It was late November on East Moon Lake. The day was grey and the air did sting. A duck hunter and his yellow dog, Turtle, were wading out in the water. They moved synchronized and slow like slugs. Wearin’ camouflage from head to toe to tail to gun. The whole world was only a few degrees away from frozen, but the cold didn’t bother them none, they was too busy shootin’ feathers from the sky. Plus, killin’ a wild animal was enough to stoke some heat inside the hunter for a long time, all winter even, if that animal was wild enough. If that animal was big enough. If that animal fought hard enough. He liked killin’ more than sex. To kill made him feel like he was livin’ in the throat of heaven. Gave him a real good high.
The hunter didn’t hunt out of a need for survival, he was sittin’ in high cotton. Had more money than you can shake a stick at buried in the holes of his backyard. Everything he did in life was for sport and his house was filled to the brim with all his taxidermy trophies- elk, alligators, turkeys, hogs, crows, coyotes, beavers, bobcats. He even had a big ole’ black bear that he kept shackled to his front porch as a pet. Fed it fish and berries, occasionally, if the bear acted right.
Quack, quack, quack, quack, quack.
The hunter looked up past the canopy of autumn leaves- yellow, orange, red, purple. He looked up past the mockingbirds that were croaking like frogs. He looked up past the speckled sun. He looked up and pointed his gun. Quack, quack, quack, quack quack. POW! Q-u-a-c-k. The bird fell from the clouds in a streak of green iridescence and landed lifeless at base of a loblolly pine tree.
The hunter was as proud as a peacock, “Hells bells, go get him boy,” he said. He was missin’ all his front teeth so he spoke like he had a mouthful of mush, but Turtle always knew what the ole’ man was sayin’ anyway.
Turtle ran towards the dead duck like he was running from a tornado. Water splashin’ up and down and all around. Turtle stopped once he got to the side of the lake and started barkin’ something fierce.
“What’s it boy, I know you ain’t found that duck yet,” The hunter yelled. Turtle kept right on barkin’ as the hunter walked towards him like a doe takin’ its first steps- stumblin’ over the roots and rocks and disobedience of his damn dog.
When he got over there, his eyes popped out and his mouth fell open wide enough to catch a catfish. There, face down, and floatin’ like a bottle at the edge of East Moon Lake, was the body of a woman. Plain as day. Even a blind man galloping on a horse woulda seen her.
She was naked as a jaybird too and her skin looked like milk that had dripped out of the moon. Her body bobbed slow among the big worms and the sunken cypress trees while her raspberry red hair was dancin’ around in the water like the flames of fire.
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph,” The hunter said as he dropped his gun and bent down to flip her over. Her body felt like an icicle and he shook deep inside, so deep that parts of him became petrified, as he flipped her right side up. Just as he did the woman opened her emerald eyes. They sparkled with a flare of dark magic. It startled the hunter so that he fell backwards into the water like a stone. Turtle ran off whimpering and before you could say jack robinson, turtle was long gone, hidin’ in some hole in the forest.
“Son of a gun,” the hunter shouted.
“Honey where’d you from? I ain’t ever seen your breed before,” the woman said.
“I come from over yonder, in Hogeye, Arknasas.” he said. “And who in the hell are you?”
“You can call me Ramblin’ Rose,” She said. “Now come here big boy and give me some of your sweet, sweet sugar.”
The hunter didn’t want to go near her. Something about her seemed so cadaverous and reptilian. But there was somethin’ about her eyes. They lured him in like a fishing line. He couldn’t help but be seduced by the lightning and love and legends that was flowin’ through them. He was drawn to her eyes, like an insect drawn to the nectar of a venus flytrap. All he wanted was one lick of her. “Just one,” he promised himself.
The hunter crawled towards Ramblin’ Rose until they were lips against lips. For one brief moment the hunter felt like he was touchin’ everything in the world that is glitterin’ and golden. Ramblin’ Rose pulled back and smiled as the hunter’s body started to shake and throb and shiver. He was knee deep and sinkin’ fast.
“Why you doin’ this you witch,” the hunter said.
Teardrops streaked his cheeks as every atom within him stiffened, as his breath got hollow, as his heart burst, as he gasped, as he constricted, as he regretted and repented and reflected. The hunter realized then, that he had been hunted. Finally, his blood got too cold to flow. His body turned the color of quartz and he was now nothin’ but ice. His ears were the last to freeze and before they did Ramblin’ Rose said, “I’m not a witch, I’m a mermaid and you of all people should know the splendor I get from flirting with a fatal darkness, my dear. The only difference between you and me is that I don’t thirst for the innocent.”