and tables. “You can’t hide for long furry fuck balls!” he yelled and then laughed afterward.

Connie was upstairs, leaning against the walls. A few inches from her was the banister to the staircase. She leaned over and fired a shot at the dog’s kneecap, hoping to get him to fall and kill him. As the bullet entered his leg, he barked in pain, blood oozed from the bullet wound, but it didn’t slow him down. Growling, he aimed the shotgun and fired, part of the banister broke into thousands of pieces of wood. As adrenaline kicked in and knowing Aiden was locked in a room and needed protection, she walked briskly down the rest of the staircase sideways, firing bullets into the dog, some hit, and some missed.

Charlton heard the commotion from inside, his eyesight faced the house where all he could see were flashes of gunfire through the windows. He hoped his dear dog wasn’t dead. Feeling the muzzle of a gun behind his neck was not what he expected.“Hey hunter” Stetson said in a condescending tone, after a quick gasp, the deer pulled the trigger to his rifle. Sending bits of flesh and blood towards the deer’s face, it also splattered his green parka. Hearing more footsteps, he quickly climbed the tree Charlton was crouched behind.

Grunting as he lifts himself, he sighed as he got himself situated. Sitting on a low branch, as he exhaled, his breath could be seen. The weather seemed to only get colder. Readying the rifle, he looked through the scope and into the distance, passed Connie’s cabin. He knew hunters were nearby. Between protecting Connieand Aiden, the stakes were higher then ever.

Connie’s gun jammed as Trigger walked closer to her. She swore to herself and used the weapon instead of a close-range weapon. Smacking the dog in the face, sending a few teeth out of his mouth. Dripping with blood and bullet wounds, Trigger smiled. “My turn” he punched Connie, sending her forcefully on her back. Hearing a snap and feeling lightning pain go through her, she yelled. Trigger then jumped on her and quickly wrapped his paws around her throat. It wasn’t too long before breathing became a struggle, with her eyes watering, she helplessly kicked. She did manage to scratch Trigger’s hands well enough for them to bleed. He yelled in pain but didn’t let go.

Snowflakes fell on Stetson’s black nose and dripped down to his parka. The sound of the wind became more apparent. In the middle of the hunting ground is Connie’shouse, which made a fine barrier for extra hiding. Across the front door past afew trees, Stetson sat in a tree top, surrounded by other trees. The back area of the house was denser, full of unkept plants. More natural.    

Seeing leaves move close in front of his eyesight, Stetson held his breath, through the scope of his rifle he saw three hunters. Holding shotguns, talking to themselves. Taking one deep breath, he fired. Hitting the head of one of the hunters. Blood sprayed like a spurt of mist from the top of his head, as he hit the ground, a piece of his brain popped out on impact since the wound was at the center of his skull. The other hunters yell and tense up, looking for the deer. Cocking their heads left and right. Stetson was far enough away from them so that unless they had extremely good vision, they couldn’t see the deer Not at night especially.

The deer smirked looking down at the small looking hunters from so high up. He fired two other bullets, each for the two extra hunters, both yell in pain and fall to the ground. He wanted to see them bleed out a bit, feel the pain so many prey animals felt. Stetson yelped. A small stinging sensation entered his leg, looking down his heart leaps into his throat. A dart protruded from his thigh. Someone outsmarted him. Someone he didn’t hear coming. Gasping, he tumbled backward. Falling a few feet from the tree, the deer hit the ground hard. Perhaps breaking a bone or two. The rifle flew from his hand. He blacked out just after he heard a pair of large footsteps inch to him. He knew the breath. He knew the smell of the flesh. Marco smiled down on the deer, grabbed his ankles and pulled him through the woods.   

Buck- Chapter 7

“Mr. Deer. P-please don’t hurt me.” Aiden stuttered out. “What did you see?” demanded the buck. “Everything” he replied in a meektone. Hm, kid was honest Stetson thought. Violence wasn’t the deer’s first reaction. He made a promise. To makeviolence a secondary resort. He had just taken down a good-sized hunter, no wayAiden was worth a fight. He looked frail. Doesn’t mean he couldn’t tell policewhat happened though. “You gonna tell anyone what you saw?” He narrowed hiseyes, watching Aiden ascend the wooden, nearly broken staircase.

He was ready for the human to flip out as soon as he laid his eyes on Marco’s bloody carcass. Between the gaping hole in his cheek and his slashed throat, he assumed he’d never seen something like this. He looked the carcass up and down, Stetson backed away and watched his reaction. It was oddly indifferent. The deer packed his knife after cleaning it under the sink, slung his gun over his shoulder and turned to face the entrance of the small house. If the teen called the cops, I’ll be long gone, and they’d find Aiden a good home the deer thought to himself.

Opening the front door, he stepped out into the night, the sooner he got out the better. His ear flicked as he heard footsteps behind him. Aiden walked into the tall furry, both stood on the front steps of the house. The porch light casts shadows onto Stetson, making him look more mysterious and a bit creepier. The morning sun was just ready to make its appearance.  

That did not deter Aiden however. “What do you want?”He tried to keep his voice kind, really there wasn’t any reason to get snippy with him, Stetson figured maybe he’d just wander back into the house. “My dad had a lot of bad friends. Friends that were as bad as him. I don’t feel safe here alone.” What made the kid keep coming back? Did he feel that since Stenson killed the man who kept him locked underground that he was some savior?“Alright. I’ll call the cops myself, then.” Taking out his cellphone, Aiden gently touched the deer’s hand. “No. You did a good thing. I don’t want yougetting arrested.”

Aiden was right about one thing. They’d find him. Even if he moved to another country, it wouldn’t be hard to track an anthropomorphic deer as big as he was. Calling for the authorities could be his downfall. “Please. I want to go with you.” Aiden had to crane his neck to look Stetson in the eye. After a large sigh, the deer rubbed the back of his neck. “Alright. Come on.”

Clicking his seat belt, Aiden looked out the window as the hummer moved onto a cement road which led to the start of a town Stetson had never been in. Traffic is light, and the sun is a pretty orange color,lighting up the sky a pretty pink color. A few cars drove by, both humans and anthros behind each wheel, most likely making their morning commute to work or vacation. Aiden spoke, but didn’t look at Stetson. “My dad kept me under therefor weeks on end. He fed me when he felt like it. Sometimes, he’d knock me out and I never knew what was happening.” Raising his eye brow, the deer frowned,keeping his eye on the road. Aiden didn’t seem to notice the shotgun and hunting rifle in the back seat. Aiden was more interested in the outside world, a world he hadn’t seen much of. Stetson could never remember a time feeling slightly sorry for a human. Humans were so high up and vicious at times. Here was a ‘type’ he had never met. “I’m really sorry.” Aiden nodded slowly.

 No one had ever said ‘sorry’ for his situation. It felt odd, but welcoming. Sleep came hard to him in the cold basement, the vehicle only got warmer. The seat was rather comfy, the movement of the vehicle almost hypnotic in a tiering way.  Pushing the seat back, Aiden sighed and closeshis eyes, falling asleep to the hum of the engine and the mysterious deerbehind the wheel.

***

Taking a deep breath, he knew the air was different. Background noises started introducing themselves. The sounds of distant its appearance honking. To the left of this room, a large window overlooking a city. Not a huge city, but a quaint city. Full of small businesses and farms. Turning over to his right, he saw Stetson sitting in a small kitchen area. Looking at the dirty ceiling panels, he knew while the motel may not be the Ritz, it was a more welcoming and warm home than he ever knew.

Sitting up Aiden inevitably ruffled the blankets Stetson had put over him.  The deer cocked his head, a hot mug of coffee by his side. Getting a good look at his bare arms, the human was shocked to see how buff he was. The black tank top showed off his human-like body nicely and he could get a look at who saved him. “This beats living under a floor,” Aiden said with a yawn.

As the human showered and cleaned his clothes, Stetson stared into his coffee as he drank. He thought he’d be thinking of Marco’sbody. The feeling of vengeance complete. Now he was looking after a human. It seemed unbelievable. As if his life wasn’t crazy enough. This happened.

