THE HEMINGWAY HUNTER
If someone is lucky enough to leave behind quotes when they exit this physical plane, they are often unlucky enough to be judged and remembered by them.
“There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter.”
Ernest Hemingway A Farewell to Arms All italicized quotes credit Hemingway
After travelling more than six hundred miles, Jim Ritchie is road-weary and Mopar seat-sore. He knows what to expect, this is his eighth time. Seven Hemingways cleanly killed.
“What can we do for you today sir?” asks the ginger kid behind the counter.
“I need a six-hour Hemingway.”
“Six-hour, are you sure?”
“Unless you discount me further for less time.”
“Sorry sir, I can’t do that, but perhaps a discount on a different target, perhaps a J.D. Salinger, or even a Jack London, they seem challenging? You have bested several Hemingways. Perhaps a different encounter could increase your level of satisfaction?”
“Look, are you here to argue with me?
“No, sir, my apologies. However, several million people worship him.”
“Several million are wrong – should I go elsewhere?”
“So sorry, no—no; what weaponry?”
“A pre-64 Winchester model 70 in 25-06 Remington with a Leopold 2 to 7. Don’t tell me you don’t have it, I know better. At these prices I should have Zeus’ own lightningbolt.”
Smiling, Ginger Kid says, “We can do that too, if you’d like. May I have your left wrist for payment?” The hunter extended his left arm, palm up, exposing the location of the embedded EEPROM chip. “Oh, AMEX platinum. You are entitled to a cabin upgrade.”
“Wonderful. As you mentioned I won’t be spending any time in my cabin. I only have the six hours to dispatch him.”
“Your equipment and supplies are being delivered now and will arrive before you. Your pass code is on your chip and you are in cabin 27. Have a great hunt.”
“Not all great hunts need be fruitful, sir. We only desire your satisfaction.”
Less than forty-five minutes later Ritchie is walking out of his cabin, heading to sector 37-b where his Hemingway is supposed to be; the Hemingway supposedly armed with a custom Springfield 35 Whelen from Griffin & Howe. “Well, up and down from the original 30-06.” He opens up the eight foot cube of a blind and sits down to wait. Experience tells him the Hemingways never just sit still.
I rub the back of my neck, irritating the crèche plug.
“That’s where we pump in the Hemingway — along with your growth nourishment.” So I was told in the crèche. I remember the words and the lilted tone, but not how I heard them. I can smell the here and now, but I cannot remember the smells of the crèche. The grass and wildflowers beneath my feet are sweet and mild, while the G96 treatment on the rifle coupled with the wooden stock’s linseed oil finish compete with nature for my olfactory attention. Nature wins, but just barely.
They told me my DNA-sake’s wit, wisdom and weapon craft came to me the same way as my physical nourishment. But why don’t I remember any smells. Well, I do remember weapon craft and the smells associated with that. I retain the tactile erudition of firearm care and usage. Or is it memory? Hell, why do I torture myself this way? I will never truthfully discern the difference.
I just cannot think of myself as Ernest or even Hemingway. I know I am Hemingway MKVII–42, or 42 as my crèche mates called me. The only time I was happy, with my mates; “crèche mates” like litter mates – I’m really just a kitten, not a Hemingway after all.
I reach into my pocket and pull out four cartridges, real ones. The headstamp reads LC—62. After all these years there still remains a “cordite” smell emanating from them. I know it is not truly cordite, but it is the only way I have learned to describe the combination of nitro-cellulose and nitro-glycerin coupled with metal seeping from unknowable microscopic or atomic gaps in the cartridge structure. I only know what a rifle cartridge smells like and I suspect they have smelled that way since 1846. Why in hell do I know that year?
I found the cartridges secreted in my storage tube, the tiny ex-hotel “capsules” they salvaged from Tokyo hotels – home sweet home. The cartridges are apparently a gift from a previous MKVII. I’ll remember him – me – somehow. I gently cradle the rifle (another crèche memory or memory reference? – I never really know). I open the bolt and load the four precious cartridges in through the top.
The saw I found myself, while I walked the woods. I’m still amazed they let us do that between hunts. Perhaps they think it will make us believe we have a real life. Not a metal saw, but it was rated all purpose, or so it was emblazoned on the shank. Naval jelly had once, probably many many years ago, been used to clean it and the strong acidic (phosphoric acid) smell remained along with apparently significant rust protection.
