Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Fulfillment (04/06/06)
TITLE: Maneater Farms
By Lisa McMillion
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As he sat upon his cot in cell B-20, Adam heard Warden Manchester himself approaching. He put down his magazine (he had asked for American Hunter and received Parenting) and wiped one corner of his mouth with his prison shirt. An article about mothers lactating uncontrollably to the cries of other babies and what to do about it folded shut. “You, boy.” The bars clanked open as patrollers slid to either side out of view except for the butts of their rifles. Adam was being recruited.
Hours later, in the darkened cellblock, he contemplated with incredulity what the warden himself told him. The “hunters” were women assaulted in some way by other men, for whom neither the judicial system nor traditional therapies worked, who had paid handsomely to hunt at his preserve. Unfulfilled women. He would be the only game stocked, and if he survived, would find a birth certificate with a new name on it. He would quite literally be born again. They would get dogs, four-wheelers, and, of course, weapons -- he, a one-hour start across a twenty-mile field. There was a ramshackle barn at about twelve miles, a few trees and shrubs, but not much else in the way of ground cover.
Adam remembered track in high school. Although his stride was more Irish than Kenyan, his turnaround was better than anyone else’s. It hadn’t been so long ago that he’d even won a few races. The pressure to achieve, to cross a line for adoration, caused something in him to rebel against it. Looking into the stands during a 10,000 meter race, he once saw a woman with a wide-brimmed, Kentucky Derby-style yellow hat. He felt like a horse then. Like the beast of a senseless burden. Adam slowed enough to keep it from maiming him and tripped enough to make it look real. Cheers became gasps then sighs as his body hit the track. No one had applauded him since.
On hunting day, Adam reached the barn at twelve miles cross-country in little over an hour, asphalt time. His situation felt so surreal that he wondered if it wasn’t just a scare tactic from the start until he heard them closing in behind. He entered the shack and took off his outer button-down shirt, soaked with perspiration and his scent, stuffing it with long-rotten straw. Through a bulging center part, Adam carved a hollow with his hand, nesting a smuggled recorder. As he pushed play, the sound of a newborn baby crying began. It was his brother Jim’s – his nephew he had never seen. Jim told Adam it durn near drove him crazy, but there was at least forty-five minutes of the stuff on side A.
Adam began his final race -- a little over a 10K -- as pursuers crested the hill and began their downward descent to the barn. As planned, the dogs would stop inside, catching the shirt’s scent. Three figures in bodysuits and helmets halted with them, turning off their engines. They would approach the wailing bundle instinctively, removing the alienating helmets like crowns to admire it and become, for a moment, the sane rescuers they once were. Mothers, sisters. By the time they recapped their heads and the pain that had driven them there, half the fight was out of them. Adam was almost free.
“Posted: Property of Manchester Farms,” a metal square read at the end of his sprint. Atop the surname, in blood or red marker, the ‘ch’ was blotted out and the ‘s’ turned into ‘a.’ Maneater Farms. As he crossed the wire fence, Adam could hear the drone of engines and chorus of hounds singing disappointedly behind. From the sign’s back, he peeled a Ziploc of documents authenticating his new life. Adam remembered the words of his mother, a God-fearing woman, who once told him that goodness and mercy were like pet dogs at his heels, and that they should ever pursue him down the right path. He spotted a clearing in the woods beyond and a stream with a path before it, trailing off toward the houses of what appeared to be a friendly little town.
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