I can’t let my anger for them all affect Aiden. I don’t need to cuddle him, but I shouldn’t be nasty. This kid has been through crap. Just tolerate him. Shouldn’t be hard to be a better role model than the son of a bitch who‘raised’ him.  

Watching Aiden get coffee for himself and a few donuts which Stetson bought earlier, the deer noticed the teen flicking his fingers, whispering to himself as well. In all his years knowing furries, he hadn’t seen one like him. Sometimes it’s hard to explain what makes someone unique. Sitting by his side, Aiden clearly showed no more fear towards the deer. Stetson knew he wasn’t faking it like his dad had been. If anything, Aiden was genuinely comfortable around furries. Yet another thing to make Aiden stand out.

 The humans Stetson had been dealing with were so tense and violent, the teen may have been much smaller than the deer, but one thing was for sure, he was more than happy to be with someone who at least gave him a bed and treated him like he deserved. “Why did your dad keep you under the floor?” The question burned inStetson’s head. “I think he was ashamed of me. He hated me. That I know. He killed to many furries to deserve living.”

 And treated you like a piece of garbage. He treated even those of his own spices with contempt. I guess a lot of humans do that.

Watching him eat, it was clear Aiden didn’t get much nutrition. Feeding someone and giving them a drink was in Stetson’s mind thebare minimum of what he could do for him. Taking a bite of donut, Aiden glancedto Stetson. “Thank you for giving Marco what he deserved.”

At least someone understands where I’m coming from. Ironically, I didn’t expect it to be a human of all things. I’ll take what I can get.

 “He won’t hurt you again, that’s for sure.” Being four hours away from Marco’s home meant Stetson could maybe take some time to relax. Make sure he had enough food and water. Of course, with Aiden by his side, that made things more difficult. Going to his hummer in the empty parking lot, Aiden got a good look at the outside surroundings. Everything around him seemed cheaply made.

From the signs locating convenience stores and a movie theater. Standing close by, Stetson loaded the hummer with extra food and stolen towels. He sent Connie a quick text to tell her part of his plan. If he was going back to her place, she deserved to know what’s happened. How else would he explain Aiden? Once the back of the vehicle was closed, he feltAiden’s small hand grip his rough, furry hand. A feeling surged through the deer. Companionship and trustworthiness. Something he had not felt since his daughter hugged him every day after school. “Aiden? You ready to go?” His tone kind, he released his hand from Aiden’s, the moment of contact was nice.

Plugging in Connie’s address to the GPS, he made sure to ‘avoid highways’, staying hidden was key. It was unlikely Marco’s body was discovered, but he certainly didn’t need to be arrested. Not with a trunk full of guns, a murder charge, violent acts against humans and Aiden being so impressionable. Smiling slightly, Aiden relaxed and kept his eye on Stetsonmaneuvering the big vehicle.

Opening the glove compartment, Aiden was surprised to see a photograph. A polaroid of Daisy, wearing a pretty sundress and holding a single yellow flower in her hand. Her body small and frail, but her smile was certainly not weak. It was bright. Full of life. “That’s my daughter.” Stetson spoke, not taking his eye off the road. “She’s adorable. What’s her name?”

Sighing, the deer hoped he wouldn’t have to have this conversation with Aiden. He told him everything. The good times his little family had. Tucking in Daisy at night, and how his father shot and killed her. For no reason. Just for his own amusement. Trying to process this was difficult, he placed the photo gently back where it was. A frog entered his throat. If Aiden hated anything, it was terror and violence. “I’m so sorry,Stetson. I wish I could help.” He played with his hands in a similar way he had before. “I’ve been living with the pain for all my life it seems. No one can do anything.” The rest of the ride was in silence.                 

Buck- Chapter 6

He couldn’t get his fingers through the wire that nearly cut his breathing off. “All you furries are the same. Easy to trick! Where will I put YOUR HEAD tough guy?” Marco’s breath is on Stetson’s neck, he smelt the beers he had throughout the day. Pulling tighter, Stetson grasped for air. Don’t black out. Not here. It would be over. Everything would be.

He’d have one chance to pull this off. Reaching one hand into his vest, the deer went for his knife and stabbed where ever he could. He knew he hit something because the yell from Marco was excruciating. The blade had entered the back of the hunter’s leg, right behind the kneecap. Holding his bloody wound, he fell to the ground. Stetson preformed a summersault to get his shotgun. Kicking Marco’s gun away from the area, Stetson used the butt of the gun to slam it into Marco’s nose. Knocking him out quickly.

The wind now colder than the day before. The ruckus from last night hadn’t alerted many, Marco’s home was noisy most of the time. Of course, the people who lived in town were so far away from the house, they had no idea the twisted horror behind the walls.

Aiden had heard the commotion from beneath the floor, he ascends the small staircase leading to the locked trap door, placing his eye on the very edge of the entrance, the door was held by a strong chain, butpushing hard enough he could somewhat pry it open. He had done this on numerousoccasions when he had tried to break out a few months ago.

 He saw the faint shape of hiking boots and felt the presence of someone he never had, their mannerisms unfamiliar and the sound of their breathing also unfamiliar.Fearing the worst, he thought maybe it was one of his dad’s hunting friends.

That is until he turned slightly to one side to see his father, he got a clearer view of him. Tied to a wooden chair, shaking. He had never seen his father scared, but here he was dripping with sweat and squirming to break free of what held him. Straining his neck, he got a look at the one who walked around. Aiden concluded that he couldn’t be a human. He saw glimpses of brown fur and the small white tail, unmistakably a deer. The biggest furry he had ever seen in his life. He didn’t know a furry could be that size. Then again, the only furries he had ever seen were dead and he had never seen one stand upright.

Pulling up a stool, Stetson sat in front of the shivering hunter, his hands folded, looking at the kitchen. He then began slapping his cheeks to get him to look into his eyes. “Did you look into my daughter’s eyes before you killed her?” Marco was quite dizzy from the hit to the head he received. The human spat into Stetson’s eye. With a sigh, he whipped the white slime off. “Go to hell furry. When I get outta here, I’m going to tear you limb from limb.” Stetson smirked. “You’re the one tied up, asshole.” The deer stood up and removed his vest, placing it on the near by counter next to the sink. Sitting down again, he reached behind Marco’s leg where the knife wound was and pressed his nails into the gaping, sensitive wound, which oozed thick red blood as it was pressed.

Aiden ran to the farthest corner he could to somewhat block out his father’s deafening screams. “You know that little fawn you killed wasn’t just a fawn. None of the animals you or your little friends kill are just anything. They have lives. Families. Relationships. Don’t you think it’s rather disgusting that you walk by and shoot whoever you want? Tell me that, mister ‘hunter’.” Tensing up,Marco could barely concentrate on Stetson’s words as the pain in his leg radiated endlessly through his entire body. “I don’t need to tell you anything sicko!” Marco yelled into Stetson’s face, his eyebrows down and his eyes wild with what he hoped Stetson would think was anger. It was fear. He was caught.Not by a human cop, but by a furry. He WISHED a cop had caught him. Stetson gotanother look at Marco’s taxidermy, the heads of fellow furries mounted onvarious walls in the house.

From his pocket, he grabbed the large serrated knife again, holding it to Marco’s cheek. “Fear.” Marco tenses, trying again to break free of the tough rope which bounded his hands and feet. Stetson spoke again. “Fear. Animals can smell it. You’re scared. You can yell and squirm and talk big all you want. You can’t hide from us. Your emotions are who you are. We don’t even have to think twice to read you. We’re more with it than you ever knew.”

 He chuckled,then turned deadly serious as he pressed the knife into his flesh, creating a cut. “You, and others like you? With your big guns, posing with carcasses soyour buddy can take a picture. All your big smiles, looking all tough. You’renothing but a pussy with a gun.” Marco’s eyes became wide as hiding the terrorwas becoming impossible.

Not that it mattered. Stetson read his fear long before he tried to hide it. “Well Marco, I think I’ve given you quite long enough to contemplate why you’re here and why I kidnapped you. You’re done.” Marco shouts as he watched Stetson adjust his knife. “NO! PLEASE!” Narrowing his eyes, the deer made a brutal stab into Marco’s left cheek, dragging the blade up to his eye. Leaving a gaping, open wound, blood flew on through the kitchen and onto Stetson’s hand. The hole so massive, one could see the inside of the hunter’s mouth through the hole.

