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The Coyote Man

Hunt for survival

By Hyde Wunderli Published 5 months ago Updated 5 months ago 15 min read

July 3rd

Day two. Times up. The cowboy fought hard. Searched long. Came up unsuccessful. Cotton strands formed around his cracked lips. He clicked his tongue. Nothing to swallow. His hat collected sweat and dirt. He wore a barbwire necklace. In silence, he cursed his protruding adam's apple that was taking abuse from the sharp barbs. A cylinder, metal container was wrapped in the wire like a homemade crystal necklace. It ticked softly.

A furry man ascended over a ridge. Or a coyote. Or both. The man scrambled up rock on all fours. He wore coyote skin as a hat that draped down his upper back. It gave him paws instead of hands. Claws instead of fingernails. Behind him, a real coyote followed. It had a collar around its neck as if domesticated. It beeped repeatedly.

“Coyote’s are keen on the smell of death.” Coyote man let out a howl. He sniffed the ground leading to the cowboy.

“Please, why you doing this? I’m not your enemy.” The cowboy said.

Coyote man sniffed the man’s strong odor up to his ear. A gold dog whistle hung from his neck. He whispered, “That’s not what they tell me.”

“Who? Tell you what?”

“These lands whisper. You just have to listen,” Coyote man said. He lifted his hand to the cowboy’s cheek. A sharp claw scratched along his low cheekbone.

“You’re crazy!”

“SHHHHHH.” The claw slid under the cowboy’s eye and stopped. With one quick swift motion, coyote man scooped the claw beneath cowboy’s eye and dug hard. Cowboy screamed. It echoed through the valley to the canyon walls in the distance. Still, no one would hear.

The eye fell. Blood dripped down cowboy’s cheek. Coyote man howled. He leapt over the cowboy’s surrendered body. He gripped the gritty rock behind him. Climbed to the top and waited. The coyote followed. They watched. Cowboy’s head exploded. Flesh and bone scattered along the floor. It plastered on the rock walls.

Coyote man blew his whistle. Shortly after, a pack of coyotes eagerly came over the ridge. They feasted on cowboy’s body. Soon there wouldn’t be much evidence.

July, 17th

Astor pulled into the convenient store before heading out to the pasture. His beater truck crunched the gravel pulling into a tight spot. There was a doorman at the entrance ready to greet Astor. He politely opened the door. A broken pinky veered away from the other fingers that gripped the handle. His face exposed rotten tobacco teeth and a seemingly bleeding tongue.

“Mmm careful now. Watch ya step. Don’t wake the kitty.” The tattered man pointed to the mat on the other side of the door. Astor ignored him.

A woman holding a baby undressed Astor with her eyes. She Aggressively bit her lip. Astor quickly looked away. Two boys huddled around the candy aisle. The skinnier one stuffed candy in his sweatshirt. The other used his fat frame to shield him. Astor carried on his way.

At the soda machine, a middle aged man was mopping up a mess. He had long dark hair. His cheeks were as sharp as the cliffs surrounding the town. He had dark eyes. They were hidden by a permanent look of shielding the sun. One of them veered off in a different direction; making it hard for Astor to keep eye contact.

“I recognize you.” The worker said.

“Yeah? I don’t think I’ve seen you here,” Astor replied

“You're not from around here. I can tell,” The man said.

Astor grabbed his sandwich and wished the man a good day. The man nodded his head, with both hands at the top of the mop.

Besides the tobacco behind the counter, A container of oil was the last thing on the list of things to grab. Astor held both his sandwich and a bottle of iced tea in one hand while he scanned his finger down the miscellaneous isle. He shuffled around a hunchback man that had seen his days of hard labor. He had long nails. Sharp eyes. They were animal like. His hands were beat up. Several scars on his palms

“You hear about the findings out North of the butte?” The man intently looked at the copper wire spools on the shelf.

It took a moment for Astor to realize he was talking to him. “Excuse me?”

“An eye. And a few bones.” The man pulled a spool from the shelf and added to his cart of survival goods. “Be safe out there partner. You looked like you could use the heads up.”

Hunched and straining, the man walked away. Then he turned back and said, “And watch for Coyote’s they’re gettin’ desperate. Killed my dog Ruthy. I'm gonna have to do somethin’ about that.”

Astor approached the counter. “My boy wasn’t botherin you any was he?” The older gentlemen behind the cash register had more wrinkles in his face than a crumpled up piece of paper.

“Oh him?” Astor looked towards the long haired fellow now restocking the shelf. “No he’s not bothersome.”

