Spirit of Orion
by Terry Hamel
Parsee tried to walk like a ghost through the thick brush, but it was hard carrying a rifle and wearing work boots and harder still because it was dark out. He could make the outline of his father ahead and that was because he must’ve cracked or broken every dry twig or brush in an effort to maintain pace with his father. He was hot, he was thirsty and he had had enough. “Dad this is crazy! I’m done! I give...”
As fast as a striking snake his father’s hand slapped his face. “Shut up, Parsee. Shut up! You’re a Williams and it’s in our blood, your blood, to hunt. I’m going to turn you into a man tonight no matter what it costs, ya hear?”
Parsee’s face was on fire and his eyes filled with tears. “Y-yes sir.” He bent down and picked up the rifle and waited for his father.
“That’s my boy.” Parsee’s father mussed up his hair and smiled. “Even though they’re not in season. we’re hunting moose. I brought big Bertha here to shine in their eyes,” Parsee’s father held up the large flashlight and then pretended to turn it on. “The light is so bright that it freezes them for a second or two and then we shoot ’em. A man should be able to hunt any time he wants, right?”
Parsee’s father smiled and it was a smile that always made him shiver. A predatory smile, but he didn’t want to be hit again. He nodded and smiled. “Real men don’t follow rules...”
“They make their own.” His father finished the sentence and turned back to the brush and continued on ahead.
Parsee wanted to drop the rifle and he wanted to go home, because he wasn’t an outdoorsman, not a hunter. But his father had other ideas, and anytime Parsee tried to say no, his father made sure his point was understood.
A loud, crashing sound focused Parsee’s attention to the front. A large antlered shadow was thrashing through the brush and then a bright flash lit up its wild eyes. The enraged animal’s eyes seemed to glow and at that very moment, with a thousand-pound animal running towards him, Parsee wanted to run but he couldn’t. Fear froze him.
“Parsee! Parsee! Shoot him!” shouted his father.
Parsee robotically responded to his father and raised the rifle and tried to get a good bead on the animal. But the shadows became confusing and the flashes of light destroyed any night vision he might have had. He cocked the rifle. “Dad! Dad! I can’t see anything. Everything looks the same!”
“Shoot! You damn idiot before...”
Then the most sickening sound that Parsee had ever heard drained any courage that he had left and all he wanted to do was run. He could hear the screams of his father and the grunting of the beast and his bowels let go. The light fell from his father’s hand and lit up the moose. Its eyes glowed red as it lowered its head to charge.
Parsee took aim, closed his eyes shut and fired. The crack of the rifle sounded like thunder and the recoil punched him backwards. The bullet struck and the moose roared. The moose fell forward hard and its massive antlers dug up the forest floor as it slid towards him. Parsee screamed and screamed. As far as he knew he was dead. He closed his eyes again for what he thought would be the last.
The forest grew deathly quiet and Parsee opened his eyes. The moose was dead, steam rising off its body. Its dead eyes were level with his face. He pushed backwards to get away from them. He stood up and ran towards his Dad. “Dad! Daaaaaad!”
Parsee found his father amidst the brush. His body was bent in unnatural angles and bones protruded through his clothes. He didn’t look like a giant of a man. “Dad! Dad! I’m sorry...I’m sorry... I’m.” Parsee was shocked to see that his father was still alive and started hoping that somehow he wouldn’t die.
“P-p... Pars... Parsee, it’s okay,” replied his father, blood spewed out with every word and his father coughed every time. “Parsee... Pars....” His father motioned for Parsee to come closer.
Parsee knelt as close as he could and his father smiled showing blood-soaked teeth. “Lay down a... and look up at the sky.”
Parsee lay down beside his Dad and looked up at the night sky, tears streaming down his face. His father touched his shoulder and slowly raised a hand, pointing a shaking finger at a cluster of stars. “You... you... see that, boy?”
Parsee couldn’t see anything. “Y-yeah”
“Th-that’s Orion the Hunter... Isn’t it b-beautiful?”
Parsee must’ve lain for hours beside his dead father staring at the night sky. At least it’s what the rangers told him and later, after the investigation was complete, they gave his family the moose’s head to keep even though it was illegal, because it wasn’t every day a thirteen-year old boy faces down a bull moose and lives to tell the tale.