The deer watched Marco as he cried and bled out. In a final blow, Stetson tipped the chair over onto the hunter, sending even more dark red fluid through the air, splattering high onto the ceiling. Marco’s face was now caked in blood and nearly unrecognizable. He kicked the chair down, sending Marco falling onto the tiled floor. Stetson watched his limp body for a while.

Walking to the sink nearby, Stetson washed his hands with soap and hot water. Tiredness washed over him. He hadn’t felt tired duringhis path of vengeance, but perhaps all the excitement got to him. He then heardthe slight opening of a door. His ear flicked.

Was it one of Marco’s buddies, he swiftly picked the knife up from the kitchen counter, turning around and ready to face an unknown enemy. His eye then slowly moved to the trap door. He hadn’t seen it. Through all the blood and carnage, how would he? The door was moving. Up and down. The chain which held it prevented whoever was inside from getting out. A witness. He hadn’t counted on that. Through the dark, Stetson heard a voice. The voice of a teenage male, he was pretty sure. “Please. Help. Get me out.” Not a panicked voice, but a scared voice. Stetson yanked the door open, the chain snapped immediately. The kid inside backed away slowly. Seeing a giant, buff deer with speckles of blood on his fur and holding a huge knife wasn’t the mostwelcoming image.           

Buck- Chapter 5

From the mantel in his living room, a few heads of animals looked back at Marco Payne. Country music lightly plays on the radio as he sat in a rickety recliner. Eating from a bowl of soup, the hunter puts his feet up on the nearby footrest, looking back at the animals he had killed. He had sold a few furs and antlers for money-but the ones he was most proud of stayed in his home. The heads of a fox, raccoon and finally the head of Daisy the fawn. Even his hunter friends from Fincher’s Bar and Grill secretly found the fact he shot a baby animal to be heinous.

Breaking his concentration was the all too familiar sound of thumping. To most people, this would have made them want to investigate and maybe call the police if they were that sure someone was in danger. Someone was. Marco didn’t see it that way though. Thump! Still sitting in his chair, Marco decided to speak up. “Shutup down there!”

In the kitchen which hadn’t been properly cleaned in months, under a rug, the trap door was well hidden. The young man tried desperately to break through every day. Anyone living under the floorboardswould go crazy, and Aiden Payne certainly had. Marco didn’t keep the underground room neat. This place was full of cobwebs, dust and only a bucket of old water kept him hydrated and when his father decided to feed him, it was left overs. “Let me out!” He shouted in vein. He didn’t want to yell too much,for he knew two things deep down. One, no one would hear him and two, he didn’twant to get beaten again. Or worse, drugged and black out. That was worse thangetting the belt with the nail on the end. The drugging. That was pure terrorand helplessness. He didn’t quite remember how long he’d been under there, sureMarco would take him out occasionally, but he was on a leash and his dad was ahateful and cruel boss.

Darkness surrounded the 17-year-old most of all. Being in the dingy room was what he knew the most. As far as he knew, his fate was sealed.

***

The last days of summer were slowly coming to an end, but the weather was warm enough that Stetson didn’t need his jacket. Opening the back seat to the hummer, he loaded his shotgun and placed the serrated hunting knife in its usual spot. Tonight, was the night. Even he feared what outcome may turn out. Would he die, and all his efforts be washed away? Would furries and humans forever be in a cycle of war and loathing? Years of preparation led to this one moment.

The only source of light were the beams of headlights, which lit the dirt road. Of course, he wouldn’t just go up to the front door. Marco wasn’t an average hunter, he was a very good hunter. Certainly, someone of his caliber had traps along his yard. The last thing he did was make sure the headlight he placed on the barrel of the gun would be enough to aid him. He had extra batteries if it didn’t work out, but it did, and he turned the vehicle off. His ears twitch to any sound, the air not only full of dirt and leaves, but the scent of human flesh. Marco’s flesh to be exact.

The journey to Marco’s home wasn’t too long, he kep this pace slow and methodical. Normally being out in the woods meant fear, but tonight-he was the stalker. His journey was met with thorns and shrubs, a few mud puddles as well.

As the trees disappeared, he realized he must be close to civilization. The trees appeared to be cut down. After he passed the last large tree, he found himself in a field. He saw Marco’s home. Staring at the back porch, he saw lights were on. Walking closer, he kept his body away from the windows. Holding the shotgun with two hands, the deer crouched. His ears move to any little sound, which they’re a lot of. The wind, bugs and other nighttime furries who roamed, but were too scared to interact with him.

Behind the kitchen counter, Marco finished the last of his beer, he was tipsy enough. Opening the giant trap door, he peered at his son, who coward at his presence. “I’ll see you tomorrow for some fun.” He chuckled drunkenly and slammed it shut-he wanted to give Aiden something to think about. The little bit of light from the florescent kitchen light was almost heavenly. Now his world was shut and pure black. He paced in his small area, the wood beneath his feet creaked. The air from the thin walls gave the small room a chill, making it difficult to sleep. Not that he never got much sleep down here.

Sneaking closer to the house, Stetson hid behind a large rock, he stayed close to the edge of the woods in case he had to make an emergency run and kill him that way. Now he was faced at the side of the house,where a window beaming with light shown through and the porch was only a few feet from where the deer knelt. Keeping his body low, he faces the window,narrowing his eyes. Standing at the kitchen sink is Marco cleaning off a hunting knife, the sink was running, and he was preoccupied. If the hunter were to look up from his task, he’d see the decorative rock Stetson used for cover.

A chilly breeze caused the leaves of trees behind him to rattle. His fur stood on end, both from the cold and from the anticipation of what was to come. The deer also got a good look at Marco’s home. The disarray and mess didn’t shock him. Neither did the grotesque sight of the heads of furries hanging on his wall.

Reaching to the grass, the buck tossed a large pebble through the window, which caused one of the pans to break ever so slightly. Unlike Marco who had hunted innocent animals, Stetson was going to give him a chance. To put up a fight. He couldn’t just blow him away and let that be all.He had to know why he was dying.

Quickly turning the sink off, the bearded man went to a nearby closet and pulled out a .44 Magnum. Quickly crouching, Stetson’s backis now to the smooth rock, sitting and holding his gun. Holding his breath tohear every little sound he could.

The wooden back door opened with a squeak, Marco zipped his lightweight jacket up. “Alright, who’s the son of a bitch who broke my window, huh? A furry, wanna be hunted?” Standing up halfway, but still half hidden by the rock, Stetson aimed the shotgun at Marco’s feet. “Gottcha now”Stetson whispered before pulling the trigger. Marco yelped and quickly ducked. Lying on his belly, flopping into the cold grass. He knew the shot wouldn’t kill him. He didn’t want him to die yet. Marco fires the pistol somewhat aimlessly, Stetson’s heart leapt into his throat. For some reason, the sound ofanother gun scared him a bit. The bullets penetrate the rock, sending pieces ofit flying.

The gun Marco had was a strong sucker. “You a furry. I can smell your fear.” Marco chuckled into the night. Now what? Stetson goes back to leaning against the rock, checking the amount of ammo he has. He has plenty. What good was that if he didn’t know where Marco was? Holding his breath again, he listened into the night. Not too far beside him, the sound of a can hit the trunk of one of the nearby trees.

Stetson cocked his head to one side, aiming his gun at the object. He was so focused on where the item landed that by the time a thin,metal wire wrapped around his neck and seemed to get tighter, he dropped his gun in a momentary fit of terror.         

Buck- Chapter 4

The hummer was parked with perfect accuracy. Stetson stepped out, a concealed pistol in his vest in case events got messy. The parking lot where this bar was placed was sketchy at best. The bar is the center piece, an old wooden building with broken neon lights which read: Fincher’s Bar and Grill. Some of the staff on a smoking break of the bar eyed Stetson as he made his way through the old, creaky door.

