The Memoirs of William S. Pratt, Diary of a Hunter.
*For you, my trusted Editor, only:
PART XI: A Tall Tale
Summer of 1889
*These events are recalled to you in their truest form. Do not doubt them for their incredible nature. This is no tale of fiction. Though I wish at times it were.*
July, 20th 1889: Setting Sail for the Unknown
Today I set out for Noble’s Isle based on rumours of one man’s experience that had rendered him a recluse and a shut-in. His account spoke of beasts that towered metres high, bore fangs that could sever bones in a tidy effort, and stared through eyes that burned black with bloodlust. The rumours, spoken by sailors, mostly dismissed the account for the ramblings of a mad man, but I grow so very tired of hunting typical game. My study already houses many exotic trophies from the pelt of a Tiger to the jaws of a Crocodile; from India to South America, I have hunted my share of the world’s beasts. I am well aware that fact and fantasy love to share the same bed, but if there was even a sliver of truth to these rumours… well just the idea of a fresh chase sets the hairs on the back of my neck on end. I have packed provisions and ammunition, cleaned and oiled my Winchester thoroughly, and I write this entry aboard the Catherine as it sails for the isle. Whether the stories of these beasts end up true or blatant exaggerations, to leave his footprints on a largely unexplored island is a real man’s greatest romance.
July, 23rd 1889: Anchored
I have laid anchor at the island. Night has fallen. A strange still silence has set upon the forest clearing where I have made my camp. This island is reported to be uninhabited. I am alone here in foreign territory, not something entirely unfamiliar to me, and yet I cannot shake from me the presence of something else on this island. It could be my imagination has fallen prey to these rumours and begot this paranoia in me. If not for writing my apprehensions, I might take these doubts seriously. And yet I feel something raw and unbridled about this island, something “other”.
July, 23rd 1889: Emptiness
The wildlife here is peculiar. There seem to be an odd number of rabbits even by their breeding standards. There are various other small animals too: mice, shrews, lizards. But I have yet to find signs of any formidable game. Perhaps the rumours were just typical tales spun by sailors looking to bring out the romance of a sailor’s life at sea. I have not scoured even a quarter of the island though. Or perhaps, what I’m trying to find does not wish to be found.
July, 24th 1889: Something Else
It is most peculiar. I have spotted a set of tracks that intrigue me. The prints are of some bipedal creature, definitely not human. I would think an ape to be all that I would find walking upright in these parts, but for the fact that they were somewhat hoofed like a horse and elongated to allow for bipedal movement. Perhaps it is some cousin of the kangaroo? Perhaps it may be, but there is something unsettling about the movement of the tracks, something familiar.
July, 25th 1889: The Corpse
Good news! I will not be going back empty handed. I have spotted the remains of a rabbit’s carcass at the border of an outcrop. I would have felt lonely had I been the only predator about. The beast was savage; it had incisors long enough and jaws strong enough to rend through the spine like it were a block of cheese. I am growing excited at the prospect of seeing the beast that committed this carnage. The rumours may not have been so far off as I thought. This isolated island, the unknown hoof prints, and the ravaged rabbit corpse: the hunt had started.
July, 26th 1889: What Was It?
The Wolf Man, Yeti, Minotaur; I am not sure what I saw or from what culture’s folklore it was drawn. I would have reasoned it to be a gorilla, but yet it was like no gorilla I had ever seen. I saw it as clear as it saw me, but the shock alone was enough to blur the image of the creature I saw in that ravine. Yet two things about the encounter burned themselves into memory: the penetrating pair of black eyes and the mutual air of unease wrought by unfamiliarity. What was it? I have not seen such a creature in my life, nor imagined I would. As I write this my hand trembles. Not with fear, no, but in anticipation. Never has my quarry made such an impression upon me. I am to hunt what has never been hunted before. How much fame would this bring to me, to haul back the corpse of such a creature that borders myth? It would not just be a personal triumph, but it would shake the fabric of the zoological world. It was a creature more in the shape of man than any ape or monkey, and yet so unlike man, or any other creature, I can scarcely call it an animal; it will break boundaries. If I brought this creature back with me, it would baffle the world. The late Charles Darwin would jump out of his grave just for a look. I can only imagine the surprise mingled with horror on the taxidermist’s face.
