The Hunter :
My name is David Nelson, I am a bounty hunter. But not human bounty, no. I hunt something much less predictable. I hunt animals, ones that have attacked people, I track them down and either capture them or kill them. But sometimes people pay me to hunt things that aren’t so easy to explain, such as the Chupacabra, or Bigfoot. Recently I have had many people who wanted to hire me to hunt the Slenderman, I turned them down. I am a man of morals, I knew Slenderman didn’t exist and I wasn’t going to take their money and give them nothing in return. Recently I launched one of my more unusual expeditions, and while I came back empty handed I was left with quite the tale.
I was hired by a woman to hunt a creature that she claimed had saved her life. She wouldn’t tell me the details. She wanted it alive, and she assured me she could offer adequate compensation. Against my better judgement I agreed. As always I said goodbye to my wife and three kids and headed out to whatever isolated location my target called home. After I left I pulled out the folder my researcher had given me on the creature. I am not exaggerating when I say this thing looked like something straight out of hell. It had the general form of a man but it wasn’t, it was a shark. It was depicted in a hunched position with blood covering it’s hands and mouth. It’s eyes were soulless and full of hate. I had been put on the trail of supposed fish-man sightings before, they were actually fairly common but this one was different. It’s most unusual feature was a pair of horns, like the devil himself was said to have. That was the kind of detail I didn’t like to see, when people make stuff up, they tend to keep their claims pretty standard, like bigfoot or nessie. Everyone sees the same thing because it’s all in their head. All based on some original hoax, which was based on reality so it would seem plausible. On the other hand when things start coming up mismatched, there is a good chance the witnesses were seeing something. The woman hadn’t had the foggiest idea where this thing was, but my behind the scenes research man had narrowed it to a small strip of coastline about 20 miles east of where she lived. I grabbed my rifle and traps and got into my truck.
Just five minutes after arriving on the scene I had already gotten a lay of the land, I noticed an old lighthouse nearby and headed for it. As I got closer I could see why it was abandoned, there were caves under it’s foundation and the entire thing had sunk about ten feet into the ground. Now it doesn’t take a genius to see that this was clearly the best place for this thing to reside. I tried to venture down carefully but I slipped, I’m not as young as I once was. At the bottom I could hear heavy breathing. Not like the the huffing and puffing of a tired runner, more like the breathing of something large. It was dark, so I pulled out my flashlight and looked around. A glint of metal caught my eye, it looked like gold. At first I thought today was my lucky day, but as I held my flashlight on it it disappeared for a second and came back. Then it moved.
As what I was looking at stepped further into my light I suddenly became very concerned. The reason the gold had disappeared was simple, it wasn’t some loose pirate’s dubloon hidden in the basement of an old lighthouse. It was a gold sphere in the left eye socket of the very creature I was hunting.
That isn’t in the picture I thought as I looked around for my rifle, it was on the ground only a few feet behind me. I grabbed it and turned to face the beast but it had already reached me. It grabbed the barrel of my rifle and yanked it from my hand, hurling it across the room. In it’s other hand was a knife. No, it wasn’t holding it, the metal blade seemed to come from beneath the creature’s skin. It put it’s face right up to mine, the gold eye turned in it’s socket as it looked over me. Then it stood up and began to walk away.
What I did next almost surely should have gotten me killed. I yelled at it “What, you don’t got the stomach for me? Don’t like yer’ meat this tough?” it was incredibly stupid but I didn’t like being toyed with. What I didn’t expect was a response, in a voice that was sickeningly human.
“Go back to your family David. Your wife would never recover from losing you.” I was shocked, I just sat there, just those few words had completely turned this situation on it’s head. This was no monster, it was something more, something sentient. I should have just listened and left but I was curious. I had to know what this thing was, why it had spared me. So once again I said the first thing that came into my head.
“What the hell are you?”
I will stop the story here briefly to explain one thing, from this point on I am relaying exactly what it told me. I will pause occasionally and slip a few words in about my state of mind as he was telling me this, but the story is all his.
“I was once a man, as I am sure you have already guessed. But what made me this way was not a curse as some might suspect, it was my own doing. I don’t remember much of my childhood, save for two things. The first was the death of my parents, killed by the mob. I was taken in by my aunt who lived far from the city where I grew up. The second was a feeling of worthlessness, brought on by not fitting in. I moved into the town too late in school, the pecking order was established and I fit at the bottom. No matter how hard I tried I stayed there. I now realize there is nothing I could have done about either except let it go. At the time though these things destroyed me.