Inside was a rather large place. The option of sitting at the fancier restaurant side or at the bar was an easy decision for the deer. Nothing in the bar looked new, everything looked worn and overused. The bartender is a slender female with blonde hair and a revealing outfit. She was the only one to not give Stetson a dirty look as he sat on one of the stools, hands folded contently. As for the two gentlemen on either side of him, they were different. Both men of similar age, one had an eye patch, the other is bald. Both wearing hunting vests and baggy pants. Neither of them had rifles,presumably they were kept in the vehicle they drove in.

The bartender whose name tag read Marcy approached the deer first, which neither of the men liked. IfStetson had been in the woods, he would probably be some trophy in a home. The battle had been won in this town of who was better, furry or human and humans took the prize. “What can I get you?” she said with a smile. With a polite smile back, he ordered a Redd’s Apple Ale. The two men on either side ordered dark beers.

The bald one smirked, both were a bit shorter than Stetson, but both were much thinner and out of shape. “Hey deer? When you finish, wanna come to my place and pose for a mantel?” Stetson merely shrugged and sipped his drink when it was brought to him. “Hey Patch?” The bald one leaned over to get the attention of his friend. “Why don’t we take this buck outside? We didn’t make good hunting today, but maybe we can make up for it?”Stetson chuckled a bit.

“I’m kinda busy tonight.” His tone is oddly kind,which neither of them expected. “I do have a question for both of you though.”Patch leaned into the deer on one side, Stetson flinched. “Oh yeah? What’s that?” He sniffed the deer’s arm, he loved the scent of furries, especially dead ones. “Please get off.” He gently nudged Patch to get him off his shoulder. Both are sitting and leaned into the deer, both admiring his nice form and how nice of a coat his fur would make.  “Do either of you know Marco Payne?”

Baldy smirked as he stood up to go behind the deer as a form of intimidation. “Who wants to know? You?You shouldn’t go messing with him. He’ll kill you and skin you before you have time to cry for help.” Stetson finished his drink in one gulp, sighed deeply and pulled his pistol out, not fully since he didn’t want to alarm the other patrons, but enough so the two saw he meant business. Keeping the gun in one hand and under the bar, he didn’t have time to dillydally, he didn’t want to talk to these two scumbags for longer than he needed. Stetson spoke low. “I’ll ask you two one more time. I’ll leave you guys alone if you don’t have an answer for me. Your lives depend on it. Where. Is. Marco. Payne?”

Patch smiled a toothy grin, and very quickly put a hunting knife to the deer’s throat. Stetson’s first reaction was to shoot Patch as his heart leaped into his throat, but he knew that would mean a quick death for him. He wouldn’t die here. Not at some seedy hunter bar. Baldy leaned into the deer’s neck, his mouth touching the ends of his brown fur. His breath hot and slimy. “Why don’t you put your peashooter down and come outside? Your head will make a nice trophy. Drop your gun, deer. Say your prayers while you’re at it.” Patch stood up and giggled as he went to the entrance of the bar and held the door open.The bartender stepped back, looking pale. She liked how cool Stetson was,unlike a lot of humans, she wasn’t fond of how furries were treated.

Forcing the deer to stand, Stetson dropped his gun. If he died here and now, everything would be in vein. His planning, his regimented routines of practice fighting, the life of his daughter. The two led him to the front door of them bar slowly.

 The sound of a gunshot rang through the buck’s ears as warm blood speckled the back of his neck, Baldy collapsed to the ground. Looking behind him, he saw the carcass of his attacker. With a bullet wound on the side of his head so large, the inside of his skull and brain wasn’t hard to detect. Glancing at the bar, Marcy held a shotgun, using both arms to hold it as the barrel smoked. Not one look of remorse or shock crossed her face. She had shot people before it would seem. Cocking the gun, she placed it back under the table. “You okay?” she asked in a monotone. Stetson nodded.“Yes ma’am and most importantly, thanks for the help.”   

“Want another drink? It’s on the house. The shit you furries go through is disgusting. Least I could do is help out one.”

“No thanks. I gotta go.” Picking his gun back up, he rushed out the door as Patch had made a run for it.

The old truck wouldn’t start, Patch breathed heavily, jamming the key into the ignition as he watched Stetson from the windshield, briskly walk out of the bar, his boots loud against the pavement as he made his way towards the vehicle. Swearing, his vision became blurry as panic set in. The deer stepped to the driver’s side of the truck and aimed the gun at Patch with two hands from the busted driver side window. “Either step out now or I’ll be forced to fire. Your choice.” Patch yelped and ducked, landing face first on the passenger side. Sweat dripped down his forehead. Never in his life had he dealt with a deer of this magnitude. It threw him off. He fired the pistol, purposely missing but just close enough to his body to cause even more fear. “I don’t know where Marco is!” The pistol shot cracked into the night sky, this time the bullet entered Patch’s leg and he screamed in agony, holding the wound which gushed blood immediately.

Shooting the door handle, Stetson forced it open and pulled Patch out of the car, kicking and screaming like a little kid having a temper tantrum. It was no use, Patch shouldn’t have underestimated Stetson’s arms which were the size of treetrunks. Slamming his body into the black pavement, the deer used his foot to apply pressure to the bullet wound. “Where is Marco Payne?!” he yelled, showing he meant full-on business as if the shooting wasn’t enough. “Okay! OKAY! Don’tkill me!” Lifting his boot up to relive this horrendous agony, he eyed Patch, narrowing his black eyes, his ears stick straight up. The lights from the bar lit the entire parking area, Stetson hoped no passerby would call the cops on him if they heard the gunfire. “He lives on Terrace Avenue! Two story blue house in the middle of nowhere. An hour from the bar! W-with his kid!” Stetson nodded.

“His kid? Will he cause problems?”

“No! I heard he’s retarded or something.” Stetson applied more pressure, harder than before, talking over Patch’s final screams. “Forget my face. And don’t say the r-word, prick.”

Buck- Chapter 3

The coyote wrapped her arms around the deer she hadn’t seen in a year. “Stetson! Oh my God it’s been too long!” She was shorter than Stetson, her arms toned. She was a farmer and had the build for it. Her muzzle met his chest. “Hey Connie. Can I come in?” She smiled.

The sun had just finished rising, the sky was already looking to be blue and clear. The canine led the deer off her front porch and into her two-story home. Her place looked much homier than Stetson’s. Much more inviting, which made sense. She didn’t have the worries he had. She hadn’t experienced loss of a family member in such a grim and depressing fashion.  

The living room was big, complete with a fireplace and framed pictures of her grand kids adorned her home. She had two of them, both of which now had jobs somewhere far away, so she was alone almost all the time left with her chores and occasional shopping.

Stetson was almost in awe of it all. He had not seen a TV so big, nor a home that looked so welcoming and sweet. Connie’s home could be anyone’s grandmother’s house. The TV and fireplace are close to each other, in front of the TV is a very nice couch. Behind the couch is a staircase which leads to a guest bedroom and bathroom.

Stepping into the kitchen, he hung up his vest over his chair and sat at the table. His antlers nearly hit the black chandelier above him. The two of them pour sugar and cream into there hot beverages. He’d admit it was nice to be treated like this after a three-hour drive through the backwoods and finally to the small town of Fincher. Unlike where Stetson lived,Connie’s neighborhood was welcoming of furries and humans. “How are you?” She spoke as she stirred her drink. Stetson sipped his coffee slowly. The long hours of driving had done a tole on him. He really wished he could nap. “I could be better. Fell into a depression a while ago, Lisa broke up with me after—well, you know.” She frowned. Even the mere mention of Daisy would be enough to make her cry, which she didn’t want to do. “Well, you look great.”Trying to lighten the mood, her ears flicked, her brown fur had a few silverspots, her ears like a wolf, but her build different enough. Most knew she was a coyote anyway. Her neck and legs were longer and her walk was also slightly different.

With a short smile, she continued. “You know, I have a great human helping me with chores and such. On days I don’t feel great or I just want someone to talk too. His name is Bobby Anderson. Bobby himself was in quite a slump for a year.”

“Yeah? Give me his info. My place is lonely.” It was true that maybe if he survived all this, it would be good to have a friend help him and hang out. Maybe he would be more content with someone around. She spoke as she wrote out his phone number and address on a scrap paper on the table. Connie’s tone became saddened. “He never quite told me why he was in a slump. He’s very sweet though, I even let him sleep over when his mom and dad go out. Trust me, he’s a good guy.” The deer rubbed his neck and pocketed the paper.

