24. Good Hunting

I must have dropped off at some point. When I woke up the others were pottering around the fire. It was early, cold and bright. Our group was the only one in the courtyard.

“Where’d the rest of them go?” I asked, worried we had missed out on another memo.

“No idea,” said Maurice. “They were already gone when I woke up.”

At least it meant we wouldn’t have to deal with any awkwardness. We got our stuff together, did our business in the bathroom—which, as expected, was a hole in the ground—and set off for the hunting grounds.

We were much more confident in what we had to do, and more relaxed about it. Even Dudley joined in the conversations about who would bag the most rabbits, although he still had a habit of looking straight up when he spoke.

We seemed to reach our destination a lot quicker this time, but I think familiarity with our surroundings just made it feel like that. The rabbits were waiting for us and as unimpressed with our deadly intentions as they were the day before. And with good reason.

Our aiming still left a lot to be desired, but there was some improvement. We would hit the target more often, but they weren’t kills. Even though the stones flew out at considerable speed, a headshot was the only sure way to really kill them. Otherwise they limped off. You might think injured bunnies would be easier to catch, but you’d be wrong.

We came up with a plan to all target the same rabbit. The idea was if we got a couple of hits in, that might be enough to slow it down enough to close in for the kill with my club. It didn’t quite work out that way, but the club did turn out to be the key.

Instead of going after them, we decided to bring them to us. I stood in one spot while the others herded the rabbits towards me. As they scampered past me, I lashed my club through the crowd like a wild golf swing. I couldn’t miss. And my club held onto what it hit, even if it didn’t kill. A quick stab with my spike-handle and it was goodnight and sweet dreams.

This also gave Maurice a new idea, one to rival his bicycle enterprise.

“All this open space,” he said, looking around us. “It’s like a fairway, isn’t it? You could build a pretty good golf course here.”

That’s right, he wanted to introduce golf to this world. Teaching them the most boring game ever invented could be seen as a form of revenge for what this world had put us through, but other than that I didn’t really see the point.

“You think people around here have a lot of free leisure time? ‘I’ll milk the cows later, love. Just off to the club for a quick back nine’?”

“It is the game of kings,” said Dudley. I waited for him to continue, but that was all he had to say on the matter. Back to sky-staring.

We got three more rabbits in quick succession before they got wise to us and ran off in different directions, making sure to avoid me in particular. But then we switched who had the club and they fell for it again.

We stopped around lunch time and built a fire from scratch. Took a while, but we did it. We also skinned the rabbits. Which was not fun.

You expect these things to be hard at first, but the reality was more brutal than any expectation. We struggled to get their fur off in one piece and gutting them was also not a good time. But we did it and had rabbit kebabs for lunch (quite a late lunch by the time we finished).

The other rabbits watched impassively, not at all perturbed by their brethren roasting over an open fire.

By the time we decided to head back we had ten rabbits, all skinned and one eaten.

We went to the tanner and handed over the skins. He bought eight of them, which was generous. Two had been ripped to shreds but another three were also far from perfect. We got our hands on money for the first time.

Eight chobs. They were small black discs. Very light and smooth. They had no markings on them and almost felt like plastic. Maybe enamel.

We visited the butcher and tried to sell him some of our rabbits. He was a chubby man with a sweaty face. He looked at our offerings and shook his head and shooed us off. I had no idea what the issue with rabbit meat was, but clearly it wasn’t a popular part of the local diet.

As we were wondering what to do with all the rabbits we'd accumulated, I caught the eye of a guy running one of the food stalls—the one selling grilled meat. He surreptitiously waved me over and then opened a cabinet under his cart. He didn’t say anything, just nodded his head to indicate we stick the rabbits in there.

He gave us five chobs for eight rabbits (we kept one for ourselves). I have no idea if that was a fair price, but I was glad to get rid of them.

We went shopping, but thirteen chobs didn’t buy much. We got two sacks which would help carry stuff around. A needle and thread, which I insisted would come in useful, although I hadn’t decided how. And some salt. There was only so much bland food I could take.

We returned to the shed and found we had the courtyard to ourselves. We built a fire, being sure to leave enough for the others, but we needn’t have worried. The other two groups didn’t return that night.

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