“That’s good. He’s a decent boy. But likes to be in people's business.

“Small town symptoms I suppose. And the man stocking up for the end of the world? What’s his deal?” Astor asked.

“Don’t know his real name but people around here call him Ezekial. Like from the bible.”

“Well alright then. You have a good day,” Astor said.

Astor rushed out to his Truck. It creaked when it opened. Engine moaned. How he made it across three states amazed him.

Today there was the first cloud cover the town had seen in days. Lightning stirred in the sky. Luminescent blue excited the clouds. It reminded Astor of home. The Arizona heat took some getting used to coming from the midwest.

“Hey Rookie,” Diego said. He was tying wire to a fence post.

Astor approached the fence. “Six just this week huh?”

“Yeah. Two more up that way. Might need help with this one.”

“I got dynamite. I think I can handle dead cattle,” Astor responded.

“A few calves need to be corralled.”

“So that's what the horses are for.”

Tied to the fence on the other side were two horses. Both thoroughbreds. Dark brown coats. Eyes of a loyal servant.

“Let’s get a move, before the rain sets in too hard,” His long dark hair fell in front of his face. He brushed it back. Stood up tall and untied his horse. The long sleeve guayabera shirt stuck to his skin in a sudden gust of wind. Its rustic color matched the floodplains in the distance. Gentle rain pattered against his cowboy hat.

Astor hopped on his horse. He secured the satchel of dynamite and other tools to the saddle. He shuffled his crotch forward so it straddled the swell.

“You ready?” Diego spit tobacco.

“Yes, let's get this done.” Astor turned his horse and kicked off first.

Straight ahead were two dead cows. Three calves paced around them.

“Careful now, they’re scared,” Diego said.

“I’ll take flank.You ever corral cattle before?”

“Just tell me where to go. Shouldn’t be too hard.”

“Move subtle. When they’re moving in the direction we want them, good. Just keep 'em tight, and goin in one direction.”

“Yeah got it.”

“Alright, yeehaw.” Diego turned his horse to the left. He got behind the calves. He clicked his tongue and kicked his horse. The calves started moving. Astor followed on the left side.

“Steady now. Homeward bound,"said Diego. He whistled a tune he made up.

A mile in, dark clouds made it seem like night. Rain fell with the wrath of Zeus. Thunder was close enough to make hair stand up straight.

“Get in close. They’re acting up.” Diego closed in tighter. Astor shouldered them on the left. Thunder clapped in the sky. A calf on the left slipped away.

“Dammit, keep 'em tight!” Diego yelled.

The calf took off running towards the flood plains.

“Shit! Go get 'em’. I’ll stay here with the other two.”

Astor kicked his horse. The full gallop almost knocked him right off.

The calf ran along a slope foot until it found a small path leading up a cuesta. The ground was drenched. The calf struggled up the unstable path. Astor’s saddle rose and fell. Mud slipped down, taking rocks with it.

The calf stumbled to the top. Astor came up just after. On the other side was the scarp slope. Too steep to descend down. Few trees managed to grow along the Talus below the cliff. Incompetent rock covered the slope leading to the Scarp. Thick fog hovered below the cliff-line

Astor reached the top. The calf wandered around the edges of the mesa.

“Is someone up there? Please help!” The ominous fog had a voice.

“Who’s there?” Astor called.

“Please, I can’t see where I’m going. I’m being tracked. He’s going to kill me.”

“Who’s going to kill you? I should get more help.” Astor replied.

“No, there’s no time. Can you help me up there?”

“Can you see the top?”

“Not very well. I’m stuck on a ledge. Fog rolled in. I can’t see where I’m stepping.”

“Okay hold on.” Astor dismounted off his horse and dug into his satchel. He pulled out a rope and ran to the ledge.

“Hurry, I’m going to die!”

“You aren’t going to die, just grab on.” Astor anchored a rope to a competent rock and gripped it for more security. “Can you see the rope?”

“I’m trying to reach it. Swing it to the left.”

Astor swung the rope.

“Got it!” The fog shouted.

The man climbed. Astor pulled. Together the man reached the top. He had blonde hair, dirtied by dirt and rain. His clothes were torn. Scratches all over his face and body. Astor looked at the man struggling to breathe. For half a second his face appeared to be the face of Astor’s father.

“What’s on your neck?” Astor asked with labored breathing.

The man struggled to breathe himself. His chest rose and fell.

“I don’t know how much time I have. I need to get it off.”

A small cylinder container beeped. “Is that a bomb?” Astor backed away.