It took me forty-two hours to cut off the end of the hardened 4140 carbon steel barrel using that rusty, smelly, old saw, but I finally cleared off the welded portion of the rifle. The saw was probably over fifty years old – the rifle hadn’t been manufactured in more than one hundred – a fair match I suppose.
The saw and I converted the weapon back to functionality, allowing the rifle to resume its lethal purpose, permitting it to actually fire a round. The welded and plugged end of the barrel and the electronic tracking crap was now gone; the rifle once again a “real” 35 Whelan G&H. I suspect the “real” Hemingway would have been pleased.
It is easy to see the blind: but not the obverse for my adversary. Even if the hunter is looking through the port cut into the timbers, it is physically impossible for him (Why him? – well it usually wasn’t a woman) to see me. The angles are for the hunter’s safety, not for field of view. The 35 Whelan would cut right through the timbers. I “remember,” is that what this is? — the cartridge was a ‘brush buster’. I hold left and low from the upper blind port. I must not damage the guy’s chip and I really don’t particularly care to kill him either. I don’t understand why or how, but it just didn’t feel right to take this life unnecessarily. But it does feel right to shoot this man and claim freedom – even for a short time. Looking through the peep sight, I squeeze the trigger on the Griffin & Howe. Nothing. Great – hang fire or dead primer.
I wait patiently. Hell, the ammo is well over a hundred years old. It could be a dead or oil corrupted primer, moisture soaked powder or primer, or anything in-between. A hang fire would simply be a late ignition. If I open the bolt too soon I could lose a hand, or even my face. Ten nano-centuries pass (or ten pi seconds) then twenty – I hold on target. Lowering the rifle and working the bolt, I catch the cartridge as the claw extractor in the bolt’s full cartridge head support, pulls it from the chamber and the rectangular ejector pops back, sending the cartridge slapping into my upside down palm, my fingers closing tightly around it.
Solid primer hit, at least the gun seems to be functioning. I put it in my pocket, that may be unwise, but I can’t bring myself to discard something that has been so hard to acquire. Working a fresh round into the chamber with the bolt handle, the extractor now grabbing the cartridge head solidly and guiding it into the chamber, I once again gaze through the Parker Hale PH5a aperture sight.
This time when I squeeze the trigger, the Griffin & Howe barks, bucking back into my shoulder with a satisfying snap. I smell the satisfying odor of burnt gunpowder and primer residue. My ears ring so loudly I am effectively deaf. Why didn’t I remember that little tidbit of weapon craft?
This time it worked. The 220 grain slug blasts through the lower edge of the upper port in the blind. I imagine hearing the gratifying thump as the hunter’s body folds up. I wait. It seems the woods grow silent. I see no movement anywhere and can only hear the ringing in my ears, the left much worse than the right. The nitro-cellulose still hangs heavy in the air, blocking any sense of smell.
I quickly rack the bolt, reloading the 35 Whelan and slicing a thin piece of my left thumb in the process, the extractor and bolt head closing on and pinching my skin. Apparently my weapon craft is less than perfect. As I fully stand, the firearm discharge smells dissipate: I can now again smell the oil on the Griffin & Howe coupled with a metallic blood scent from my thumb and the surrounding wild grasses and flora..
I hike the one hundred fifty yards to the blind. Kicking in the door, I level the Griffin & Howe at the hunter. No movement. Leaning down, I immediately notice a steady and solid breathing pattern – and a lot of blood – the copper metallic odor filling the small blind. The copper jacketed slug held together and expanded only slightly on exit through the blind wall. Once through the wall and into the hunter, entry is just above the right lung and bodily exit through the lower scapula.
I pull out the misfired 35 Whelan cartridge, using it to plug the entry wound. It seems to squeeze in nicely and appears to be holding. I manage to insert it far enough for the 17 degree shoulder angle to catch on something internal to this guy’s wound. It can’t be inserted further without extreme pressure. It does seem unlikely to dislodge on its own. Well, half done. The exit wound will be a bit more difficult. I just hope the hunter remains unconscious, at least for a bit longer.
Grabbing a chunk of the wooden blind that has splintered off with the passage of the 220 grain flat nose soft point pill, I combine the lead and copper that had just slowed the hunter down so well, with the hunter’s own vest material where it is torn and blood soaked: the damaged material combining with the damaging material to try and save him. Probably as close to clean as I am going to find out here.
