Momento Mori

Nathan couldn't sleep, which wasn't a problem since he was supposed to be awake anyways. Five in the morning and he was groggily pulling on long john thermal pants and shirt, followed by camouflage pants, jacket, hat and finally a neon orange vest. His cousin and uncle were taking him on his first hunting trip, along with his Dad and a family friend. His grandparent's owned a small parcel of land near their home next to a Mead paper company nursery which they gave permission for the previous owners to hunt in order to keep the deer population down. Nathan and his Dad spent the night at his grandparent's house and packed into Nathan's uncle's Ford F-150 at four in the morning. According to his Uncle, they needed to get in place early before the deer woke up and would notice their presence. After bouncing around a dirt road for twenty minutes, Nathan's younger cousin Max said Nathan and his father could use the old tree stand because he hadn't had much luck there recently. The truck bounced to a stop and Max pointed out where they could find the stand and took off after they had retrieved their gear from the truck bed. The road was set on the ridge of a hill that ran up to the nursery. Two smaller hills ran perpendicular to the road creating a series of valleys and a dried up creek ran across the end of those valleys. The tree stand was about thirty yards from the creek halfway between the two hills. The tree stand itself was nothing special; a metal ladder topped with a steel platform and padded rails circling the platform. Nathan had spent hours in the week previous mentally preparing for this hunt, as well as a generous amount of time at their makeshift range behind the house with his break action twenty gauge Remington.

In the words of his father, "A true hunter only needs one shot to take down even a full size deer." Nathan had taken that to heart and practiced with his shotgun until he could bull's-eye a paper plate at thirty yards. At the range, he pictured himself as Chris Kyle popping terrorists with an M21 rifle, who died a bloodless theatric spin just like in the movies. Nathan could play a round of Modern Warfare 4 multiplayer death match without dying once, killing one overgrown pest would be as easy as blowing apart paper plates. Nathan's Dad climbed into the tree stand, and lowered a rope so Nathan could tie the guns up and begin his own ascent. Shortly the two were safely nestled in the tree stand well over ten yards above the ground and well out of site. To most animals they appeared to be a growth from the tree, a mass of branches and dead leaves. Nathan popped a slug into his shotgun and set the barrel on top of the safety rail. His father loaded three rifled slugs into his twelve gauge pump action before setting his gun down. Getting settled hadn't taken more than half an hour, and according to his father began the real fun. Waiting. It was cold so early in the morning that frost began forming on the steel of the shotgun barrels. Every sound set Nathan on guard, thinking maybe that noise was the noise, the cracking of a branch or leaves that would herald the coming of their prey. An hour passed. Nathan gradually quit jumping at every noise, instead sitting against the padded tree stand and cast his gaze across the vista. The sun was just peeking over the hills, but the valley was still dark. The trees had mostly died by this time of the year, only the hardiest specimens still bore leaves. Another hour passed. The sun was well over the lip of the hill now, the creek and beyond was cast in a ruddy amber glow and Nathan's dad had dozed off from boredom and inaction. Then Nathan saw the tree line move.

"Which bar do you want to go to for your birthday Nathan?" The fat driver asked; dangerously look him in the eyes as they were sprinting down the highway at ninety miles per hour. Nathan's knuckles turned white from the pressure as his grip tightened on the door of the Civic.

"I don't even care man, the beer's the same. Ambience is all that matters, will there be good music? Eyes on the road!" The fat man's eyes dart back to the road just in time to swerve back into our lane. He laughed maniacally and turned the radio down. "Man, you can't not care! It's your 22nd birthday! It's your golden birthday; you can't just sit around at home. You should go to Brick Street." He excitedly looked back over at Nathan and lit a cigarette.

"I don't know David. You know I hate paying cover. And waiting to get a drink because the bar tenders are too lazy to keep track of their customers. Eyes on the road." Nathaniel groaned. It was true. Brick Street had been on his shit list ever since he had not been admitted on his 21st birthday for not having the cover charge, and when he had not been able to get a drink for a half hour because the bartender was serving her sorority sisters and their dates first. He didn't tip her, but it was a self-perpetuating cycle. The bar tender went back to serving her sorority because no one else tipped her, when her friends were served no one else was willing to tip her. It was the only bar it had happened at before, so it had earned his spite and lost his business.

