Tasmanian Tiger

Finalist in the 'Top Secret 2016' competition

The hunter reloads his gun. He shot one round in attempt to kill something for a meal, but no success. Rolling up his sleeping bag and stamping his fire out, he continues on his search. His feet are light and soundless on the leaf-littered ground. A sound. He freezes, pressing his back against a tree. Pointing his rifle in the direction of the noise, he waits. Something pokes its head out from behind a jagged rock. A Tasmanian Devil. The hunter drops the rifle’s head down, letting it dangle at his side. This animal is not what he came for.
Trudging through the desolate forest, he stops once more for a quaff of water from his bottle. He did not time this search well. He should have come in autumn, rather than in summer. He is hot, but cannot take off his coat and risk being smelled by the creature.
He rummages through his backpack and pulls out a photo. The creature’s image is ingrained in his mind, but he cannot hazard forgetting its identity and shooting the wrong animal. The picture is black and white, showing a strange animal. It seems to be a cross between and tiger and a wolf. Its stature seems so – it’s sunk down to its haunches, its ears pointed and shadowed, while its face has a long nose and deep-set eyes. It has horizontal stripes down the small of its back, and a tame tail.
The hunter, his eyes red from lack of sleep, sees all of this and more. He sees money, and lots of it. This rare, rare animal, thought by most to be extinct, but the hunter knows it as otherwise. Placing the picture back into his pack, the hunter slings the bag back onto his back and stands up. He moves swifter now, but doesn’t lose any of his careful footing and silent tread. He comes to the end of the forest. He goes on, regardless of the beauty of his new terrain. Grassy plains with jagged rocks providing perfect shelter for any animal, while being a sufficient shelter for himself.
He crouches when he reaches the first rock. There is water trickling down the side of the boulder, making the ground damp and muddy. He runs his hand along the ground until he feels an indent. Lifting his hand slightly, it reveals a paw print. The hunter now knows the animal is close.
He looks up. He smells something. Turning around, lifting his gun, the breath goes out of him. The most stunning animal he has ever seen is standing no more than twenty metres away from him. Even though he has seen this animal many times before in the photo, it seems different in person. It looks at him, curious, unafraid. The hunter looks back in awe. His eyes narrow. If he does not do this, someone else will, and he can’t have that.
He pulls the trigger and the Tasmanian Tiger falls to the ground, the life-light leaving its eyes.

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