*** This story is part of my fantasy and science fiction collection Variant Worlds. See the Titles section for more info on this e-book. ***
I was in Nirvana.
My breaths entered and exited in long, controlled intervals, as if I were in a state of deep meditation. My mind was acutely focused, my body so at peace with itself that not even the brow-beating glare of the sun, or the sting of my own sweat running down my cheeks and back, drew me away from my intense concentration.
My finger tensed on the trigger; eagerly anticipating the three pounds of pressure required for the shot. My rifle shifted so slightly it was an almost imperceptible motion. I awaited my final instructions.
“Almost there…” Calamity Jack’s coarse voice whispered from maybe two feet away to my right. “Let him turn towards you. There, take your shot.”
Ninety meters away, the Bastardlope made the error of exposing its chest to me. I squeezed the trigger, hearing and feeling the blast reverberate through my solid frame and bring me to a state of near orgasm. I held my position, trying to extend the feeling of pure ecstasy for as long as possible.
“I do believe you’ve done it, Pearson.” Calamity Jack resumed his grainy speaking voice, evolving from the prone and up to one knee, his binoculars instantly going to his eyes. “Clean shot, straight to the heart. Let’s go take a look at our kill, shall we?”
I could place five rounds within an inch and a half on a paper target, at a distance of one hundred meters. I knew I’d nailed the Bastardlope true. Beaming, I took up a matching stride behind Jack.
My wife Kathy had balked when I’d mentioned that I’d signed up for the weeklong safari in the Keystone Private Preserve for Gentlemen. To tell you the truth, I myself was a bit squeamish at the price tag for the venture. Eighty-five thousand clams I was out, and after the first two disappointing days, I’d started to question the validity of my decision to go through with it.
Not anymore, though. I’d bagged my first Bastardlope and I was floating on Cloud Nine. And Calamity Jack, my buddy from the States, was there to witness my full glory beside me.
“Whew!” Jack praised my accuracy, halting just before the downed Bastardlope and setting up his digital camera for the traditional ‘Hunter With His Leg On His Kill’ pose. “Mighty fine shooting there, Pearson. Mighty fine!”
With some pride, my polished boots brushed past the savannah grass and I took in the trophy. It looked only vaguely human, just as the brochure had promised. The thing had stood some ten feet high, with its elongated neck and limbs, looking freaky and almost cartoonish. Its flesh was fuzzy with short hair. The head had a full brown mane on it, mustached and bearded, as well as defined cheekbones, and that extra length of skin between the nose and upper lip that always irritated me when I saw it on the face of my supervisor back at Relodyne Aquatics.
Yeah, that’s right. Call me immature or foolish, or whatever you’d like, but I had the Bastardlope engineered to look reasonably similar to my boss. I’d paid eighty-five grand for the privilege of hunting down an acceptable facsimile of the person I loathed the most in my life, or fifteen thousand more than the standard Safari fare for taking down look-alikes of famous movie stars or heads of state. And there it was, deathly still on the grass and with a .375 Magnum lodged in its chest.
So fitting, for my first kill to be the one I’d created for my personal pleasure. It made me feel all tingly inside. I took over two dozen digital pictures that I was looking forward to posting on my blog later.
“You know, there’s one out here that I had made to look like my ex-wife.” Calamity Jack said excitedly, glancing in the distance as if he could sense the prey out there. His tongue ran over his bottom lip lustfully. “You see that one, you let me know, man. I’m taking that one out myself.”
That would be the female version of the Bastardlope, also known as the Bitchalope. Trudging after my buddy’s steady strides, I thought to myself; I can’t wait to meet her.