"Oh come on Nate, are you still mad about that time they wouldn't let you in? Get over –"His sentence was cut off by three-hundred and sixty million Newtons of DHL Express clipping the front left corner of the Civic, pushing and throwing it off the road in a tangled metal trap.

He lazily looked towards the disturbance of the peace in the valley, and tensed in his seat. The source of the motion was a deer. Not just one, he nervously realized, but a whole herd; at least six, but no bucks as far as he could tell. He carefully slipped his hands under his shotgun and cocked the hammer. He nudged his father awake and pointed the herd out. His father quietly pushed the pump forward, producing an Earth-shattering crack. The herd stopped moving with Nathan's heart. He knew his Father was waiting for him to take the first shot, to take his first kill. The previously silent reverie of the valley was destroyed by pounding of drums audible only to Nathan. He could feel the blood in his veins throbbing in his hands. He took aim just like he had practiced, using the rail to provide a steady support for his aim. He took a deep breath, then another. The herd was crossing the creek bed; the first two had already hopped over it. He settled the bead iron sight on one of the herd and squeezed the trigger.

A gout of fire erupted from the muzzle of his shotgun, prompting him to attempt fingering the breach trigger to insert another round, but caught the tip of his glove in the action, costing him too many seconds. His father had immediately let loose after Nathan's first shot, quickly emptying his gun on the herd. Nathan saw a deer attempt the creek crossing before collapsing into the creek bed out of sight. Nathan's vision focused in on the creek bed. Quickly unloading his gun and clambering down the ladder, he raced over to the creek bed. The deer lying in the creek bed immediately noticed him and tried to jump out of the creek bed, only for its front legs to collapse. The deer in its frightened state had bit through its tongue which hung from the side of its mouth as it lay in the creek panting in shock. Without thinking Nathan popped the breach closed on his gun, cocked the hammer and shot the deer in the head. The deer wheezed and pushed off the creek bed before flopping down again. Nathan shot the thing in the neck. Then in the body. Then again. Then he was out of slugs and his father was taking the gun from him and pointing towards the bright spots of blood leading up the hill. Nathan numbly followed the nearly undetectable trail of blood up the hill fifty yards. Then he found his deer lying quietly behind a briar bush on a thrush of soft green grass, dead.

Nathan snapped awake. He was dangling upside down from the bottom of the wreckage, held in place by the seatbelt. The pungent odor of gasoline filled his nostrils with dread. He had seen enough footage of the interior of a car cab burning to inject emergency shots of adrenaline into his system. Nathan felt around his waist to unlock the seat belt when a searing bolt of pain shot through his arm. He looked down and wished he hadn't. His hand was a torn mess of splintered bone and torn flesh. He would have vomited if he could, but the adrenaline and shock kept the pain down. He found the lock with his left hand and dropped to the roof of the car, which was smashed against the ground. As far as Nathan could tell it seemed like the car had been pushed off the highway down a hill, and was now upside down and parallel to the highway. The doors were trapped; the only exits were the sunroof and the windshield. The sunroof had two inches of clearance between the ground and the shattered glass. Nathan grimaced as he realized he would have to go through the windshield. He laid himself on the roof of the car and braced his good hand against the top of his seat, and kicked the windshield with the heel of his boot. The contact made a "thunk" noise and hurt his foot, and also woke up David. Nathan kicked again as David started screaming, this time producing a hairline crack and a spark of determination. Blood was pouring down David's chest. Nathan kicked again and turned the crack into a spider web of cracks. David's leg was missing, and part of his pelvis and a good chunk of the front left of the car. A final kick and Nathan's heel went through the windshield. He kicked out a bigger hole in the windshield, and crawled through it. David was crying now. Nathan crawled through the hole in the windshield at a painstakingly too slow pace. Nathan shakenly stood up and surveyed the car. David's whimpering had ceased, he was either dead or unconscious. Nathan looked the ruin of his hand and paled. He had lost a lot of blood…he needed to get treatment yesterday. Nathan started walking up the hill.