My alarm jolts me awake. As I move from under the safety of my blankets a rush of cold moves swiftly through my body. I part my curtains, its completely dark and pouring rain; the perfect opportunity for me. I grab my bag and place in it my best hunting bow and a sheath of arrows as well as my hunting knife. I stop when I pick it up, the handle is made completely of gold and silver with an incredibly detailed engraving of a deer running through the woods, the steel shines like new, but the blade is over 50 years old.
It was my grandfathers; he died and left it to my father, who then passed it down to me not long before he died. I was only 6 when he died. Hunting runs in our family and it’s our main source of food since the food rations were put in place. It’s highly illegal to hunt, those who are caught wind up in prison for 6-12 months.
Times have changed dramatically since the World Conference 10 years ago. It was decided that the world was so overpopulated that we would not have enough food to feed everyone if the birth rate continued to climb so they introduced government selection policies. There are always ads on the T.V about how the human race was its own worst enemy for continuing to have so many children, how the government will save us by rationing food and selecting couples who can have children.
For everyone else, to have a child the government does not request is illegal and if they are caught the child is taken away. No one is really sure where they go or even what happens to them. You can’t assume that that they are killed, because when the population level drops due to diseases or natural disaster, some return. But on the other hand so many have gone it’s impossible to think they are all still alive. Personally I would rather not think about it. I hate the idea that some faceless man tapped my parents on the shoulder and asked that they give birth to me, that I am a product of the government I hate.
The rain makes an excellent cover for me; the water washes away the footprints left by my heavy boots, also my father’s. On a good day I would hope to catch a deer, maybe even a wild pig. But I know I won’t have much time not now that the police patrol the woods from sunrise to sunset with a break at 1pm, that’s when I usually make my way home. I can use a bow and arrow but I prefer not to, my specialty is knife throwing. I throw a knife and hit my target almost every time. You learn to be almost silent, any human noise could easily grab the attention of the police guards, and my family can’t afford to live what little food the government will provide.
There isn’t much of a family around these days; my father died in a global conflict that started when the announcement was made that there was a shortage of food. Countries actually went to war over food. After my father died, I had to become the man of the house and take care of my mother, who was pregnant at the time with their second government ordered baby, and my two older sisters Jacqueline and Emily who were born before the government selection policies were introduced. None of my family knew anything about hunting but me and my dad.
There were complications with the birth of my little brother Alex, which resulted in the mother’s death. Jacqueline was the eldest of the four of us, so she took over the role of ‘mother of the household’, though you could easily see she hated it.
She never got to live a proper life; she was just 21 when mum died. Emily was 16 and I was 6, of course Alex suffered greatly, being an orphaned infant. Jacqueline looks so tired these days, she never married or got asked to have children for the government. Her whole life was working in the family cattle yard and taking care of the domestic duties at home.
Rustling through the trees snatches my attention. A small sized rabbit, would barely feed one person, but it’s better than nothing. Slowly and ever so quietly I move towards my target. The rabbit just sits there, ears back, contently taking a break from the day, completely unaware of the danger it is in. I suddenly leap towards it; I don’t need the knife for this one I think to myself. I quickly grab hold of it and snap its neck all in one motion. And there is my first kill of the day.
I check my watch and I am incredibly surprised to see it is 12.30pm. All that time and all I can bring back is one measly rabbit. Jacqueline will have her work cut out for her to turn this one rabbit into enough to share with the family. But she has done this before, these days you learn to make the best of what little you even have left.