I tried ignoring the judgements of the other kids, I tried fitting in with them. Nothing worked, there was always something eventually it was my dead parents. I realized that no matter how much I tried to be like all those other assholes I could never be. So I decided to be different. I found a concept called the uncanny valley, I won’t explain it to you know but it was exactly what I needed. Essentially if I couldn’t be accepted, I would have to become so distanced that I was no longer human, then I didn’t have to give a shit about anything. I thought long and hard about how to do this, dramatic plastic surgery was quickly ruled out, even the most dramatic changes those could provide still landed me within the limits of humanity, in fact they would put me in the middle of the valley I was trying to avoid. I eventually narrowed it to only two options that would truly allow me to transcend humanity, magic and genetics it was only a matter of which one I found within my grasp.
In the end I had to use a combination of the two, genetic engineering was still lightyears away from being able to completely replace one’s entire DNA let alone have them live. Magic would not work simply because the cost of creating matter and complex organic structures was just too steep. In the end my final method was a rather fitting mixture. Rather than transform myself, I would grow a new body in a tank, then when it had matured I would use magic to move my mind into it’s new host. The creation of said body took 10 years, but it didn’t matter in the long run because my new body would be the same age no matter what age I was when I entered it. I did manage to find a few other useful tidbits in my study of the arcane. I found a ritual that can turn your bones to steel, but allow them to heal just the same, I later learned that this ritual had other uses but I didn’t know at the time. I did have to pay to have a few genetic engineering laws stripped from the books, after all, I did intend to go out in public.
On the morning of my 30th birthday I drove myself out to the warehouse where I had been carrying out this project in secret. The weather was overcast but I had never been in a brighter mood. That day I would set my human foot into the tank chamber for the last time. Dragging behind me an unconscious deer I had tranquilized, regrettably the mind exchange ritual did require a sacrifice.”
He paused here and lit a fire, with the added light I got my first real look at him. He was taller than any man, probably seven feet, while his face was that of a shark it was somehow more intelligent. He had managed to keep his ability to show emotion. With a few exceptions his body was human in form muscular but not bulky. Again my eye was drawn back to the horns, when asked about them he admitted they were only an aesthetic touch. I pulled the sketch out of my pocket that depicted the snarling beast I had come hunting and threw it in the fire. The creature in that picture was nothing like the one which stood before me. I also noticed that where the blade had emerged from his skin, there was now only a scab.
He continued his story
“I pulled out my pocket knife and slashed across side of the deer. The wound was shallow but it produced enough blood for my purposes while keeping the animal alive. I drew a circle of blood on the ground and with a few words in an ancient dialect I chose the destination my soul would inhabit after the ritual. then I drew a talisman of blood onto my chest and began chanting. I didn’t know exactly what the words meant but as far as I had found they roughly translated to “Let my soul flow forth” within a minute I could see a glowing reddish mist leaking from my body, but instead of travelling to my new body it filled the room. Did I make a mistake? I thought to myself, as the mist rolled across the room I became aware of everything it touched, it was my consciousness in a visible form. As the mist stopped leaking out I was aware that I no longer felt my body, I was entirely between forms, I began to worry but I quickly felt something. My new vessel had begun to breathe, and slowly as it’s lungs filled my mind slowly returned from it’s free floating state. When it was complete I felt like I was going to collapse, but I also felt stronger than ever before. I stood up and walked, clumsily at first but soon I was accustomed to my new movements. I grabbed a few articles of clothing off my corpse, namely my coat and pants, and set out to enjoy my new life. As I left I noticed that my sacrifice which was alive at the beginning of the ritual was now dead, its eyes had burned out of his skull and its face was contorted into what could be described as a scream.
