The world turned twice over and he fell into the brush.
He picked himself up. He looked around. A soft mist along the ground, an endless thicket, a canopy allowing periodic yawns of morning light.
Something was eating Frank. No—not eating. He looked down; licking.
Frank pulled his foot away from the fat Himalayan. It shook its dirt-matted fur and meowed disapprovingly. It looked up at Frank.
Frank stepped back further. It’s eyes were jet black, empty.
“What the hell?” Frank asked the cat, backing away. It advanced.
Then, from his left Frank heard a murderous war-cry. The trees burst open and a completely nude elderly woman lunged at the cat. She caught it around the neck. It screeched. The woman laughed as she flung the cat into a tree.
“That’s for my couch cushions you monster!”
The cat fell limp to the ground. The woman wasn’t finished. She fell on the cat. Frank didn’t stay for what happened next. He ran. Through the trees he went, snapping twigs, scrapping his elbow along bark laden trees as he went, in a panic. Finally, his brain caught his feet, and he stopped. He took a breath. Then, he screamed.
“What the—“ he paused, “shit!” he decided.
“What the shit,” he muttered to himself, again. He shook his head and looked to the sky. To where the trees ended. They looked strong. Maybe I could climb one, he thought. To see where he was. He tried to think of the last time he’d tried to climb a tree. Forty-five years ago, it must have been, at least, he decided.
He walked to the closest tree; he looked it up and down. It was then that someone bumped into him.
Frank turned. A man, a bit shorter than him, wearing a suit loose at the neck; his hair was wet; he smelled of gasoline. He was looking down. Frank looked down. A sharpened stick protruded from the man’s gut.
He looked up. Frank met his gaze. His eyes, black as pitch, blinked once, and fell. Frank stepped away, shaking.
“There you are, you rascal,” A deep voice emerged from the trees followed by a man; large, hairy, shirtless, smeared with dirt. He looked up at Frank, his eyes were blue. They smiled.
“Hey there fella,” the man said. He walked confidently toward Frank. Frank stumbled back. The large hairy man reached down and jerked the sharp stick free from the man on the ground. He rolled the stick between his fingers.
“Now who might you be?”
Frank looked at the corpse then up to the man.
The man raised an ironic eyebrow. “Funny name, that is.”
He shrugged. “I’m Charlie.”
He held out a hand to Frank.
“Stay the hell away!” he cried at the man. The man looked down at the corpse, then the stick, then the corpse, then Frank.
“Oh!” he chuckled, “you must be new.”
Frank didn’t move. He balled his fists up, ready. Charlie looked at them.
“No need for that. Wait, watch.” Charlie motioned to the corpse. Frank looked.
Charlie held up a hand.
Frank didn’t move. Didn’t breathe. Slowly, the corpse began to fade. Soon, nothing but a stain was left. Frank gawked at the dark patch of leaves.
“Trippy huh?” Charlie muttered.
“What? What is going on?”
Charlie shrugged. “I call it the hunt. No idea what else to call it?”
Frank let his left fist loosen. He approached the patch the dead man had laid. He put his hands to the leaves; still warm. He looked up at Charlie.
“What do you mean, hunt?”
Charlie scratched his temple with the sharp stick. It left a smear of blood along his cheek. He frowned.
“Well, from the impression I get, running into folks, this is some sort of afterlife. And, we hunt. I mean, we hunt the thing we want to hunt. Or something?”
Charlie shrugged. “That’s the most I can gather, anyway. Your hunt will show up. You’ll know it when it does. Everyone does.”
Frank sat on the cooling earth and thoughtfully picked up a leaf. He looked at it. He crumpled it in his hand and let the bits fall.
“You killed him.”
Charlie chuckled. “Not the first time. But don’t you worry, he deserved it.”
Frank shook his head.
“I—“ Charlie began, but stopped. Frank looked up at him. He followed Charlie’s gaze. There, between a few trees a man in a suit walked, he was wet. He turned.
“There you are you rascal!” Charlie hollered. He held the stick up like a spear.
“I must be off. The hunt!” Charlie let off a roar and sprinted towards the man. The man ran.
Frank sat alone for a while. The sun didn’t wane, the weather didn’t cool or warm. Finally, Frank stood. Behind him a twig broke, the wind–what little wind there was–moved aside for someone.
“Sara?” He whispered. A woman in a blue dress, sequined around the collar, slim. He didn’t need the dress to know. He didn’t need the length of soft graying hair. He would have known her from the tip of a finger. He smiled.
She looked up.