For an instant, he eyed Connie’s wrist as the sun caught a piece of jewelry on her wrist. Not just any jewelry. He stared at it for a while. His mind went numb. His vision narrowed in on this one object, so clearly,he could see every little detail. Every tiny design. Connie’s wrist became a blurred mess as he just stared at the pretty piece.

He hadn’t seen it since Daisy was alive. A silver bracelet. The smell hit his nostrils. It was faint. So faint that he was shocked he picked it up, if he had been human there would be no way he could have detected it. The slightest scent of Lisa and Daisy. Lisa had given it Daisy fora birthday gift. Seeing it made him want to gush to Connie. Tell her all his feelings in a single go.

“Who gave that too you?” He pointed to it. “Hm?” She lifts it up to her eye, she owned a lot of random jewelry. “Oh! Bobby! Isn’t it nice? He said he found it in his driveway.” Stetson’s heart leapt as he abruptly stood from the table. “Uhhh. Well, Connie. I’ll be in touch.” He instantly regretted standing up at such a quick pace. Dammit Stetson. Don’t be so brash! Not like she’d approve of youhunting down the ones who killed your daughter.

Taking his vest, he heads for her front door. Connie walked briskly behind him, her eyebrows went down as she rubbed the back of her neck. “Is everything okay? Don’t you want to stay for a snack?” Opening the door, he looked to her, his feet already hit the porch which led to her door. Keeping his mannerisms casual was a chore. “I’ll call you. I promise. By the way, can I borrow that bracelet?” He hugged her to make his leaving a bit more casual, but it was too late. As soon as she dropped the bracelet into his hand,she sensed something was up. Hopping into his hummer which was parked a few feet away, he quickly punched in Bobby’s address into his GPS. He zoomed off,quicker than he wanted too. It didn’t help Connie’s suspicions at all.

***

Coming home from school, Bobby hung his bag up. The nightmares of Daisy ’s death had not gone away. Hanging his hoodie up and ruffling his short hair, he sat at the kitchen table to begin his homework. The sound of his cellphone got him out of the math mode he was in, lifting his phone, he saw a name he hoped to never see again. Marco Payne.

<Hey Bobby! Wanna go hunting again? Been a while! Me and my pals are gonna spend a weekend up in the mountains. Maybe I’ll let ya shoot a furry!>

Of course, he didn’t want too, but instead of answering, he put his phone in his pocket. Instead of getting back to the work at hand, he stared into the various numbers. His mind wondered. Ever since Daisy, he had vowed to not go hunting again. The night he got home from that terrible day, he tossed his hunting gear into the trash and did nothing but cry in bed for hours. The weeks after, he grew a disdain for the woods. Which was difficult being that he lived in the woods.

After telling his parents, taking him to a therapist helped a bit. As often as the doctor told him not to blame himself and to remember that furries aren’t as smart as humans, he did blame himself. He should have shoved Marco or broken the rifle in half. He had this suspicion that furries were so much more than just toys. He found some of the species even beautiful.

The work he did with Connie helped. The fact she welcomed him into her life was unexpected and heartwarming. He thought she’d turn him away and call him a ‘gross human’. He had to remember that not every furry and not every human thought either species was low and deserved death.

He was just about to get up and nap, try to calm his brain and maybe get some work done after wards, but a hard knock at the door erased that idea for now. Walking across his small living room, he opened the door a crack, enough to see the most muscular, tall furry he had ever seen. He opened the door a bit wider. He had to crane his neck all the way to see the behemoth. “C-can I help you?”

“I need to talk to you about my daughter, and the man who took her life.” The buck spoke, eyeing the teenager. Darkness flooded Bobby’s soul as he went wideeyed in terror. Taking a deep breath, he slammed the door into the deer’s face, locked it and ran in the opposite direction. Time moved in slow motion for Bobby, not paying attention to his footing he tripped over his backpack. It was too late to catch his balance, he fell facefirst into the kitchen floor.

This gave Stetson enough time to peer into the window beside the front door. With adrenaline going through him, he wrapped his hand around the doorknob and with a single twist, broke it. He then used the toe of his boot to open the door, Bobby stood up at this point. The deer looked even scarier in shadow. His footsteps huge as he walked into the home, he knew he had a pistol and a hunting knife close by him. However, it seemed to him the teen was scared enough. Stetson truthfully only wished to talk and was only persistent because what Bobby held was beyond vital information.

“Kid. Settle down.”

“Settle down?! You broke into my house!”

“I need to know something.”

Before the deer could speak again, Bobby charged at the buck, not with rage, but with pure terror. He cried heavily as he pummeled his muscular stomach with his fists, which apart from being annoying, meant nothing. “Get out! RIGHT now! I’ll call the cops!” Stetson held both his wrists as he attempted to keep hitting. He wanted to yell at the hysterical teen, but he knew it wouldn’t help.

He then shoved his knee into Bobby’s stomach, sending him crashing onto his back and lying on the living room floor. He whined loudly as the deer then knelt to him, grasping him harshly by his t-shirt. “Did you kill my daughter?” His tone ice cold. This was a dreaded day for Bobby. As if the nightmares and self-loathing wasn’t enough. Here was her dad, facing the teen head-on. “No! No!” Tears streamed down his face as he relaxed, showingStetson a complete form of submission. Even if Bobby wanted to hurt him, the deer could split him in half with one hand.

Pinning the teen down with one hand, he reached into his vest and fetched the silver bracelet. “Connie, your friend told me you gave this too her. Where the hell did you get this?” Bobby took deep breaths. “I found it—in the dirt. Near my house.” He read the teen’s terror and wide eyes.He wouldn’t lie. Not now. Not while his life was on the line.

“When did you find it? Last week, Last month? Speak to me.”

“No! Last year! Shortly after the incident.” Stetson’s tone remained monotone, he paused to think of Bobby’s words.

“What incident?”

“The first time I saw a furry die in front of me. Thedoe.  My friend drove me home that night.I-I found it after he left. You see, her body. Her body was tied to the top of his truck.”

Stetson shivered. The thought of Daisy ’s bloody corpse on top of some hunter’s truck was enough to make him want to snap the first neck he saw. Sadly, it would have been Bobby. The deer went closer to the human, his muzzle nearly touching the teen’s nose. “You didn’t pull the trigger, did you? You didn’t want to see my little girl die.”

Bobby shook his head ‘no.’ His face pale. “No sir. Please don’t kill me.” He cried again. Deep in thought, Stetson re-positioned himself. Now sitting cross-legged on the floor right by the teen. Bobby was about to get up until the deer shoved him back down with one hand, then with the other, he pulled out his hunting knife, playing with it between his hands once he knew he’d stay lying down.

Bobby whimpered softly. “So, you didn’t kill her. I believe you. You’re not the type. Who is the type though? Who do you hang out with?” Bobby’s crying wasn’t as obvious,now that he knew Stetson wasn’t some mindless killer. He had motive. For so long, Bobby felt trapped by the hunter. “M-Marco Payne. He’s the one. He’s crazy!” Stetson’s ear flicked, he still played with the knife, keeping his gaze on Bobby, lying on his back and craning his neck to meet his eye.

“Marco Payne, huh? If you’re so against hunting furries, why do you hang out with him?” 

“I-I’m afraid of him, sir. He’s a family friend. He’s -said he’d get pissed if he couldn’t teach me how to hunt. He wants me t-to join him. I hate him, and I hate what he does.” Putting his knife away, Stetson stood up and reached his hand out to Bobby and hoists him up quickly. Bobby stepped away from the giant deer, his breathing heavy as he whipped tears away.“You tell me where he hangs out, and you’ll never have to worry about him again.” Bobby went from fear to absolute relief.

Maybe Stetson wasn’t a demon, but an avenging angel. “Fincher’s Bar and Grill. It’s an hour from here. H-he and some hunting guys go there. He’s taken me there a few times too.” The two exchange phone numbers, at this point Bobby felt this guy was trustworthy. How odd was that? Usually, the teen was quite private, but maybe having someone as big and strong as Stetson by his side wouldn’t be a horrible fate. “Send me the directions. Get a new hobby.”Feeling dizzy, Bobby nodded. “You aren’t going to kill me? For being involved?”

