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"A Debt of Bone" by Wesley Zurovec

Hunting boots all wet and muddy,

Following the trail, most bloody,

Found some tracks, now stop and study.

There’s my quarry, freshly dead!

Who’s that stranger standing, waiting?

That’s my deer, there’s no debating!

Move aside, quit agitating!

Then a blow straight to my head… 

…Wake up in a cave-like dwelling,

Gun is missing, head is swelling,

Dying embers glow, foretelling

What awaits me on this night.

Rub my eyes, now seeing better:

There’s a knife! And there’s a letter!

As I read, my face turns redder,

Angry words I now recite:

Once the hunter, now the hunted.

You’re the prey, don’t feel affronted

When at midnight you’re confronted

By the beast who’ll take your life.

Ev’ry day and ev’ry hour

You’ll be hunted by this power

Till your bones it has devoured.

You’d be wise to take the knife.

Sensing that midnight is nearing,

Out I run along the clearing,

Duck behind a tree, now peering,

Crouching in my hideaway.

From the wood, a beast advances

’Cross the field, its shadow dances,

Crimson eyes cast hungry glances,

Seeking out its promised prey.

Drifting toward my former dwelling,

Creeping slowly, nostrils smelling,

Each aroma is propelling,

Guiding it to where I hide.

It’s for blood the beast is yearning,

Stomach churning, head is turning

Toward my tree, and now discerning,

Quickly breaking into stride.

Fight or flight? I choose the latter:

Bushes rattle, branches clatter,

Dirt disperses, pebbles scatter

As I race to save my skin. 

Moving swiftly, muscles straining, 

Lungs on fire, legs complaining,

Yet the beast is quickly gaining,

Drawing nearer, closing in.

Wond’ring now amidst the fleeing,

Should a man die without seeing

Evil which would end his being?

Should he not stand firm and fight?

If I am to be devoured,

I’ll not go down as a coward!

Stopping then, I turn, empowered,

Ready now to face my plight.

Curled back lips show teeth like daggers.

I feel faint, my heartbeat staggers

As the beast assumes a swagger,

For it knows my death comes soon.

Pouncing on me, bodies thrashing,

Teeth are gnashing, claws are gashing,

All the while my blade is slashing,

Flashing underneath the moon.

Just before my life is ended,

Thrust the knife, with arms extended,

Through its heart, left undefended,

Blood comes pouring from the hole.

Dead… it’s dead… it’s dead! I’ve killed it!

Evil blood - now I have spilled it!

Once warm body - I have chilled it!

Triumph fills my tired soul.

There’s the stranger standing, waiting

In the shadows, calculating,

Coming forth, now indicating

He has something yet to say:

Bullets from your guns have slaughtered

Mothers, fathers, brothers, daughters,

Creatures of our lands and waters.

Time has come for you to pay.

Suddenly a howl arises,

Blood runs cold, fear paralyzes.

Two more sinister surprises:

Hungry, hateful, hellish beasts…

For my sins, I must atone.

Face my demons all alone.

Time to pay my debt of bone.

I am yours, commence the feast!

Wesley Zurovec is the author of The Cavern (1997). He lives in Austin, Texas, where he devotes time to writing short prose and poetry, playing board games with his family, and coaching youth sports.


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