Hunting Comp., p.1Michael Carter
By Michael Carter (c) 1994/1996/2012
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Matheson reloaded his Enfield rifle and sighed with relief as the ammunition clicked softly into its chamber. Taking a cautious look round he decided that there was no danger at present, so slid the weapon stealthily back into his belt. The black plastic case of the rifle clinked against the hard, cold metal of his ammunition belt, sending a sharp jolt of noise through the stagnant air.
Beads of sweat dripped from his brow, down the sharp ski-slope of his nose, bringing with it an infernal itch and a god awful smell, until they dropped onto his harsh, cracked lips, when the stinging pain was compromised by the starch and protein take-in. He chewed on an old red straw, with the words ‘When Are We Today?’ printed on its mangled middle, half in his mouth, half out.
He gulped. A long, slow, hard gulp, and the sweat he’d just consumed trickled down his clammy throat. “Three Million B.C.”, gruffed his voice as if on its own. “One-oh-eight degrees.” He glanced down at his previous footprint, having felt something underneath. A Scarab beetle, normally to be found in only the hottest deserts, lay in the mound, its pincers broken and its shelled spine snapped. Matheson grinned.
“Steven Pro-shot Matheson.” He laughed. A wild, echoing a laugh, that caught the wind like a kite in a gale. A movement in nearby foliage caught his attention, and within half a second, after three cracks of thunder had seared the air, the antelope was dead, two clumps of leaded metal in its torso, and one in its head.
“Jeez, man, I should have gone to the plains . I'd have taught Butch Cassidy a thing or two about shootin’” He placed the Enfield back in its holster and stopped dead in his tracks. Not a movement, not a sound. Slowly, silently, and surely, he moved his legs so that they stood apart, and let his arms dangle by his sides, the right palm open, and the thumb twitching in untrained unison with his fingers. He glared ahead, picking out a thick, unarmed, leafy opponent.
“Go for your guns, kid.”, he challenged it, sounding more like an ancient Milky Bar advert than a gunfighter. Unsurprisingly, it didn't answer.
“Allright. You play it that way, leaf boy, but I'm telling you when I say draw I want you to use that goddamn piece of metal and strike me down with it.” He cocked his head, so that his ear was in the direction of the tree, his stance remaining unmoved.
“D’ya hear me, Bullseye?” Silence.
“Do ya you hear me?” More silence.
“I said when I say DRAW-“ , he cut off and like a cougar went for the gun, splicing the air with his trademark three shots, and wedging three scorch marks, one below the other, in the soft damp bark.
“Too slow, Bunny”. A laugh, more like a cackle.
“Too slow for this guy. Hey, lighten up here, so bang bang you're dead. Well, beg my God damn pardon.” He re-holstered his gun, and before taking out another clump of wet jungle with his primitive machete, spat an unlevel mixture of sweat, saliva and straw into the leaves.
As he hacked away at the thick, broad stems of the mangroves and jungle grasses, he contemplated the beginning of it all, back in the 23rd. Most people had figured it was impossible; that teleportation of any kind was strictly limited to the ambitious science fiction books of the 20th century. Most of the scientists tended to agree, arguing that teleportation wasn't necessary now, what with the advent of the DynamoDrive (a revolutionary earthbound transport system, dubbed the MachMobile, which could travel at the same velocity as sound waves). It would be virtually pointless for use in interstellar travel, too, since the “Vasco De Gama” shuttle had proved that Earth was the only inhabited planet in the cosmos. After that event, no one was bothered about ET's, EBEs or UFOnauts, and the whole idea of space exploration became dull and pointless.
It wasn't until 32 years after the Gama returned, that the first experimental Instantaneous Teleportation device was publicly demonstrated at the Providence Science and Technology Workshop in front of two thousand of Earth's most eminent scientists. It wasn't until then, 2261, that I.T.was deemed possible, and over the next eight years, countless scientists from across the globe improved and garnished the technique. Although an expensive process at first, it gradually became widespread and stole almost half of the MachMobile’s custom.
Following that superlative breakthrough (probably the biggest technological leap since the Inverse NucBomb, thought Matheson as his blade removed another clump of jungle) the boffins had only to expand and develop the system before they announced on GlobalTV, some 24 years later, that they had cracked the secret of time. Matheson couldn't remember exactly what the process entailed, something to do with capturing the individual ions in an antimatter field, and then transplacing them in reverse order (reciprocating was the word they’d used) and then projecting them onto a fractal point just outside the cosmos, which would use that particular space of being to recreate events that had passed. Matheson remembered interacting in a panel discussion which tried to explain the concept of Time, stating that all events were made up of fabric, what they called, for simplicity's sake, the Particles of Time, and that when a certain moment passed its particles were diffused and stored, layer upon layer, moment by moment, at the very edge of the universe, and only by projecting a subjects matter beyond these layers could they be penetrated.
20th century SF plots concerning time inconsistencies and paradoxes were branded juvenile and vagrant, as with Instantaneous Time Teleportation the future could not be altered in any way, and any jaunts to the past where events were altered would not cause a paradox because as soon as the Traveller leaped out of the time-scenario, the events would revert to the form they had taken before the Traveller arrived.