“You’re not the evil one, kid.” He gently pets Bobby’s shoulder before heading out. The teen quickly texts him the directions along with two of his friends who frequent the bar and who he’s met on occasion, Patch and Baldy was all he knew them by.

He watched the deer drive off. That was his first real encounter with a furry, he couldn’t help but think of his life. He thought he’d die today, but he didn’t. Darkness slowly took his heart-he met the father of the girl he let die. He watched Marco shoot a fawn. He didn’t do anything to stop it. Going back inside, the teenager lied on the couch, closing his eyes he saw what he had so long ago. The fawn flopping to the grass, covered in blood. The more this image cropped up, the more he felt Stetson’s intervention was a good thing.


Buck- Chapter 2

“Fuck you, Stetson,” the doe spat out as she rushed around the two-floor cabin. Collecting her clothes and putting them in a large suitcase thrown haphazardly in the living room. The buck sat at the kitchen table, morose, his hands folded, his eyes misty as he watched his now ex-wife huff, her blood pressure sky high. “You just sit there. Like always. After our daughter’s funeral, you sit. For an entire month. Drinking away your sorrows. Today? BIG shock! You sit, I’m working my ass off to provide for us- and you don’t even have a fucking job yet? You looking for the hunter who MURDERED our daughter?Anything?!”

His ears droop to the sound of her yell, it startled him to his core to hear his usually loving and compassionate soul mate finally reach her breaking point. Clocking in at over six feet, Stetson could easily take her if she got violent, but he really hoped it wouldn’t get to that point. Clearing his throat, his distinct Southern accent filled the room. “I want to see a therapist.” Perhaps for a moment, Lisa felt sympathy, she stared at the slender deer for a moment. Looking at his flat ears and head down. Sweat covered his furry hands. “I’m not paying for therapist. Neither are you. I have all I can do to keep this place up and going. Goodbye.” She spat again, her brown eyes narrowing. Roughly grabbing the suitcase, she storms out of the house loudly.

A tear rolls down the buck’s cheek as he stares out the window by the kitchen, watching Lisa’s jeep speed off, leaving a cloud of dirt in its wake. He wasn’t only crying because she left him, it was the past few months of his life that seemed to crash on him. His daughter dying, the bleak funeral, feeling a cloud over his head, where the only break was when he’d take naps throughout the day. Only to wake up late at night to the feeling of depression again.

Resting his head on the table and trying to not dent the surface with his antlers, he took deep breaths. This all felt like some nightmare. This portion of his life. He wanted to wake up to Daisy’s smiling face and take her for a calm walk in the woods. However, he also was realistic enough to know that sitting slumped in his chair for hours wouldn’t help him much either, even though that’s all he really wanted to do. His ex-wife was right about one thing. He needed to get off his ass.

Stepping outside, there was no pathway to his cabin. He decided he wanted to live in a more isolated fashion. His wife agreed, they wanted to stay clear of potential danger. What good did that do in the end?Violence still found them. Even though no pathway led to their home, no signs,and the home wasn’t located on any map. The only way to get there was knowingwhere to go. Only the deer’s family and very close friends knew where Stetson’squaint place lied.

Stetson rolled his sleeves up to his flannel shirt and from the pocket of his khakis, he pulled out work gloves. Working his way around the cabin, he pulled weeds from the ground with minimal effort and put them in a trash bin. The day wasn’t too hot, the breeze hit his brown coat. Noises did scare him a bit. He was often afraid some hunter was eyeing him,that he’d be the next head over someone’s mantel.

The first few weeds he pulled were easy, keeping his mind on his task, sometimes kneeling to make sure every piece was going to be tossed out. Making his way around, noises started distracting him. The snap of a twig. The wind brushing the leaves above him. Feeling something was over his shoulder. The clouds overhead made his environment even more foreboding. The bin isn’t even half full, after a deep sigh, he realized he couldn’t work. His brain was foggy. Clouded with the events of the past.

Daisy’s sweet voice rang in his ear like an annoying fly. He wouldn’t cry again, he didn’t think. With a low grunt he pushed the large bin over, the loose weeds crashed into the grass below and spilled. Stetson repeatedly hit the bin moments after. His fists collided with the tough plastic that hurt his hands, but he didn’t care. He barely felt it. With every hit, he let out a soft grunt of agitation.

Surprisingly, punching this bin like a speed bag helped cool the hot rage in his soul. But it wouldn’t be enough overall. Sure, it would help for an hour or so. If he wanted to feel redeemed, he needed to get out of his comfort zone. Go into a world he never hoped to enter.           

ONE YEAR LATER

After a day of Manuel labor at the local farm, Stetson finished bailing the last bit of hay for his shift. The deer was one of the bigger and taller workers, so he’d often help those who needed it. CJ’s concern was also that he wouldn’t come back, but Stetson promised him he would. The stallion handed the buck a few extra hundred-dollar bills, which he tried to decline, but the boss insisted. He’d have plenty of money in the bank to do what needed to be done. He had saved up and marked it on his calendar.

He had told his boss months in advance that he’d be taking a long leave of absence-which wasn’t a big deal. His boss is a kind, slender brown Thoroughbred who was honestly more concerned about Stetson’s state of mind then his work ethic, even though he had never missed a day rain or shine. Everyone knew about the tragedy that befell him and how his wife left with anger.

***

His large fist collides with the punching bag. Then his other fist collides in a second, almost in the blink of an eye. The gym is aligned with every type of exercise equipment one could ask for. For the small-town Stetson lived in, he had everything he ever could have wanted here. The bustle of other bodybuilders didn’t faze him, the clanking of weights and the sound of the treadmills became background noise as he endlessly hit the bag. In the middle of the gym, a ring for boxing matches. Stetson wasn’t very much into hitting others, even in rough play and wrestling, he always felt bad seeing his opponent bruised and bleeding.

He wouldn’t admit it, but in a year, he had gone from a slender, slightly out of shape deer, to a massive buck and ranked one of the highest as far as skills. His trainer knew he had it in him, Stetson perhaps didn’t think so. His whole life he had never been in horrible shape, but nothing to write home about either. He was strong, but morning runs, and the rigorous upper body routines pushed his body to the limits. Most figured he was doing this for self-confidence, and maybe on a secondary level he was. What really went through his head was something much more depressing and darker. He wished he was doing this only for himself. He wished he could come home to his wife after hours of exercise and see his daughter.

With a sigh, he placed his gloves back on the hook where they belonged. Sweating, he drank some cold water from his bottle and hopped into the warm shower the gym provided. As the warm water hit his fur, he stood facing the tiled wall in front of him. The distant sounds from other stalking evaporated. He heard Daisy again, only for a moment. The water dripped down his muscular body and to the ground and down the drain, his ears flicked to the white noise effect the sound made. Turning his head, one antler accidentally scrapped the wall. “Dammit.” He whispered as he quickly checked the damage. Luckily it didn’t leave a scrape. Turning the water off, he realized he had stood motionless for perhaps three minutes.

He wanted to get a swift move on, so he dried off, put on his day clothes and exits the bathroom. Only to be met by his friend, Ryan.A slightly overweight cheetah with a heart of gold. “Hey Stetson!” He followed the deer as he walked towards where he once was to grab his backpack. “How are you?” Stetson replied, keeping his tone friendly. “I was wondering if you’d like to go to the bar with me and a few friends? We’d like to get to know you better!” His smile was cute, the deer would admit that.

Hoisting the bag over his shoulder, he smirked, with an air of sadness. More like fake disappointment. He had much bigger plans.“Sorry pal, I got plans, go have fun though. Have a beer for me.” The feline rubbed the back of his neck. “It’s just, you seem like a cool guy.” He didn’t blush at the comment, but his heart had a momentary moment of shyness. “Maybe some other time.” With a nod, he briskly walked out into the parking lot.

No longer thinking of Ryan or his offer. He needed to focus on his routine. Ryan texts his friends to tell them Stetson yet again cancelled. He’s so nice, and such a hard worker here. What prevents him from going out? Anxiety? Social pressure? Bad life at home? He wished he knew.