Parsee didn’t want anything to do with the moose, but his mother thought it would be therapeutic for him and serve as reminder for the day his father died. Parsee went to his room and screamed.
* * *
“I tried, dammit! I tried!” shouted Parsee jumping off the bed and shocking Annie awake. Parsee rubbed the tears away and covered his face with his hands. “It was so damn dark and I... I couldn’t tell the difference... Jesus, I couldn’t tell the difference..., I-I failed him.”
Annie saw that Parsee was bathed in sweat and his breathing was quickened as if he was frightened, and then she remembered why. “Parsee, it wasn’t your fault. You were a boy, barely able to hold the rifle...”
“I know, I know,” replied Parsee as he paced the room, “but my Mom...”
“She was sick herself, you know.” Annie rubbed her temples. “Have you been taking your medication?”
Parsee spun on his heels and glared at her. “Those damn things make me feel like I’m... I’m a zombie! Everything is... fuzzy and I... I don’t feel anymore.” Parsee felt agitated and scratched at his arms because it felt like a thousand bugs crawling on them.
Annie sighed deeply and exhaled, hoping to chase away the anger bubbling inside. “Parsee, today is the day your Dad died. Every year you stop taking your pills just before, and something crazy...”
“I’m not crazy! I’m not!” snapped Parsee. “It’s just that I think... I think I’m okay without them...”
“Okay? How about last year when you walked around naked in Mrs. Harvey’s yard, “hunting”?”
“Annie... I can’t even make love to you sometimes...”
Annie glared at Parsee. “Or how about when you ran up the street two years ago shouting about moose with lights hunting you?”
“We had to move each and every time.” Annie kicked off the blankets angrily and clutched her knees to her chest. “Where is the medication this time?”
Parsee rubbed his head because he suddenly felt as if someone had stabbed him with an ice pick. “Same place as always.” His headed started pounding more and he wondered if it was because he had just lied to Annie.
Annie saw him wince. “You okay?”
“I just got a wicked headache is all,” replied Parsee as he rubbed and squeezed his temples. “The headaches happen every time I dream of that night. Usually a hot shower takes care of it.”
“I’ll head downstairs and get your pills and something for your headache, okay?”
Parsee could see that his wife was worried and he tried to smile.
Annie smiled back. “Parsee...”
“Don’t do anything...”
Parsee clenched and unclenched his jaw as he spoke. “Crazy? Annie, we’re in the middle of nowhere. What’s the worst that could happen? I shoot a tree? Gimping’s cows? Crazy...” Parsee shooed his wife away dismissively and headed for the shower. “I’m feeling crazy right now and it’s got nothing to do with my Dad!” He could hear her talking but he chose not to respond.
Parsee knew he had just made his wife angry again, but he didn’t care, because he believed that he was better and he was tired of being lectured about his “illness.” Parsee turned on the shower and stepped into the welcoming warmth of the water. It felt as if all his problems were melting away. It felt so good that he closed his eyes to enjoy it.
* * *
Parsee stared up at the night sky with the eyes of a predator hunting and watching, his eyes wild with anticipation and his naked body bathed in sweat. He moved silently over the dew-covered grass and his hands had a white-knuckled hold on his Savage 110 rifle. “I can see ya! I know you’re there, you bastards. Come on out!”
Thunder echoed from his rifle and a smile, the kind of smile that would make any person’s skin crawl, turned his half-crazed face to that of an insane killer. “I knew I could get you! Ha-hahaha.”
Parsee mumbled at least a dozen words as he danced about and then a snap of branch drew his attention. He levelled his rifle at the target. “You thought you could sneak up on me, huh, thought you’d catch me unawares... Well!”
“Parsee Ryce Williams! What in the hell are you doing out here naked?” shouted an angry female moose.
“I’m Parsee friggin Williams and it’s in my blood to hunt and you, my little cow, will be dead!” Parsee aimed, squeezed the trigger and then sudden realization struck him. “Oh my God, Annie!” He moved his rifle hard to the right. The report from the rifle sent a chill through his spine and tears streamed down his cheeks. “Oh my God, oh my God...”