The transition was smoother than I could possibly have expected. Obviously people were scared, but by wearing formal clothing and acting casual I managed to keep most from panicking. Naturally my personal life took a hit, it became nearly impossible to pick up women who were entirely sober. Eventually as my presence sunk in, a few people began to feel comfortable in my presence. I even found someone romantically. I don’t like referring to her as my girlfriend, although that is the term that fits. She had no qualms with my appearance, in fact I like to think that she found my body attractive but I have no proof of that. Not long after we met we were living together. She was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
He paused, stood up silently and left for quite a while, letting that last line sink in with me. I didn’t ask why he left, I was in no mood to test his hospitality. I did however take that chance to look around. There were a few objects around the caves, a piano, some framed pictures, a stack of loose books. When he returned I noticed a smear of blood on his face. I was beginning to wonder just where this story found it’s conclusion. He continued:
“My life was going better than it ever had. Not only did I not feel the need to fit in, but people stopped expecting it of me, I stopped getting lectures from strangers because people didn’t expect me to think like them anymore. Unfortunately I soon found that this same phenomenon had downsides as well.
It had been about two months, slowly word of me spread. As this happened local religious groups began to fixate on me. To them I became a symbol, I was literally demonized. They started protesting, they followed me wherever I went, some went so far as to say I was satan himself. With a few exceptions people stopped associating with me, eventually I was left with only a few friends, most of which would not be seen with me in person. Only Lynn stuck by me. Soon the growing mobs turned their attention to her, they called her awful things like whore and sinner and harassed her constantly. She became an outcast alongside me, I had dragged her into what should have been my own personal hell.
The crowds got bolder and bolder, they started coming inside my house, I never had any time alone with Lynn anymore. Until that one terrible day, we were coming out of a store and some drunk redneck broke from the crowd. He had a beer bottle in one hand and a rifle in the other. A few of his buddies stood at his sides, hootin’ and hollerin’. He finished his drink and threw it aside yelling something incomprehensible and then he pulled up the rifle.”
He paused again. I got the bad feeling that this story was about to take an ugly turn. He began to speak again but this time slower.
“A shot rang out.
I looked down at my chest expecting to see a wound but there was nothing, as the crowd went silent I turned to see her falling, a bullet wound right through her eye. For a second I simply stood still watching her fall, I couldn’t bring myself to catch her, she was already dead. I turned to face the shooter, I slowly lurched forward and then in an instant I was right in front of him. He had a look of drunken, stupid pride on his face, undoubtedly he had shot her in the name of his church. It sickened me, it was not one man’s place to choose who lives and who dies. But I was no man…
I punched him so hard in the stomach that I could feel my fist snap his spine, then I threw another punch that connected with his face, his skull shattered as he was launched back into the crowd, trailing blood. I stood there for a second, the man’s friends were too drunk to understand what had just happened but I knew what I had done. I looked for a hole in the crowd but I couldn’t find one, I was completely boxed in. I couldn’t stay here, I had to get away. In a moment of desperation I simply ran through the wall of people. I cleared the path without much issue, people were suffering major injuries as I threw them aside but I didn’t care. What was done was done, I had just cemented my place in the public eye.
As I ran it occurred to me, I had done to myself what governments had been doing to their enemies since the dawn of civilization, I had dehumanized myself. They would find no hesitation in killing me now. I took the risk of stealing Lynn’s body from the morgue, I buried her myself, knowing that her tainted reputation would keep anyone else from doing it properly. I couldn’t go home again, silently I went to the house and took a few things, including a gold cross that had been passed down in Lynn’s family. I didn’t like being reminded of her, but I felt bad leaving it there. Ironic that the thing that reminded me of here would be a cross, after religion was what condemned her.
I spent that year moving between abandoned buildings, staying out of the views of the police. During that time my rage festered. Human society had deemed Lynn’s life worth less than that piece of trash who had murdered her, at least that was how I saw it. He killed her for no reason, I killed him for justice, but if there had been a trial I would undoubtedly have been given a death sentence, that is two lives for the cost of one worthless one. I finally realized my purpose. While I was human my life had no more value than pieces of human refuse like that, now I was more than that, I could choose who lived and who died. Soon after this I discovered that I was more suited to kill than I wanted to admit, in addition to my jaws and my physical strength and speed, I found that my metal skeleton could be re-formed at will, and by consuming extra metal I could force spikes of it through my skin. I was too efficient of a predator to cower in the darkness any longer.”
He paused briefly to showcase his ability. He held out his arm near the fire and I could see a metal spike emerge from beneath his skin. It reflected the light for a second before it pulled back, leaving only a small trickle of blood. He resumed his story, only now he was getting a little too enthusiastic. I was worried but I dared not move.
