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The Hunt Begins

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Alan was just grabbing something fruit-ish to eat when the first shot went off. He dropped to the ground, stuffing the fruit in the pockets of the pants that barely fit him. When the shots didn't continue, he sat up and looked around. A second shot went off, and he ducked again.

I'm being hunted, he thought. Then: there's a person here! And finally: there's a person hunting me!

Deciding that safety was more important than having a conversation for the first time in a year, he started to run. Shots followed him, the crack of gunpowder going off followed by a quiet thunk of a bullet hitting dirt.

It would have been one thing if this was a single, short attempt on his life, but as Alan came to learn this hunter was relentless. He chased without tiring, his aim always just short of hitting his target. The excitement adrenaline brought on at first quickly wore down into exhaustion and fear.

Panting, aching, and terrified, Alan stumbled and fell to the ground. He tried to sit up, but was too tired to get up in time. He was still on his knees when the hunter reached him.

"Who - who are you?" Alan asked.

"The man who will kill you," the hunter said, raising his very large gun. Alan crossed his eyes to stare at the muzzle, wordless in the face of his death. "Tell me boy," the hunter said, "are you afraid?"

Alan nodded furiously, eyes shut tight. "Very."

Frowning, the hunter fired. Alan winced, then realized that the lack of pain meant he was alive. He opened his eyes to see a bullet in the ground between his knees. Shocked into movement, he stumbled onto his feet and backed away from the bullet. He looked up at the hunter, confused.

The hunter looked... he looked disappointed. "You're too green, boy," he said. "There's no challenge in you yet. I'll wait for some improvement. Go! And try to remember what Franklin Delano Roosevelt said about fear."

Alan didn't move.

The hunter fired his gun at Alan's feet again. "Go!" Alan jumped, and started to run. The hunter watched him go, laughing quietly under his breath. "Roosevelt was wrong, though. There is more to fear than fear itself - me."