THE HUNTER
Copyright 1995, S Hartwell
(9 November 1995 - a strange storylike dream of a shape-changing individual pursued by a tireless hunter; this is very much "as it happened" and no effort to make it into a story. The dream was absolute paranoia and terrifying, especially the way it ended.)

I knew he had been following me. At one point I had even taken the shape of a bird and flown to the Far Isles, but within days the man with dark curled hair and the look of a raptor in his face had appeared again. I sensed that he was a predator and I the prey, but I could not work out why I was being hunted and stalked or what he wanted. For now he hung back, ready to make his move when I had finally exhausted all of my options. Tired, I took bird-shape again and flew back to the mainland.

"I don't understand it," I said to a friend, "He's been following at a distance for ages now, but he never seems ready to make his move. I can't tell what he wants so I don't know what to do about it. All I can do is keep running away!"

"If I was you, I'd keep running," my friend said. "Word is that he's a genetically engineered marksman and he's just waiting for a suitable chance to finish you off."

"Finish me? He could have done that dozens of times. No matter what I do he always catches up with me."

"He wants you alone - no-one to see him shoot you. And he savours your fear. A marksman enjoys the thrill of the stalk with the prey never knowing when he will choose to end it."

"But why? What have I ever done that someone wants to set a stalker onto me?"

"I don't know. But it's all he can be. He's designed to never give up the hunt. He'll enjoy the challenge of the chase until you're exhausted. You can't escape from a marksman. He probably knows your planned movements as well, he might be waiting for you when you go to the stables on Sunday night."

Oh God, the stables! It was a regular Sunday night job and I would be alone. Why did someone want me dead? Was it because I was a metamorph - there were now dozens of metamorphs around so why me? This stalker would never quit, whatever I did he would get me. Sunday night he would be waiting. Maybe if I asked for someone else to do the night watch ...

"You could get someone else to do your shift," my friend said, "but that would mean going over to arrange it with Sue and he could be lying in wait in case you do just that."

Destiny - I couldn't escape it. Would he do it before or after I had done my shift? Would it be quick or would I end up begging, grovelling before the genetically engineered assassin shot me? I felt queasy with fear and an excess of adrenalin. I wanted to be brave, but I was being methodically hunted by someone whose sole purpose in life was to extinguish me.

That afternoon I went over to see Sue; I had to risk it. Maybe I could hang on for a few more days. A life spent running is little more than an existence, but the urge to survive a little longer was strong. Sue invited me inside for a cup of tea. I accepted. I need something to keep me sane.

"I'd like you to meet a friend of mine. This is Marc." she said.

A man with dark curly hair and a predator's face walked out of the kitchen into the room.

"Hello," he said, smiling and levelling a handgun at my chest as I tried to back away.

No time for begging or pleading, no grovelling, no time even for dignified bravery, only silent, helpless terror. For all the chase was long and hopeless, the execution would at least be quick.

DRAGONQUEEN'S LAIR

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