“Over the next few months I killed 12 people, they were all garbage, their lives were almost worthless. Together with the first man I judged their value approached that which had been taken from me.
The first five were gang members, they were harassing a woman, I couldn’t watch after what happened to Lynn. The first one didn’t know what hit him, I tackled him to the ground before stomping on his head. The second was too scared to move, I crushed his windpipe with my bare hand. The third and fourth pulled out guns. I broke the first one’s arm and shoved a blade all the way through his chest. The other one shot me twice before I backhanded him hard enough to break his neck. The last one tried to run but I ran him down and stabbed him in the back of the skull. I suspect this woman is the one who hired you, last I checked she was in mental institution. I’m glad to hear she’s out but I don’t think seeing me would be good for her.
The next two were scumbags hanging out near a public park. I sliced one of their arms off with a blade protruding from my forearm, and blood covered everything, the other one ran but I caught him and tore his throat out.
The next one was a guy stealing to feed his drug habit, I grabbed him by the leg and threw him against a tree so hard he never got up.
The next two were robbing a house, I waited outside, and when the first one came out I sliced his stomach open. The second one saw me from the upstairs window and tried to go out the back door, I let him get a head start then I ran him down. When I caught him he offered me the sack of stolen jewelry he was carrying, I swatted it out of his hand and drove a metal spike through the bottom of his jaw.
My personal favorite was the cashier at the drugstore, slipping cash from the register. He pulled a shotgun on me, I grabbed it by the barrel and pulled it from his hands. Then I hit him on the side of the head so hard I was sure it was going to come off.
But then came the last one, this was the one that changed everything. A wife cheating on her husband. I walked in the front door and up the stairs as quietly as possible. Then all at once I kicked the bedroom door off its hinges and went inside. I threw the man out the window, he landed on a fire hydrant at a skewed angle and didn’t move. I turned to the woman who was trying to get up and run. I lifted her up by her arm and bit her throat out.”
I was horrified, perhaps he wasn’t as stable as I had let myself believe. But he didn’t kill me when I first arrived, why should he kill me now. I scooted away slightly, wishing I still had my rifle just in case.
“That last one I regret, because I showed up on the news a few days later. Apparently the husband had set up a camera because he suspected his wife was cheating. It caught everything. What’s worse, he was interviewed and he was in tears over her death. She was a liar and an adulterer her life was nearly worthless, she deserved to die, didn’t she. This question haunted me, was my judgement of the value of her life wrong? But there was no time to think. The man she was cheating with was an important politician. The police could no longer allow me to be loose on the streets. Every police officer in the area was out to get me. I had two options. I could go out in a blaze of glory, probably taking hundreds or even thousands of lives with me, or I could run. I would be hunted, but maybe there was a chance I could start over. If I could just make it to a less populated area.
I had to make a run for it. A few police officers tried to apprehend me but it was no use. I killed the first one by simply goring him with my horns. As the second one pulled out his gun I leapt at him, placed the palm of my hand on his face and slammed him into the ground so hard the pavement cracked. I shouldn’t have killed them, their lives still had value, but not as much as mine. Further down the road I could see my way out, the street was a dead end and beyond it was a thick patch of woods. Even if they followed me there was no way they could catch me, I was too fast for them to pursue on foot.”
This felt like the end of his story, and yet he went on. I don’t think I could listen to him describe killing more people. As it was the blood on his face made me want to throw up.
“As I stepped into the forest the sun was just going down, the air in the forest was fresh and cool compared to the city’s scent of car exhaust. I walked for at least an hour before I felt I had gone far enough, then I sat down and prepared to sleep.
Unfortunately sleep eluded me, at first I thought it was guilt, or anxiety. But I felt the urge to wander, I felt unsafe, like they were still following me. I would be able to hear long before a search party approached, although I doubted they would send one tonight. But I certainly sensed a presence, watching me. I kept wandering around, then I saw it.
It was a human figure, wearing a black suit, his back was turned but his skin was pale white. He stood about a foot taller than me, which didn’t disturb me until I remembered I was already a foot taller than any human. I called out to him but there was no response, I looked away for a second and when I looked back he was standing right in front of me. At this range I realized he was not just a foot taller than me, he seemed to tower over me. He bent down, as he did so I realized that his face was just smooth flesh. Someone in your line of work has almost certainly heard of this creature before. I’ll bet you didn’t think he existed, well I didn’t either.”