“Can you help me?” The man was desperate. He crawled further away from the ledge. His fingers clutched mud. His scraped knees sunk into the surface.

“Who did this to you?”

“I don’t know. An animal. A monster.”

“I can get help.” Astor backed away further.

“There’s no time.”

“I have pliers. Can we just cut it?”

“Not sure if that’ll trip the bomb or not. I couldn’t catch the coyote. What kind of sick person?” The man stared at the ground.

Astor went back to his horse for his pliers. Too late. The explosion startled the horse. He kicked backwards and almost put Astor into the Earth. Flesh and skull flew in different directions. Blood soaked into the ground and washed away with the rain.

Over the scarp came the head of a coyote. Its eyes were black and lifeless. The fog remained behind him as a steady backdrop. Coyote man breached the top on all fours. He perched himself in the mud. His fingers disappeared in the filth, the claws of the coyote skin remained on the surface.

“These lands have no quarrel with you. Shame I must now kill you.” Coyote man pushed fur to the side and removed a hatchet from its holster. On the slope side of the cliff, a coyote stepped up to face Astor. Its fur was wet. It was mostly a light tan with charcoal shade rubbed through his back and sides. His chin and neck were white. His snout and the border of his eyes were orange. Around his neck was a collar. Some kind of remote was attached to it. Astor made one move, and the Coyote bore teeth.

“I see your gun. Don’t even try.” Coyote man twirled the hatchet in his hand. “I'm going to need you to toss that over here. Or make up your mind, I’ll bet you can’t hit us both in time.”

Astor could turn and shoot the man. But the Coyote would be right on his back. He could shoot the coyote first, then take his chances with the man with a hatchet. Which was his best chance?

Astor feared breaking eye contact with the Coyote. There’s a certain marveling respect when you stare down an animal that could take your life. Like being on a ledge and contemplating the possible outcomes. His dad always said, if you can somehow convey your respect with a deep understanding, the animal will either submit your request for a truce, or rip your insides out before you ready your weapon.

“What’s it gonna be?” Coyote man said.

Astor reached for his gun as he pivoted into a 180. He pulled it from its holster. His boots slid in the mud. His hands held tight. The gun was pointed. It was cocked. But by the time he fully twisted around to meet his maker, the hatchet cut into his shoulder. The gun fell. Coyote man sprinted towards him. Claws cut deep into his side. Then his groin. With the claws penetrated into his flesh, he felt his body lift from the ground. Coyote man hurled him over his shoulder. Blood trickled down into the mud. Coyote man stood over him. He picked the hatchet from off the ground. Water and blood fell from the blade.

“I’ll tell you what. I’ll give you the same shot I give everyone else.” Coyote man crouched down. “Today’s Thursday. See my brother over there?” He pointed at the Coyote, with his hatchet. Looked up at the sun and then said, “It’s 4pm. You’ll have until Saturday at four to get the remote from his collar. You’ve seen what happens if you don’t. So I don’t need to explain the rest. If I see you heading towards the town…BOOM!” He dug fingers into the wound at Astor’s groin. A thick black stripe of paint ran across the man’s eyes, forehead and the top half of his nose. His eyes couldn’t be seen. Just shadows. Maybe monsters don’t have eyes.

July, 18th Friday.

Before there was vision there was neck pain. A sharp digging into Astor’s throat. Barbedwire cut through his skin. There was a coyote skin draped over his body as a blanket. An oddly endearing act for a monster. Or maybe deranged narcissism? The sun was rising over a bluff in the distance. How long had he been out? He was huddled on the ground on wet mud and rock. He sat up. Winced in pain. Walked to the ledge. He used the land as a canvas to paint his disoriented thoughts.

Golden light touched the land. Cacti and other vegetation were waking to the new day. In some spots, a reflection of still water was hit by light. Several coyotes appeared from behind some brush and drank at collected water near a cactus. Could it be? Astor had to find out.

Each step down the slope ignited the wound in his groin. The coyotes rested in the dirt. The ground was damp from the rain. Astor got close. One had the collar around his neck.

Astor didn’t yet have a weapon. He didn’t stand a chance. Instead, he decided to stalk the coyotes. Learn their routine. If luck struck again, he’d be led to their habitat. But the Coyotes wouldn’t make it that easy. He followed them around all day with nothing to show for it. The sun was setting. The land turned purple. One caught a jack rabbit. It marched proudly down a hill with the rabbit in his mouth. By the time Astor got there, they’d sprung for it somewhere. They were gone.

