Tracks in the mud

by Pat J
originally published at 03:36PM on Saturday, September 15, 2007

I buried Dan in the mud at the edge of the baobab’s root system. There wasn’t a mark on his body, but his abdomen looked all wrong, somehow. The thing we were chasing, that I was chasing, had some kind of odd weapon that mangled your insides, turned them to pudding.

I consolidated our packs. A red haze sat at the edges of my vision, threatening to close in, to mask everything I saw in a scrim of blood. I blinked angry tears from my eyes. It rained, stopped, rained again.

Our rifles were matched, a pair of Army-surplus .306s from maybe WWII . I broke his down and fit the parts into my pack, in case I needed to repair mine. His ammo went into my shell belt.

It stopped raining, for real, and the sun came out, filtered through high leaves, a shifting green light. The smell in the air was fantastic.

The critter – Dan had called it a murft, and I almost cried to think of his voice, how I’d never hear it again – had left splay-toed footprints in the muck. I slung my rifle over my shoulder and followed.