I had no idea how to react to this turn in his story. Was it all lies? Had this all been a joke? Surely, he couldn’t simulate the kind of emotions he had showed when he told of Lynn’s death. I had to assume he was telling the truth. If only to assure myself that he would keep true to his decision to let me live.
“Was this my fate, to be killed by Slenderman after accomplishing so much, surely he could see that I was special. But I thought to myself Slenderman doesn’t just show up. How long has he been watching me? Was he watching me while I was still human or did I attract him with my use of magic? I backed away slowly but he didn’t seem to become further away, in fact he seemed to fill more of my vision with every step. He reached into his pocket and produced a tattered letter. He gave it to me… No, he was merely showing it to me. It read:
To whom it may concern
It has come to my attention that you are no longer human. Congratulations, on being the latest to transcend the limits of humanity. It is truly an accomplishment that few even dare to dream of and fewer still manage to achieve. I hope that I get the chance to meet you someday, however before that happens you must discover yourself. You have plenty of time to do what you will, find out what drives you, and pursue that, refine it, make a name for yourself, or don’t. I will warn you however that killing too many humans is a good way to get yourself killed as well. Someday you may feel that your course has been run, on that day come seek me out, and I will bring you into my domain as a brother.
The letter had no signature.
When I had read the letter, Slenderman disappeared, and I finally was able to lie down and sleep.”
He paused, leaned back and chuckled a little bit to himself.
“I have done a lot of thinking since that day. Initially I thought the Slenderman wrote the letter. But if that was true he would have given it to me. Clearly he was passing on a message he had received a long time ago. Perhaps he was once human, and strove for greatness, as I had. I won’t speculate about how long he has been on this earth, although it should be noted that the letter was written in modern english. I suspect that he is preparing to take up the letter’s invitation. Maybe not in the immediate future, but soon. He has become too widely known in recent years, as I am sure you are aware. Don’t mistake what I am saying as me setting myself up as as a successor to him. Not only does that not appeal to me, I don’t think that is how this works. I am sure that in his time on this earth he has probably showed that letter to a good number of people, or things that were once people. Each will find their place on this planet, some may become fixated on by the public and become urban legends, others may choose isolation and carry on outside the minds of humanity.
I personally think I found my place in the world after Lynn’s death, when I killed that first man. Since the last incident I have found a solution to my last problem. You see this eye? I made it from Lynn’s gold cross and a few key ingredients. With it there is no guesswork in my valuing of a life.”
I thought back to when he had first looked me over, feeling that eye pass over me. How he knew my name. Suddenly I felt slightly more comfortable, perhaps he wasn’t as unpredictable as I thought. As long as he had a method I could feel comfortable that he would not change his mind.
“Slowly I vanished from the minds of the public, a movie studio took credit for me as a publicity stunt. The video of me killing that man’s wife was dismissed as a hoax. Most people who still remembered I had actually existed assumed I was gone. Now I am truly outside humanity. Using the value of Lynn’s soul as a measure I can see fairly who deserves to live and who must be snuffed out. If I come for you, there is no bargaining, I can see your entire life past and future, and my judgement is absolute.”
That was where his tale ended. I lingered for a while until I felt safe leaving and then I went home. I will leave you with some advice he gave me. There are only a few ways to avoid him other than being lucky enough to be overlooked. First, live a life that contributes to society, then he will look you over and let you go. In today’s world that might be a taller order than you would expect, but it can’t hurt to try. Second, surround yourself in friends and family who care about you. Ordinarily he will simply find subtle ways of comforting your loved ones after you have passed. However if your death would cause too much grief among the innocent he will spare you, I suspect that was what saved me. He did warn me that sometimes he will attempt to weaken those bonds, so hope that your family are not easily swayed. Third, you can become like him. If you are ambitious enough to break loose of the chains of humanity he will not kill you. Just as Slenderman didn’t attempt to kill him.
This may sound odd but I wish him luck, perhaps someday he will decide to make a return, and maybe this time we will accept him. In the meantime my family and I have nothing to fear…