Erich watched. Silently. The animal lumbered unaware of the present danger. From his viewpoint in the bushes, he stared while it drank from the water hole.
Erich had always loved nature and wild animals. As a boy, he grew up with encyclopaedias scattered around the floor, under his bed, always open to his current favourite animal. At ten, giraffes. Thirteen, hyenas and cheetahs. His walls were covered with posters of lions and tigers; his cherished outing was always the zoo.
He shook the memory away. Now was no time to have such thoughts crowd his mind. He was a hunter. Didn’t have a favourite, he loved them all. But mostly, he loved the thrill of the chase. And money.
Erich lifted the rifle, and felt the familiar rush from the cool metal in his hands and the buttstock against his shoulder. His line of sight followed the length of the barrel to the elephant. Breathing out with a quiet, assured air, he squeezed the trigger.
The single shot felled the elephant. A fantabulous prize, he thought smugly; one that will reap a substantial monetary reward for the ivory alone. Erich hummed as walked towards the dead grey elephant—it was enormous, nothing ever prepared you for its actual size when standing beside one—dust swirling up and around like a reddish, brown cloud. He pressed the camera icon on his iPhone, ready to take the selfie with the carcass in the background.
So preoccupied with getting the elephant’s entire body in the frame, Erich didn’t hear the rustling. As he grinned widely, left hand in ‘thumbs up’ pose, and pressed the button on his phone, the animal that jointly held top favourite when Erich was thirteen pounced.
Erich yelled in fright as the cheetah toppled him like he was the weight of a feather. Its jaws grasped his torso, ripping his flesh apart. He felt the ooze of warm blood; looked down to see his bowels on the outside of his body. He yelped. The cheetah prowled around, its movements regal, elegant, as it seemed to be debating which part of this despicable human to devour next.
The cheetah tore through the muscles in Erich’s right thigh, severing his artery. The irony of his final moments hit hard: the bounty hunter, the man who killed animals for money, had become the hunted. He would die out here in the wild. Alone.