***

The shooting range was full of furries. Humans were not allowed to enter, in fact a sign posted in front of the range itself stated this fact. The species firing off a plethora of guns ranged from dogs, to cats to horses. Some talking in between clip changes, others silent and in their own world. Here, Stetson barely talked to anyone unless they had a question. Then, he would talk their ear off if he felt so inclined too after his target session ended.

Entering the concrete building after putting on noise-canceling headphones, he grabbed his go-to weapon, a pump-action shotgun. One side of the building was smooth rock, on the other side, furries are lined up at large, separated rectangular holes. Putting rounds of bullets into white cardboard targets far into the distance in a huge yard. Some were very experienced, others were clear novices.

Stetson didn’t know where he landed on the spectrum, he just fired rounds into the targets as best as he could. Some complimented him on his skill as he stopped to reload or went to stretch his legs in the gun shop close by the range. He felt bad that he wasn’t as chatty as usual, but today he had a lot on his mind. Mostly the fact that he could die if he didn’t play his cards right. It was an odd mix of fear and relief. Relief that he also could get to the bottom of his daughter’s murder and maybe prevent other furries from suffering a similar fate. Even with furries learning how to shoot guns, the law and most of society was on the human side.

***

Cleaning up his cabin to an excessive amount as the sky turned to pink and the sun was in the process of setting, he finished up his cup of coffee as he knew he’d have a long journey ahead. The clothing he’d put on his back would be his main outfit, he didn’t want to pack two suitcases full of all his outfits and useless accessories.

A few black t-shirts, two pairs of old jeans, a belt and a green fishing vest to put hidden weapons and whatever else he’d need seemed to be the easiest to get off and on. For shoes, he wanted durable footwear. Sneakers would be too slippery if it rained and he was out in the elements. So, he opted for some dark brown hiking boots. Comfy, waterproof and hard to wreck. Also, in his suitcase, he threw in a black tank top and lightweight pants for sleeping in. He also packed emergency snacks and a large bottled water. He hoists up his warm, fuzzy parka, which would protect him from harsh coldness over his shoulder and stepped out into the night.

The crickets were noisy as usual. The sky a dark blue, soon blackness would cover the sky. He knew where to get information, and forever a year he was too scared and too sad to go there. But now, there was no turning back. With a sigh of nervousness, he hopped behind the wheel and turned the ignition. The hummer roared to life.

Everything hit him at once. He saw humans behind the wheels of cars as they zipped by him. The city was still far away but leaving the town to enter bigger areas was jarring. Having to deal with traffic and pedestrians was rather new. Luckily, he knew the hummer well and knew exactly what to do when these new experiences arose.

He would be an outsider. No doubt about it. He had a destination. He wasn’t just going to the small town to see if he happened to stumble across the hunter. He was going to a bar. A specific bar. A bar known as a hangout for all hunters, where they’d talk big game after a day of slaughter. It was time to go to their world. Get into their heads. And sabotage what he could.     

Buck- Chapter 1

BUCK

A Furry Story by: Aaron B.

Cover Art by: Marcin Tyrakowski (Photoshop by:Aaron B.)

Additional Art by: Kano’s Art & Commissions and TheWonderbot’sWonderworks

 

“To exact revenge for yourself or your friends is not only a right, it’s an absolute duty.” -Stieg Larsson

 The bullet enters her flesh. Blood sprays upon the green glass as she collapses, the last sound she ever makes is a deep breath. Darkness covers her eyes as her consciousness is stripped away, almost in the blink of an eye.

The two men who approach the fawn’s body are quite different looking. Both wearing orange vests and hunting gear. Marco’s bushy brown beard and overweight body is unmistakable to those who know him. Marco kneels to the body, his hunting rifle in one hand, he checks the pulse of the humanoid animal. The fifty-year-old smiles slightly. Eyeing her lifeless corpse, thinking of what he’d want to keep as a trophy and tossing out the rest.

 Bobby, the twenty-year old blonde haired, blue eyed young man feels a knot in his stomach looking over Marco’s shoulder. Forcing a smile, he tried not to look into the glazed eyes of the dead deer. “Good shooting, man.” Standing up, Marco sighed tiredly as the trek to this point had been long and the two had gotten up quite early to make this kill a reality.“One day I’ll let you do the shooting and skinning.” Without a word, Bobby follows him as he makes his way down the large hill where the fawn lies to get the pick-up truck. Grabbing the fawn by the leg, he dragged her corpse along with him.

Bobby’s stomach only got worse as he walked with Marco, even though the woods today were serene, the weather perfect for what activities they had done. Walking much slower than Marco, he clenches his fist, then relaxes. Trying to get his anxiety to lower, closing his eyes may help. For an instant it did, but the face of the eight-year-old deer flooded his brain. Eight years old in human age, since the animals were so anthropomorphic, thereages were calculated by human years.  

Her lifeless corpse seeping with blood, her yellow sundress dirty and muddy from the fall. How innocent she looked before Marco pulled the trigger. Even the sound of the body being dragged would have been enough to send him into a full-on panic attack.

 Luckily Marco was oblivious as he hummed, they neared closer to the paved road, finding a short cut. Bobby tried darting his eyestoward the left and right, focusing on the beautiful day.

Bobby looked at his boots the entire time as Marco tied the fawn to the top of the truck, not thinking to ask Bobby for help since he had done this so many times. The small rocks beneath their feet crunched, behind the truck lied the main cement road, a car or two passed as the two packed up to leave.  Each one carried a large bag for snacks and water, which were quite heavy and a relief to put down.

***

Giving a slight wave to Marco before closing the passenger side door, Bobby felt a ping of relief wash over him as he knew the nightmare was over. Watching Marco’s truck pull away, not one of them noticed a silver bracelet roll off the dead fawn and onto the dirt path leading toBobby’s one-story home. He couldn’t be blamed though, it was dark.

Taking a deep breath, Bobby flopped onto the couch, turning on the TV was the normal nightly news. How anthropomorphic animals can get along with humans. News stations were either for or against it, ‘furries’ as people called them were slowly rising and becoming a prominent species. Those who were opposed to furries being among humans, often thought hunting them during certain times of the year was fine to do.

And in the area Bobby and Marco reside, they’re not any furry protection laws that make a huge difference. The big cities are where new ground was being broken, where furries and humans were living in harmony with little to no issues. How the young man wishes he lived in one of those areas. Become friends with those who were not like him and learn new things.

Alas, he is trapped in these back woods, in a town near Massachusetts. Where homes were often isolated and furries and humans did not get along. Lying down on the couch, the thoughts of the fawn and violence in general swirled in his brain, he wouldn’t get much sleep tonight.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web (2018 Movie Review)

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I don’t know if it’s a secret that I highly admire and love “The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo” trilogy. I love the books (RIP Stieg Larsson) I love the Swedish films and I adored David Fincher’s go at his version. The series inspired my style of characters and pushed the envelope as far as gritty murder mystery / revenge stories go. I re-watch the movies as often as I can, those stories are why I love goth girls. Lisbeth is my favorite strong female character of all time (it was Judy Hopps for a while, but she’s since taken a back seat.)

I was sad when I knew the 2011 Dragon movie wasn’t going to go with “The Girl Who Played with Fire” sequel. I still think they should have done that, but they didn’t. I was surprised they went with the highly mediocre 4th book, “The Girl in The Spider’s Web.” So natrually, I had low expectations. That book was a slog to get through.

I must say though, this movie wasn’t bad! I will point out a few nitpick things, but overall this was an intriguing story. More importantly though, I don’t feel Lisbeth was ruined. I thought they might make it very ‘flashy’ and Hollywooish, but really they kept her intact and Clair Foy did a really nice job. I really enjoyed her portrayl and her stunt work was awesome (I know she had some doubles, but I heard she did a lot of stuff too.) I loved her costume and I loved the accent, she’s a good Lisbeth. I liked the action scenes, they were really nice and there was a certain ‘edge’ to the violence that really made it feel like a Lisbeth story and not just a Jason Bourne knock off. I’ll go through some points, but as I said-this is far from the mockery I thought it would be. I will be glad to add this to my collection.

