One of the first short stories I ever wrote. It details a mans journey as he tracks a target in West Cork until met by a surprise twist at the end!
It was 1920, during the Irish War of Independence. Eamon O Brien was in West Cork to take out a target from the English army. His target was called Harry Johnston.
Eamon had short brown hair and he was light and slim. He lay amid the long grasses of Horgan’s field, waiting. He had been waiting almost two hours for his target to pass by. Eamon knew he would eventually.
The moon had just reached its peak point in the cloudless black of the night sky, illuminating the field; full of cattle and sheep, and the edges of the surrounding forestland; within which lay the enemy’s barracks. The soft breeze caressed Eamon’s face, rippling through the grass.
His plan was simple. As his target made his way back to the barracks returning from his little errand from earlier in the day, Eamon would make his move.
Eamon cast about himself for a sign of his approaching target. He glimpsed a quick movement in the trees, not one hundred metres away. Then he saw the glint of the moonlight reflect off the gun of his target. In a flash he was over the low stone wall and closing.
He reached the trees and crouched low. He would follow his target until he found the enemy barracks. Then he would kill him.
Eamon melted into the darkness of the surrounding trees. Somewhere overhead an owl hooted as it took off for its nightly hunt. He waited for his target to move on from the patch of scrub where he had stopped at the owl’s hoot. He heard the rustling of the bush as his target strode further on down the forest trail.
Eamon followed, skulking through the trees, stalking his target. He could hear the crunch of fallen twigs and dried leaves under the feet of his target.
While moving he fitted a silencer to the barrel of his rifle; to prevent himself from alerting the barracks to his presence when he fired the killing shot. Just like the owl, he was the hunter, stalking the hunted, a deathly silence about him.
He decided to get a better look at his target so he picked up speed. He moved with great stealth, avoiding the low hanging branches of the trees about him. His target came to a bend of the trail and it was here that Eamon came up for a closer look.
As his target rounded the bend, into a small clearing beyond, Eamon slid up behind him. When his target entered the clearing the moon was directly overhead, casting an eerie glow over the forest. Eamon saw the uniform of the enemy on the man, along with a Winchester rifle held ready in his hands.
The man stopped for a moment and Eamon sank once more into the surrounding blackness. The man looked around as if lost; which he should not be. Then the man moved on again, running this time as he left the clearing. Eamon pursued immediately, cutting through the trees, moving fast but quietly.
For a second he lost sight of the man, but then, the moonlight glinted once more on the man’s rifle. The man had slowed to a walk again, following a windy forest trail.
Then, Eamon saw the enemy barracks through a gap in the trees. He stopped where he was, raised his rifle, looked through the scope, and fired for the man’s arm. The man fell with a quiet yelp. Eamon detached himself from the trees and moved very slowly up to his target who was lying face down amid the leaves. He wanted to look into the others eyes as he fired the fateful shot.
He crouched down next to the man he had been chasing and he flipped him over. Eamon dropped his gun in astonishment. He stared into the face of his brother, who was not in the English army. He had followed the wrong man. Eamonn couldn’t speak, it was incomprehensible; he had failed. He took a step backwards, and heard a gun being cocked behind him. He whirled around to find his target; Harry Johnston with a rifle pointed straight at his heart. “Amazing how you mistook your own brother for me. I’m surprised you didn’t realise I was following you all along through these confounded woods. You probably thought you were the hunter, well guess what, the hunter just became the hunted. Ironic isn’t it?” The owl screeched again then and dived down through the clearing, catching its prey, a struggling field mouse. Johnston took two steps forward, placed the barrel of his rifle on Eamon’s chest, and then struck him on the side of the head with a rock. Eamon toppled down beside his brother and everything went back.