Annie lay motionless on the wet grass. Parsee ran over to see his wife praying that somehow she had just fainted. “Annie, Annie! Please God! Please God! Oh hell...” He knelt down beside her and gently rolled her over.
The bullet had punched clean through her shoulder. He didn’t have anything to stop the bleeding. He ripped off the hem of her thick nightgown and pressed it against the wound and then scooped her up gently to carry her home.
He kicked open the door and placed Annie gently on the couch by the fire. Drenched in sweat and blood he picked up the phone and dialed 911.
“911 emergency, what is the nature of your emergency?”
The voice on the other end was cold and empty. Which is how Parsee felt. “I shot... I shot... my wife...”
“Is she still breathing?”
“I think so; the bullet went clean through her shoulder...”
“Check to see if she is still breathing, sir, then come back and tell me. A unit is on its way.”
Parsee stumbled over to his wife and checked. She was breathing slowly and her face was pale. She looked bad and her blood was pooling around the couch. He walked back to the phone. “She’s still bleeding bad, but she’s breathing... She... she’s still alive, thank God.”
Parsee wailed and dropped the phone. He could hear the 911 operator talking, but it was more of an annoyance so he walked towards the fire. He looked up at his prize trophy moose. The beast had a fifty-inch spread and by far was the toughest to kill. Below the head was the rifle he used to bring it down.
Parsee retired his weapons with every trophy kill, figuring that they played their required part in the grand scheme of things. Parsee reached up for the rifle, walked over to the open rifle locker and fetched the 30-06 180-grain bullets. He worked the action of the rifle to make sure it still worked, but he knew better, because though he retired it, he had kept cleaning it. He loaded the rifle and walked outside.
Parsee suddenly felt like there were a thousand eyes on him. He felt the hairs on his arms rise up and his flesh crawled as if there were a thousand ants on him. His eyes darted about and with the call of an owl, he ran towards a thin copse of trees.
The ambulance and police cars arrived with lights flashing and sirens wailing. They stopped facing the front door of Parsee’s house and ensured that their headlights lit it up. “Mr. Williams! Place any and all weapons down and come out with your hands up!”
In the copse of trees Parsee heard the wails and thought perhaps a moose calf was calling for its mama. He heard several branches break behind him and levelled his rifle in that direction. A sudden feeling of foreboding came over him and he began to wonder if the moose were trying to draw him out, trying to kill him. “You won’t get me you sons of bitches! I’m Parsee Williams! My Daddy was a hunter and his Daddy’s Daddy was hunter. You’ll never catch a Williams unawares! Never!”
Parsee stepped out from the trees and headed towards the police. He aimed his rifle at the herd of moose, but the dazzling lights hurt his eyes. A terrifying thought came to him: moose don’t herd. These must be the spirit moose hunting him, dazzling him with their lights of revenge. “I’m gonna bring every one of you dirtbags down!”
“Hey, Williams is behind us! He’s going to shoot!” shouted a deputy.
Parsee watched the moose scamper for cover on the other side of their cars and then, to his shock, one of the beasts spoke. “Mr. Williams, drop your weapon or we’ll be forced to shoot!”
Parsee smiled, raised his rifle and took aim at the loudmouthed moose. “You’re dead, you son of a—”
Parsee squeezed off a round and fell hard as he was struck by a dozen or so stinging shots. “This can’t be happening, damn spirit moose... Sorry, Daddy, I failed again...”
Parsee was fading fast, the stars looked beautiful and then he remembered. “Annie! Annie!” but his shouts were gurgles, sputters.
“Mr. Williams, Mr. Williams! Can you hear me? Squeeze my hand!” shouted the paramedic. “Open your eyes! Parsee, your wife is okay. Do you hear, she’s okay...”
Parsee opened his eyes. “Th-thank you. Tell her... tell her... I’m sorry...”
“Parsee! Parsee, stay with me...”
Parsee opened his eyes, but he wasn’t looking at the medic. He raised his hand and pointed. “Do you see it?”
“Orion the Hunter. Isn’t it beautiful?”
Copyright © 2013 by Terry Hamel