Thus, anyone who had the money, could fight alongside Custer at his last stand, sail with Columbus on his conquest of discovery, or be the first person to touch down on Sirius alongside Admiral Hoffa Spetznaz, without any cause for alarm. So when I.T.T.was first marketed as a home entertainment system, Time-Mania was conceived. Wealthy families could take vacations to the past (many people chose to visit London before it was flooded, or to sail up the Amazon before it disappeared to urban development); gameshows with historic settings became phenomenally popular; history textbooks were burned in mass rituals in favour of the real thing.
A lot of people looked forward to travelling into the future, even though the developers of ITT had said that this was a definite impossibility, as these particular strands of time had not yet been woven and were not stored on the boundaries of the universe.
Of course, there were the pessimists. Probably from the same lineage as the prudes who wouldn't step onto George Stephenson's Rocket for fear of their innards being displaced if they travelled at more than 30 miles per hour. The pessimists had warned, much to the disagreement of everyone else, that time travelling, or ‘pasting’ as it became commonly known, was a very real danger, and that it speeded up the ageing process, dimmed both mental and physical ability and caused rifts in the continuum of the galaxy. Some of the more right wing anti-pasting opponents even suggested that you could end up in a co-existing reality; an otherwise unplayed moment in time, caused by a misreading of the time strands.
Matheson was no scientist but he'd seen dozens of people travel and they all seemed to think it was safe. No major problems had yet been reported. Only small, insignificant details like clothes shrinking or colour fading, and, on one occasion, a pacemaker had accelerated its pulses slightly. But nothing serious. Nothing life-threatening.
These contemplations snapped out of Matheson's head, and his thoughts were once again concentrated on the present (or what passed as
Brushing away a clump of mangrove leaves, Matheson raised his eyebrows and exhaled thoughtfully as he saw for the first time the dinosaurian creature that was his quarry. A Compsognathus stood, not overy cautious, at the edge of a marsh-pool, lowering its head occasionally to take in water.
“Closer” whispered Matheson, without moving his mouth, “Gotta be closer.” Onwards he stalked, using the thick green foliage of the jungle to conceal himself, like a tiger might do when stalking a zebra, except this tiger had an Enfield, loaded and cocked ready for action. The Compsognathus remained where it was, seemingly oblivious to the cold death that was approaching.
Matheson was about thirty feet from the creature, and was growing closer with every step. His eyes were constantly being channelled from the ground on which he was about to stand, to his prey to check that it was still there, and back to the ground again for the next step.
Despite meticulous studying of the grassy floor, Matheson still missed the pit. Something seemed to burn inside his mind; he must get closer. Must get closer. Closer. There was barely time for his mind to register the concealed trap in the ground, before he had stepped into it. Only when his foot failed to touch down on solid earth did he realise that something was amiss, and by that time he was falling forward into the blackness. There wasn't even time to curse, as he threw his rifle aside, and thrusted both hands forward in an attempt to catch the edge of the pit. Too late. His fingers dug into hard earth as he fell the fifteen feet to the floor, smacking down on his legs, breaking them both instantly. His head hit the wall next, its velocity lessened by the leg impact, and Matheson was bulletted into a state of unconsciousness.
Forty seconds later, Matheson opened his sweat laden eyes, and glanced upward at the daylight. He tried to move his legs. He couldn't. What little light there was in this subterranean trap was all but blotted out. Matheson looked up to see what had blocked the light. He screamed in terror, and then again in pain, as his own ammunition riddled his body, and his blood decorated the walls. In the last second of his life, Matheson glanced involuntarily upwards, and watched with undisguised stark terror as Compsognathus pointed the Enfield and slowly squeezed back the trigger.
HUNTING COMP. was originally written in the autumn of 1994, during a lunch break at school, and ran to just over 500 words. Apart from some unfinished stuff and jeuvenilia, it is the earliest surviving story of mine that I have yet found. I remember being inspred by L.Sprague De Camp’s story “A Gun For Dinosaur”, which I had in a short-story anthology. I hadn’t read it, but just the title inspired me to write my little tale. It was expanded, developed and typed up on my Amiga in July 1996, and by now had almost quadrupled in length. All of the contemplation and science fiction theory was only added in the rewrite. The SF theory seems to make sense if you think about it, but some of the science may be a little wonky. But forgive me, as this was my first foray into science fiction. Also I don’t know why I thought it was a good idea to have Matheson have a shoot-out with a tree, but I’ve left it in anyway.
Just recently  I used the Speech Recognition Software Dragon to dictate Hunting Comp onto my PC; the conversion wasn’t perfect, and I have preserved for posterity a few of the phrases that the program thought I had said;
It was probably the biggest technological leap since the inverse knuckle bomb, bought Matheson as his beard removed another clump of jungle
Only small, insignificant details like Claude was shrinking or caller feeding,
Mac more eels [MachMobile}
Ha Ha! That’s all folks!
Michael Carter, October 2012
Hunting Comp. by Michael Carter / Horror / Science Fiction have rating 3.5 out of 5 / Based on39 votes