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Dan was a hunter. What that meant was he drove far away from any civilization and killed things, and then brought those things home and ate their remains. This may seem horrific, but every hunter on earth does this. The only difference is what they hunt.

Dan hunted squirrels, deer and other woodland animals, with one exception. On October 3rd, 2017, he was out hunting when he heard a groan coming from the darkness. He shot out into the forest, and a few minutes later discovered he had shot a man. Panicking, Dan buried the body and left the area. After a few weeks, the body was dug up by an amateur metal detector who sensed the lead ball bearings from Dan's shotgun. Police were notified, a manhunt was issued, and the forest was cordoned off.

After 3 years, the forest was once again open to the public. Dan was no longer a chipper, adventurous outdoors-man, now he was a troubled, empty shell of his former self. The incident had left him with deep psychological scars, and Dan had a feeling, a screaming, burning feeling, that what he shot that night, was not human. Of course, it looked human. It bled human blood, chunks of human meat sprayed out when it was shot, and shattered human ribs protruded from the bleeding chest. But Dan was sure that somehow, that thing was not a human. And now the forest wasn't being patrolled by police, he could go in, and find the truth.

Dan brought night vision goggles from his local army surplus store, bear-traps, and his trusty double-barrel shotgun. The incident had changed him physically as well as mentally, so he needed a new hunting permit. Despite being only 33, he had graying streaks in his hair, and his skin was a map of wrinkles and lines brought on by stress. Once he had a new picture taken for his ID, the automated gate swung open with an electronic whine, and Dan was let into the forest.

He spent a good 2 hours placing bear-traps and other traps he had designed himself, ranging from a simple rope snare to a log suspended in the trees, ready to swing down like a battering ram. Their legality was another matter, but Dan was too deep in to be fazed by such concepts as ethics. When it became dark, Dan perched himself in the trees, activated his night vision goggles, and waited. It didn't take long for the sounds to start. Groans and wails, like something out of a horror movie. Then Dan heard a metallic snap, and a scream. Clearly something was caught in one of his traps.

He ran through the undergrowth and soon found his victim. A naked man, with pale skin and dead, white eyes. Blood stained his hands and mouth. Both his legs were caught in the bear-trap, snapped and twisted in excruciating angles. The creature filled Dan with primitive fear, but also pride. He was right all along. These weren’t humans. He loaded a shell into his shotgun, forced the barrel down the thing’s throat, and fired. Entrails and thick blood blasted out of the back of the thing’s neck. When Dan removed his gun, he found it crusted with bone shards.

Usually he would have vomited at the sight. But he had a job to do. He had to prove his innocence and kill every last one of these things.

The next one was a more capable foe, lunging and clawing at Dan every chance it got. Maybe this was because it wasn't stuck in a trap, like his first kill of the night. Either way, Dan pushed it to the ground and pressed his gun against its temple. When he fired, human blood stained his trousers.

The next two were found together. Dan killed both of them quickly and cleanly.

After his tenth kill, the forest became a darker and more foreboding place. Without the constant shrieks of his prey, the only sounds were Dan’s crunching footfalls and his heavy breathing. This was until he stopped walking to get his bearings, but the footsteps didn’t stop. He turned around to see one of the things. This one was more bloodstained than the others, and carried a bent piece of metal in its hands.


White spots

Then everything went black

He woke up to see

He woke up

The walls were stained with human blood

Human blood

Dan regained his vision with a start, but it was still dark around the edges and the back of his head ached agonizingly. He put his hand to the back of his skull, and it came back wet with warm, sticky blood. Was it his blood? Most likely. That thing that had ambushed him was smarter than the others. Not only did it use a weapon, but it had stripped him of all his clothes and his gun. Dan looked down at himself, now a naked, bloodied epitome of the very thing he was hunting. Other people may have screamed, ran for help, or maybe impaled themselves on a tree branch, depending on their mental stability. Dan’s mental stability was gone from the start. He didn’t care about life or death, joy or grief. He just wanted to hunt, and kill, and hunt and kill and hunt and kill and hunt and kill and hunt and kill and hunt and kill and hunt and kill and hunt and kill and hunt and kill and hunt and kill and hunt and kill and hunt and kill and hunt and kill and hunt and kill and enjoy

The woman’s face was almost completely gone, yet she was still alive and screaming. The bits of her skull that were visible were slick with blood. Dan finished her pitiful life with a finger through the eye socket.

Wait this isn’t a

Not a monster

I’m not a

Shots were fired into the darkness. The unmistakable wail of a police siren echoed through the forest. Yells and radio chatter filled the air. Dan’s breathing was rugged, every breath felt like a steak knife had been driven into his lungs. His vision was blurry, stained red at the edges. How many lives had he taken? How many things had he killed? How many humans had he killed? He reached the edge of a lake. Next to it was a cabin. He forced open the door and ran inside. The bathroom door was open just a crack. Inside was a mirror. Dan looked at himself.

An unkempt, naked man with teeth bared in a predatory grimace. His hands were caked in bodily fluid. His skin was pale, with veins and arteries visible. And all over his body, in streaks and splashes, was the unmistakable miasma of human blood.

A bullet went through the window and caught Dan in the side.

He fell to the floor and

Dan was a hunter. That meant sometimes while on the hunt, he would suffer injuries. In almost all occasions he would be found and taken to hospital, where the injury would be dealt with accordingly. His eyes were shut, fearful of what new nightmare he would awake in. He heard a female voice.

“The patient’s name is Daniel J Hawkins. Is that in our database?”

There was another voice. A male voice, deep and ominous.

“Yes. From our brief time together I remember him being a deeply disturbed individual. We can not immediately blame him for the events of last night. In my medical opinion, I believe what he suffered last night was a psychotic episode.”

“That’s a very bold claim to make, Doctor. Do you have any reason to believe that?”

“I believe he has some trauma associated with Oakenheath National Reserve. During his therapy visits in 2018, he was very evasive of my questions about the place. I understand he has a passion for hunting.”

A third voice. Male again, gruff and filled with hatred.

“Enough with the medical bullshit. He murdered seventeen people last night. How would he not be in control of his actions? He’s a sick fuck, and we should-

Dan felt his body tense up.

“Officer, I am a medical professional. You are not. We must be at least a little sympathetic to him, while in his ‘episode’, one of his victims hit him over the head with a length of rebar, no doubt loosening his grip on sanity. Something happened to him at Oakenheath National Reserve, and when he went there last night, it must have reawakened some long-buried traumatic memory.”

Memories started flooding back. The fateful October night when a man lay dead on the forest floor, the nights that followed, a downward spiral of paranoia and whiskey, and the ever-looming fear that he had really taken another man’s life. And then the night where Dan, blinded by fear and anxiety and bloodlust and the all-consuming want to find out why, had murdered seventeen people. He had to come to terms with it. He knew, deep down inside, that on that night in October, it wasn’t any zombie or demon he had shot. It was just another man. And the same went for the others.

The only real monster was Dan himself.

He opened his eyes.