The Family Celebration

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This chapter was written by the wonderful ShaunAllan

Marcus didn't hear the cheers from his father and brothers. He barely felt the slaps on his shoulders and punches to his arm. He was staring at the woman.

His first.

She would have been pretty. His 16 year old hormones could still register that fact, while his gut was disgusted at the thought. She would have been, if not for the dead eyes that looked back at him, hate and accusation fixed in the gaze at the moment of death. At the moment his bullet entered the centre of her skull, half an inch above her brow, her beauty disintegrated with the sickly satisfying crunch of bone. It was a shot he could be proud of. A shot none of his brothers and not even his father in his prime could have repeated.

Marcus had always been intrigued by bullet wounds. He thought they looked like rabbit holes, ones that, if he dared to venture in, would take him to lands of wonder. Lands of escape. Lands where the Hunt would never even have been conceived. One of the reasons he was so good with a gun was that he hoped, if he created enough holes, one might open large enough for him to fall in and be taken away.

The dead woman, Helen – she looked like a Helen – wasn't the one he wanted. He hoped that hers would be the one. Cans, bottle, deer and rabbits were never enough but a person should have been. She wasn't. The hole in her head led only to the cavity where blood and brain had parted ways almost biblically for the bullet to pass.

He should have felt something more than he did. Not jubilation. That was reserved for his family and most of the others who took part in the Hunt. Their celebrating was exuberant enough for them to not notice he wasn't taking part. So no, not that. His emotions were more subdued as if taking her life had killed a part of him. He couldn't bring himself to feel proud and didn't quite feel sad. Guilt and anger vied with each other for a similar absence of each.

He felt as dead as she was, except he had to carry on living.

That was it! Jealousy. He was jealous of the fact that Helen, or whatever she was really called, had got away. She no longer had to worry about lack of food or medical supplies. She'd taken part. Her family would receive a substantial amount of money for her losing the game by being shot. It would never be enough, but it would be enough, in a way. The world was becoming accustomed to the depravity of the Hunt. It gave a lesson that could be carried on into other aspects of one's life, making the world a more ruthless place. So, those who didn't make it became celebrities, post mortem. Memes were made from their faces, freeze framed in the seconds before the bullet or arrow or axe connected. Or, in more bloodthirsty circles, as it happened.

Certain of the contestants became household names, though they would never know.

Glorified, sensationalised murder was still murder. Death was death, however you wrapped it up or whatever product placements were used in the killing.

Buy your machetes from Axeholme's! 10% off if you say you saw it on the Hunt!

It was sickening. It was, now, life.

Marcus's family lapped it all up. Each of them. They had to, it was true, because their family name was one that resonated in Hunt Lore. They had the highest number of kills. The most straight, one shot drops. The fewest escapees, even though the majority were found again and finished. But, they enjoyed it.

And it meant their mother kept each of the men in her household alive, and they could afford the medication she so badly needed. The innumerable times she was away getting treatment.

Which was why Marcus took the shot. For her. For the glory of the Addington family name. To make sure his mother wore the mantel of success. To make sure she had her pills and her doctors.

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