Slapping it hard into the exit wound, the blood leakage stops. I pull a stag handled eight inch knife that somehow I know had been fashioned from a truck spring in southeast Asia. I shake my head, clearing cobwebbed memories — centering on the now. I address the hunter, “Sorry for the transgression – but in this time and place, I need this out of you significantly more than you need to retain it.”
Relieved to be ignored by the hunter, I ease the razor–stropped blade under the hunter’s left palm at the base. Slipping out the precious EEPROM that will give me some limited funds coupled with a very limited period of time. I pocket the EEPROM chip carefully and find the man’s ID case. I figure maybe eight hours before I will have to drop the chip and ID onto some fast moving transport, heading the opposite direction of course.
Being a Hemingway has brought me this far. Now I must be this James Ritchie whom I leave behind. A few hours from now, for the first time, I become my own man. I was grown in a vat, yet I feel I am so much more. Perhaps I will become a new Arius Wesson. My numerical designation — 42 once identified an air-weight Smith and Wesson firearm. The name fits me. I will be 42 years old. I feel, with luck, I might have nearly twenty years left to me, or perhaps only twenty minutes. Either way, it is as good an age as any to begin anew.
Subconscious thoughts rush to consciousness;
“Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.”
I know I am poor. I suspect I am intelligent:
“Fear of death increases in exact proportion to increase in wealth.”
“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.”
I hope I can be, if not innocent, at least moral in my motives:
“All things truly wicked start from innocence.”
My next hour, day, truly — my next life; will tell me.
Food for thought
What is “Human life” and at what point does a created entity have value? If a clone is created by humans, is that clone equally human, or simply property? At what point is biological material human in and of itself? Does a created human have the same value and rights as those of a naturally occurring human? Is there a difference? At what point does an artificially created human gain a right to self defense?
These are all questions posed by this piece. Some of the answers seem obvious, but are they? We are constantly arguing over the rights of the unborn when they conflict with the desires of the living. We also argue over the right of euthanasia. If humans can create something, do they necessarily own it? Or is this Hubris at its highest and most literal level? To loosely quote from Frank Herbert’s Dune series, …”If you can destroy a thing, you control a thing,” does that mean that if you create a thing you have an inherent right to destroy it?
And what is the value of life? John Stuart Mill suggested that “it is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied” and he apparently believed some pleasures are better than others (Utilitarianism 260). JW Gray in Ethical Realism // Does Human Life Have Value? Offered in conclusion, “…The view that human life has value is uncontroversial, but to say that it has intrinsic value is a neglected controversial topic within the academic philosophical community. Nonetheless, the idea that we have intrinsic value is an intuitive view and much of our thoughts and behavior are based on the assumption that we do—such as the belief that killing people is almost always wrong…”
Or we can look at the word, human; in the second century A.D, a Latin grammarian, Aulus Gellius (c. 125– c. 180), complained:
Those who have spoken Latin and have used the language correctly do not give to the word humanitas the meaning which it is commonly thought to have, namely, what the Greeks call f??a????p?a (philanthropy), signifying a kind of friendly spirit and good-feeling towards all men without distinction; but they gave to humanitas the force of the Greek pa?de?a (paideia); that is, what we call eruditionem institutionemque in bonas artes, or “education and training in the liberal arts [literally ‘good arts’]”. Those who earnestly desire and seek after these are most highly humanized. For the desire to pursue that kind of knowledge, and the training given by it, has been granted to humanity alone of all the animals, and for that reason it is termed humanitas, or “humanity”.
Is our Hemingway creation here human? Either way, does the Hemingway have a right to life and the right to protect it? Where does “humanity” truly begin?
About the Author
Mr. Shumak lives in metro Chicago, Illinois, and has spent most of his life in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. He has been many things: police officer (disabled), large cat sanctuary operator, C.P.A. and on again — off again writer — lately on again. He has held active membership in S.F.W.A. since 1992, and has sold four books, three fantasy novels and one non-fiction, along with several dozen short science fiction pieces and non-fiction articles. Some of his current work is available at amazon.com/author/ejshumak
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Ej Shumak’s Hemingway Hunter is not only elegantly written, it is also an extremely clever, engaging story. With an incredibly imaginative premise, the story is written to appeal to all of the senses. It succeeds on every level. Bravo! A stellar piece by a master of this genre.