July, 26th 1889: The Voice in the Woods
Who was it? As I drank from a nearby stream, I heard a voice in the middle of the night, some moaning, catching only the hint of the word “laws”. I could not piece together the context but there was something anguished about the voice. Was I not alone on this island? Maybe the owner of the voice would know about the beast. I had called out but heard no response, only the rustle of bushes in the distance. What about laws? Having practiced law these past 20 years, I have come to understand law as the foundation for civilization. Without law, no amount of stone or fire could make even the closest semblance of the world of man. Might there be others on this island? I had spotted the remains of a simple shelter that had been burned to the ground, so I knew I was not the first visitor to this island, but I saw no smoke, sound or other sign of permanent residents. It is night so I let the question sit, lest I am caught unawares by the beast I had seen before. This island, it intrigues me more each day.
July, 27th 1889: The Trap
I saw it again, this time scampering away on all fours. I had laid a fresh rabbit corpse as bait, watching and waiting for two hours until it ventured near. As it was my second time seeing the creature, there was no shock to rend its image out of my mind. There I saw it, a lean and hairy creature of a vaguely bovine appearance, lumbering forward on two limbs. Its snout was broad, and its beefy arms ended in dagger-like talons. Its scaled breast shone in the sunlight that broke through the trees, a rainbow of green and yellow. It approached the trap cautiously, as a man would approach a flame not knowing its heat but testing its warmth. I stepped out from the cover of the trees to get a better look, but it had seen me and fled before I could take aim. I should have shot first and questioned later, but the feeling of awe as I stood observing its incredible form had chased the thrill of the hunt from my body.
July, 28th 1889: He Speaks
I could not pull the trigger. I had the creature in my sights again, no less than 2 metres away; it was a shot I could not miss even had I not taken it so many times before. What stopped me? I had faced the creature just as it turned to face me. In my minor lapse of conviction, it managed to catch me off guard; it ducked past me to push me from behind, leaving me sprawled on the ground on all fours, my rifle flying just barely out of arm’s reach. I did not dare risk moving for it. As it hovered over me, I could see it clearly: a mess of hair and scales, its peculiar pointed ears pricked in alarm, and those same jet-black eyes I had seen before. I could feel its breath laced with the smell of rabbit flesh every time its chest heaved, and I regretted my trigger finger’s damned hesitation as I stared into the eyes of my demise. Yet, I do not know why it did not kill me; I knew it must be aware I was going to kill it if it didn’t do me first. It merely stood there and gawked at me. Its snout quivered violently like a child on the verge of tears, as I lay there on my knees, hands spread out as if in reverence of its spectacular form. Then, I heard it speak. Yes, I heard it speak. I doubt it to the very core of my being and yet, I heard it speak. “Not to go on all fours…that is the Law”. The words were forced out by the creature, almost painfully so, and all the words I myself could muster had been swallowed by my throat. And just like that, it fled.
July, 29th 1889: Departure
I am leaving. There is nothing for me on this island. I had seen for myself. I found no game, no glory here, only confusion. I had found something that blurred the line between man and beast: a beast that could speak and, what’s more, it spoke of laws. Had I pulled the trigger I felt it would not be in the name of the hunt, but in cold-blooded murder. I felt as if the sights of my rifle were trained on a distorted reflection of my own self. Self-preservation is an animal’s duty in life, to fight or to flee, but humans are the only beings so truly aware of their own fleeting lives as to sit there in idle regret, wearing the face of fear when confronted with death. As the creature stood over me and I was faced with my own life’s conclusion, I saw my fear reflected in his eyes.
As I sit at the fireplace in my study, I stare around at the mounted heads and stuffed figures of my past trophies. How different had I really been from them? I have always seen my quarry as less than a man, yet I had seen them exhibit feelings of fear, love, and rage; faces my own neighbours might wear. The creature I had seen, had he been animal or man? It transcended my prior definitions of both, possessing a figure that surpassed even the most disfigured of men. The pointed ears, the wide black eyes, and the hoofed feet; these were all the qualities of a beast. Yet his level of awareness, his ability to speak English, and his concept of laws; these were the qualities of man. Look at me, I have done away with the ‘it’ and have begun referring to the creature as ‘he’. Well whatsoever he may have been, I think it is better left unknown. As such I think I will exclude the journal entries of Noble’s Isle from the full version of my memoirs. But with you, the editor, and my friend, I shall share this tale in the certainty that you will dismiss it as the imaginings of a mad man just as I once did. Even now, I do not know if it was all just a waking dream. Had I seen what I thought I saw? One thing is for certain: the events on the Isle have made my rifle hang a little heavier.