Recyclable

“Well, who’s laughing now?” I say to myself. I don’t say it to them, because they can’t understand words. At least, I don’t think they can.

“Hey. Hey you. Yeah, you there. You’re ugly.”

No response. None that I can tell, anyway. “Yeah, that’s what I thought,” I say as I remove the shaft from the one’s head. I have to put my foot on its neck and pull quite hard. I turn my head away — even though I’ve got a face mask on and a pair of ski goggles. You can never be too sure. They like to spray and splatter. Even though the blood should have congealed over a year ago.

Twhick! The bolt comes free with a sick suction. Sure enough, some brains — what little this fellow had — and goop sprays. It looks a bit like snot, sneezed from the nose of a regular human being. Splatted over the foliage and earth. Some even hits the bark of the few nearest trees.

“Ew, gross,” I say. “At least use a handkerchief.” I grin at that. The buddy of the fellow on the ground doesn’t reciprocate. That’s how I know they definitely can’t understand words. Not even a twitch of a grin or the shadow of a smirk. Don’t tell me my sense of humour’s that bad.

I flick the gore-slaked arrowhead a few times, to get the worst of the offending brain material off. I then wipe it clean with my special cloth. I’m not squeamish or anything, but you have to be cautious. All it takes is a drop of blood into an open cut. Also, it affects the arrow’s aerodynamics. I tried a mess-ridden bolt, once — it went wayward. Straight into a tree trunk, where it splintered into oblivion.

Now clean, I hook the arrow into the bow and aim at Mr No-Sense-Of-Humour. I inhale, slow. Take my time. It doesn’t do any good to panic or to rush, even when in a tight spot. Always best to keep your composure. Remain cool. Remain calm.

Sure, I could use a new arrow. I have plenty of them on me, and I know how to make more. But it’s the principle. That I could reuse them. It’s why I’m still around and those idiots with their semi-automatics and 9mms aren’t. Plus, it’d be a bad habit to form. Best to stick to the routine of reusing wherever possible.

Besides, I’ve sort of formed an attachment to this one bolt. I’ve taken out 17 of them with it. I keep expecting it to break — it should have broken. But it doesn’t. Keeps going. When it does break, I’ll fashion a keepsake out of it. Sort of like a good-luck charm.

And to think, they laughed at me when I took up archery.

“Who needs to know how to use that stuff?” my boyfriend had asked. “The city’s a safe place, we got police officers. Besides, if you do need protecting we’ve got guns for that sort of thing. And—” I remember his smirk “—you’ve got me. I’m here for you. And I’m a helluva shot with a Glock.”

It turned out he wasn’t. Wasn’t there for me, I mean. Also, he wasn’t a “helluva” shot with a Glock. If memory serves, he fired two rounds into the thing’s belly as it ripped his throat out. Didn’t even stagger it. I had to bash its skull in with a wrench before it attacked me. I did the same for David. I wish I’d taken a knife to the back of his head — it got messy. There wasn’t much left of his face afterwards. But, hey, I panicked. Anyone would’ve in my position. I didn’t know how long it’d take him to come back, and I didn’t want to risk it. I still think I made the right call.

“Well, who’s laughing now?” I repeat.

And then I let that sucker go.

My aim is true. As is the arrow’s flight.

It gets him straight in the eye and explodes out of the back of his head. There’s a slight crack as small fragments break from the skull. And a liquid squish as the contents of his mind ejaculates across the leaves of the tree behind. Everything he’d ever thought, everything he’d ever loved — reduced to a mildewed splatter. He utters a shocked little gasp. “Gurh?”

And then he falls back onto the forest floor.

“Score! Ten points,” I say, and give myself an imaginary pat on the back. I should be quiet — I could attract more. But what’s life without a little encouragement? A little positive reinforcement? Be your own cheerleader. I saw it on one of those terrible motivational posters, and it’s always stuck with me. I guess it wasn’t so terrible after all. A cliche is a cliche because it’s overused, not because it’s untrue.

I creep on over to the second dead body. Re-dead body? I don’t know. Dead undead body? Nah. I’ll give it some more thought — as if a year’s not been long enough. At least I know I’d have never had a career in marketing.

By the sounds of the forest, there aren’t any others nearby. The birds and the other small critters have resumed their love song to one another.

I kick the foot of the fellow, to double-check. I’m 90 per cent certain he’s dead, but you should always be careful. It doesn’t do to drop your guard, in this modern world. David always said I was too “highly strung”. Who’d have guessed it would come in handy?

But no, he’s dead. Double-dead. Hm. That’s got a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

I place one booted foot on the chest, near his collarbone. I pull and look away again.

Twhuck! Again, the arrow comes free, like a spoon out of custard. Again, a small spray of blood and brain, off-white and gooey. Bits of black and brown and green, as if the contents passed their use-by date a long time ago.

I smile at the arrow. It’s fine. “That makes 18,” I say to the forest. I shake the worst of the gore off and then wipe the rest clean. I put it back in the prime spot in my quiver, ready to take out at a moment’s notice. Not that they tend to get the drop on me — I’m always one or two or ten steps ahead of them.

I look down at the two fellows I’ve offed and smile. I then pat the quiver slung over my shoulder, which contains my trusty 18-er. “Two birds, one stone,” I say. “And I get to keep the stone.”

So, that’s the thing about bows and arrows.

They’re recyclable.

“Well, who’s laughing now?”

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