Each year, just before Christmas, the Original Writers Group organises an evening of festival stories. This year I wrote in the style of Cormac McCarthy. I think next year it will be in the style of Jane Austen. So, here for your entertainment:
No Country for a 500-year-old man
Claus sat with the heels of his boots dug into the snow on the ridge and glassed the snowbound valley below him with a pair of twelve power German binoculars. His hood pushed back over his head. Elbows propped on his knees. The harness slung on his back was a 2-inch leather web with one-inch overlay web, buckle fastened with a neck collar with 35mm bells. The deer were a little over a mile away. The sun had been up for just over an hour and the shadow of the ridge and the rocks fell far across the plain before him. Somewhere out there was the shadow of Claus himself. He lowered the binoculars and studied the land. Far to the south were the raw Christmas mountains. He spat dryly and wiped his mouth on the cuff of his white fur-trimmed jacket.
When he got to the foot of the valley, he raised himself slowly and looked for the deer. No longer would they come to his call. Each year, after Christmas, he put them out to pasture and by the time the next Christmas came along they were as wild as any native beast. He could see from here that they were well-fed and plump. He might still outrun them, but he was no longer a young man. So he relied on stealth. They were a hundred yards away. The best he could say about any of it was that there was no wind.
They stood with their heads up, all of them looking at him. He might still get one. He uncurled the harness from his back and then he whipped it up above his head and let it go. It took the harness the best part of a second to get there, but it took the sound twice that. They were standing looking at the harness where it fell when the sound hit them. Then they bolted. Running almost immediately at top speed with the long clang of the sound of harness hitting the ground rolling out behind after them.
He stood and watched them go. He raised the glasses. One of the animals had dropped back and was picking up one hind leg and he thought that maybe the harness had skid off and caught him in the hindquarters. Was that Dasher? He could not be sure. He leaned and spat. Damn, he said.
He crossed the snow and picked up the harness. The bells were still intact. The deer had vanished. The valley stood silent and empty in the sun. He slung the harness on his back and set out.
He needed some better way of catching the deer. Maybe a tranqiliser rifle. He felt all of his five hundred years and his knees were definitely not what they used to be. The harness trick had worked for a hundred years but the deer were wising up to the way it flew through the air. It felt like time was moving on and he was not moving with it.