Shame makes his way deeper into the woods, following the tracks and sign left by the fifth largest cat in the world. The shadows of the wood grows larger as the sun goes down. Shame stops and makes camp, taking time to gather firewood, while dusk drapes her shroud over the earth.
Tired from the day’s events, he leans against the tree and opens a MRE. He removes the portable heater and places it in the assault pack. Opening the spoon, Shame rapidly eats the grilled chicken, Skittles, jalapeno cheese spread and crackers. His belly full, his mind takes him back to the packs of wild dogs.
“The problem we had with the wild dogs were because they didn’t hunt only during the day. They also hunted at night. When visibility was minimal, they would attack. To top it all off, I killed a kid. Why do I get a second chance at life? God hates me, the kid’s family hates me. There is no up, only the bottom exists. I’m unredeemable, a predator like this cat. I’m a monster.”
Restless sleep calls Shame in its lullaby, and Shame cannot resist the siren’s song. He wakes at the crack of dawn and stands to his feet. Years of fighting one war or another have taught him to sleep wherever he lies. Stretching, he slips on his pack and heads deeper into the woods in search of his adversary. It doesn’t take long for him to pick up the tracks of the panther.
The hunt goes on.
As he follows the tracks of the enormous cat, he sips a bottle of water. Towering pine and oak make a canopy that keeps most of the sunlight from filtering into the forest. Entranced by the natural beauty, Shame looks around. The tracks of the cat have all but disappeared.
“Now where did this animal go?”
With a roar, the man-eating beast leaps from a towering pine. Caught unaware, it slams him to the ground. The panther swats at his face, arms and shoulders. Three inch claws cut into his arms. Shame grabs a broken shaft of an arrow and slams it into the beast. It roars and continues its relentless barrage. Unable to use the bow as a weapon, he attempts to roll away from the cat.
The cat isn’t having it. Teeth pierce his left shoulder. Screaming, Shame pulls the Ka-Bar folding knife and shoves it into the giant cat’s underbelly. His hands bloody, Shame grips the blade with two hands and snatches it toward him. The cat whimpers as its internal organs thud against the ground. Shame crawls back from the beast and watches as the great cat gasps its last breath.
Shame leans against a tree and takes stock of his injuries. Deep cuts cover his arms, his shoulder pierced by the big cat. A long cut runs down the right side of his face. The assault pack came loose during the fight with the beast. Shame crawls to it and pulls out his homemade first aid kit.
After bandaging his wounds, Shame walks over to the panther. The cat is dead. Shame puts his hand on the cat’s head and whispers a few words. Dipping his hands in the blood that soaks the ground, he marks his face. Rising slowly, he makes his way out of the woods.