  • More Revenge– Stieg built Lisbeth as a character of a women who kills men who abuse, rape and torture girls. While the first ten minuts indicate that in a really nice little revenge scene, I hope if there’s a sequel we get more of this.
  • More Gritty– While I did enjoy the action scenes, I would have liked a little more blood and agony. This story didn’t need it, as I said the action served this movie well and even went beyond what I thought, but if they want to make more-I’d say up the grim and disturbing factor.
  • More Blomkvist and Lisbeth– The dynamic between these two is sort of the glue that holds these stories together. The journalist gives Lisbeth all the info, then she goes out and extracts vengeance when needed.

Overall, I hope this is a good starting point to either a sequel, or maybe a TV miniseries? I don’t want Lisbeth to dissapear for another 8 years. I think there’s a lot of great potential here, so I’d say with some adjustments, they could really do another full on, blood soaked, disturibng, push the envelope movie like Fincher did. I’d welcome it.

 

Buck- Chapter 3 Excerpt

Written by: Aaron B.

Coming home from school, Bobby hung his bag up. The nightmares of Daisy ’s death had not gone away. Hanging his hoodie up and ruffling his short hair, he sat at the kitchen table to begin his homework. The sound of his cellphone got him out of the math mode he was in, lifting his phone, he saw a name he hoped to never see again.

From: Marco Payne <Hey Bobby! Wanna go hunting again? Been a while! Me and my pals are gonna spend a weekend up in the mountains. Maybe I’ll let ya shoot a furry!>

 

Of course, he didn’t want too, but instead of answering, he put his phone in his pocket. Instead of getting back to the work at hand, he stared into the various numbers. His mind wondered. Ever since Daisy, he had vowed to not go hunting again. The night he got home from that terrible day, he tossed his hunting gear into the trash and did nothing but cry in bed for hours. The weeks after, he grew a distain for the woods. Which was difficult being that he lived in the woods.

After telling his parents, taking him to a therapist helped a bit. As often as the doctor told him not to blame himself and to remember that furries aren’t as smart as humans, he did blame himself. He should have shoved Marco or broken the rifle in half. He had this suspicion that furries were so much more than just toys. He found some of the species even beautiful.

The work he did with Connie helped. The fact she welcomed him into her life was unexpected and heartwarming. He thought she’d turn him away and call him a ‘gross human’. He had to remember that not every furry and not every human thought either species was low and deserved death. He just wished more people felt like that. He was just about to get up and nap, try to calm his brain and maybe get some work done, but a hard knock at the door erased that idea for now.

Walking across his small living room, he opened it a crack, enough to see the most muscular, tall furry he had ever seen. He opened the door a bit wider. He had to crane his neck all the way to see the behemoth. “C-can I help you?”

“I need to talk to you about my daughter, and the man who took her life.” The buck spoke, eyeing the teenager. Darkness flooded Bobby’s soul as he went wide eyed in terror. Taking a deep breath, he slammed the door into the deer’s face, locked it and ran in the opposite direction. Time moved in slow motion for Bobby, not paying attention to his footing he tripped over his backpack. It was too late to catch his balance, he fell face first into the kitchen floor. This gave Stetson enough time to peer into the window beside the front door. With adrenaline going through him, he wrapped his hand around the door knob and with a single twist, broke it. He then used the toe of his boot to open the door, Bobby stood up at this point. The deer looked even scarier in shadow. His footsteps huge as he walked into the home, he knew he had a pistol and a hunting knife close by him. However, it seemed to him the teen was scared enough. Stetson truthfully only wished to talk and was only persistent because what Bobby held was beyond vital information.

“Kid. Settle down.”

“Settle down?! You broke into my house!”

“I need to know something.” Before the deer could speak again, Bobby charged at the buck, not with rage, but with pure terror. He cried heavily as he pummeled his muscular stomach with his fists, which apart from being annoying, meant nothing. “Get out! RIGHT now! I’ll call the cops!”

Stetson held both his wrists as he attempted to keep hitting. He wanted to yell at the hysterical teen, but he knew it wouldn’t help. He then shoved his knee into Bobby’s stomach, sending him crashing onto his back. He whined loudly as the deer then knelt to him, grasping him harshly by his t-shirt. “Did you kill my daughter?” His tone ice cold. This was a dreaded day for Bobby. As if the nightmares and self-loathing wasn’t enough. Here was her dad, facing the teen head on. “No! No!” Tears streamed down his face as he relaxed, showing Stetson a complete form of submission. Even if Bobby wanted to hurt him, the deer could split him in half with one hand.

Pinning the teen down with one hand, he reached into his vest and fetched the silver bracelet. “Connie, your friend told me you gave this too her. Where the hell did you get this?” Bobby took deep breaths, he remembered giving it too her. “I found it—in the dirt. Near my house.” He read the teen’s terror and wide eyes. He wouldn’t lie. Not now. Not while his life was on the line. Stetson knew liars. “When did you find it? Last week? Last month?”

“No! Last year—shortly after the incident.” Stetson’s tone remained monotone, he paused to think of Bobby’s words. “What incident?”

“The first time I saw a furry die in front of me. The doe.  My friend drove me home that night. I—I found it after he left. You see, her body. Her body was tied to the top of his truck.” Stetson shivered. The thought of Daisy ’s bloody corpse on top of some hunter’s truck was enough to make him want to snap the first neck he saw. Sadly, it would have been Bobby.

The deer went closer to the human, his muzzle nearly touching the teen’s nose. “You didn’t pull the trigger, did you? You didn’t want to see my little girl die.” Bobby shook his head ‘no.’ His face pale. “No sir. Please don’t kill me.” He cried again. Deep in thought, Stetson re-positioned himself. Now sitting cross-legged on the floor right by the teen. Bobby was about to get up until the deer shoved him back down with one hand, then with the other, he pulled out his hunting knife, playing with it between his hands once he knew he’d stay lying down.

Bobby whimpered softly. “So, you didn’t kill her. I believe you. You’re not the type. Who is the type though? Who do you hang out with?” Bobby’s crying wasn’t as obvious, now that he knew Stetson wasn’t some mindless killer. He had motive.

For so long, Bobby felt trapped by the hunter. “M-Marco Payne. He’s the one. He’s crazy!” Stetson’s ear flicked, he still played with the knife, keeping his gaze on Bobby, lying on his back and craning his neck to meet his eye.

“Marco Payne, huh? If you’re so against hunting furries, why do you hang out with him?”

“I-I’m afraid of him, sir. He’s a family friend. He s-said he’d get pissed if he couldn’t teach me how to hunt. He wants me t-to join him. I hate him, and I hate what he does.” Putting his knife away, Stetson stood up and reached his hand out to Bobby and hoists him up quickly.

Bobby stepped away from the giant deer, his breathing heavy as he whipped access tears away. “You tell me where he hangs out, and you’ll never have to worry about him again.” Bobby went from fear, to absolute relief.

Maybe Stetson wasn’t a demon, but an avenging angel. “Fincher’s Bar and Grill. It’s an hour from here. H-he and some hunting guys go there.” The two exchange phone numbers, at this point Bobby felt this guy was trust worthy. How odd was that? Usually the teen was quite private, but maybe having someone as big and strong as Stetson by his side wouldn’t be a horrible fate. “Send me the directions. Get a new hobby.” Feeling dizzy, Bobby nodded. “You aren’t going to kill me? For being involved?”

“You’re not the evil one, kid.” He gently pat Bobby’s shoulder before heading out. The teen quickly texts him the directions along with two of his friends who frequent the bar and who he’s met on occasion, Patch and Baldy. He watched the deer drive off. That was his first real encounter with a furry, he couldn’t help but think of his life. He thought he’d die today, but he didn’t. Maybe it was time to do new things. Darkness slowly took his heart-he met the father of the girl he let die. He watched Marco shoot a fawn. He didn’t do anything to stop it.

Going back inside, the teenager lied on the couch, closing his eyes he saw what he had so long ago. The fawn flopping to the grass, covered in blood. The more this image cropped up, the more he felt Stetson’s intervention was a good thing.