Astor slid down the hill. He found himself in a defile. In Between two hills and a path that went North and South. It led Astor to a boarded up Adit. He crawled through a space in the bottom right corner. He drank water that seeped through a crack in the rock ceiling. It wasn’t a lot. But it helped. A few feet in front of him there was a hole. A wooden ladder draped down the rock and disappeared in the dark. He decided for now not to carry on. He’d sleep for a couple hours. He still had the coyote skin. The darkness wrapped around him like a blanket and he drifted away.

July, 19th Saturday.

Astor woke with a splitting headache. His first thought was regret of leaving Montana. His second was why he did. The image of his Dad falling from a cliff pressed his mind.

It was early. The sun wasn’t up yet. Astor had another thought. This is a small entrance for a mine. It was most likely used for ventilation. Which means the entrance was somewhere else.

Astor carefully climbed down the ladder. The bottom opened up into a gully. It was too dark to see much. He followed along the rock wall. There were several different paths to take. Some hundred feet ahead, one of the paths led upward towards a faint sunlight. He scrambled his way up through a tight space, grazing his head on the rock ceiling. Once past the scrambling, he found himself on a switchback with vaulted ceilings. He hadn’t seen any coyote’s like he’d hoped. But it seemed close to the entrance. He peaked over a rock to embrace the sunlight coming in. Two men stood there. He quickly ducked back down.

“You’re taking this too far.”

“Relax, he’s as good as dead. And we can carry on.” It was Coyote man.

“I didn’t tell you to kill him! He was never our problem. What if he gets away?”

“He’s not getting away. They never do.” A golden dog whistle escaped from the coyote's skin. It hung loose. Reflected bright in the sun making its way in.

“I’ve lost control of you. This isn’t about some sport. It’s about our people, our family and the land that was stolen.”

“This is who I am, Father. It’s me who’ll bring restoration. And punish those who stole from our family.”

“Your arrogance and this ridiculous game you play will get us both killed. What would your mother think?”

Coyote man pulled the hatchet from his waist and swiftly brought it down on the man’s head. He kicked him. His body fell. His long hair touched the sunlight. His wrinkled face rotted like an apple.

“She’d think you’ve gone soft,”

The hatchet hit the floor. Coyote man dragged the dead body out into the open. He blew his whistle. Astor darted from the rocks. The hatchet was in his hand. The barbed wire around his neck cut through his skin while he sprinted. His hand raised. He joined Coyote man where light met dark. But before Astor could even swing the hatchet down, a coyote leapt from the rocks and took Astor to the floor. He bit into his leg. Screams echoed through the old mine. Astor clawed at the sand. Coyote man strafed to the side. The other coyote’s arrived, circling the on going scuffle ready to join. Coyote man commanded they hold. He laughed. Astor flailed his legs. He tried to kick the Coyote off. The coyote sunk its teeth in deeper. Astor crawled in agony. He felt his strength slipping away. He was losing grip. The same way his hand slipped from his dad’s fingers. Using his elbows and forearms to crawl, he reached the hatchet. He lost complete sense of his leg. He Swung the hatchet behind him but came up empty several times. Coyote man yipped. The others joined in. Astor’s low groans weren’t heard amongst the growing howls and excited yapping.

The coyote released hold of his leg. Went for his neck. Astor turned and swung just in time for the hatchet to catch the coyote’s throat. Blood sprayed on his face. Astor pushed the hatched in farther. He watched the struggles of his own past fade away in the lifeless eyes of the dying coyote. Coyote man cried out.

“Kill!” Coyote man screamed.

There was a gun shot that echoed in the canyon. A coyote fell. A deep hole in his side.

“What we got here?” Ezekiel held a bolt action rifle against his shoulder. He shot another coyote. The other’s backed away. Coyote man yelled out and charged him. Ezekial cocked the rifle. Pulled the trigger. The bullet pierced Coyote man’s chest and slung him backwards.

Ezekiel and Astor met at the dead body; Astor limping and clutching his wound. “What were you doin out here?” Asked Astor.

“Huntin’ coyote,” Ezekiel responded.

They looked down at the body together. Coyote man had a large hole through his chest. His eyes were wide open. The sun lit up his dark pupils. They stared off in different directions. One eye veered left. The other, straight at the heavens.


About the Creator

Hyde Wunderli

Enthusiast of dark romanticism or, gothic romance.

Inspired by the works of edger Allen Poe, Herman Melville, Charles Dickens, and Stephen King

Here for the dopamine, the passion, and the challenge to push my comfort zone.

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  • Test4 months ago

    Your writing is truly commendable, my dear. It's a masterpiece!

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