Achlis -- Death to the Stupid Moose By: Tyvara
Vincent stepped out of his car and took in a deep breath of pinewood mountain air. He missed the wilderness and the wildness of hunting. No matter how civilized society got, he would always be a lion, and some instincts were hard to break. Sadly, his son, Aaron, did not share that sentiment with him. Luckily his son hadn't gone vegetarian, but in no way was he the hunter type. That's why I wanted to win this lottery: to let Aaron see what it's like to kill something pointless. Start him slow.
"Out there, Aaron," Vincent said to his son with a come-hither motion of his padded hand, "is the last Achlis. And with this paper," He patted his shirt pocket, "Gives us the right to make the killing blow."
"But, Dad," the teenaged cub complained as he struggled with the strap of the pack he wore. "I don't know if I want to kill some dumb animal." Slamming the car door, he stomped to where his father stood.
Vincent sighed, pulling his hand through his mane and rolling his head as he struggled with his exasperating son. He scratched at his neck while he thought of a response. "Look, this thing is really stupid, we're putting it and us out of our misery. It's a waste. A rejected defunct of the animal kingdom. We're doing everyone a favor. That's why I had to get a lottery number at winning this chance. Our names will go down in history as the father and son who put an end to the Achlis."
Aaron gave him the typical teenaged look of skepticism as he followed his father. "I just don't see why this matters so much to you." He held the pack high at the shoulders, where wisps of his mane had begun to grow.
"It's a circle-of-life thing. We're getting back to our roots, son."
Aaron shrugged, but obeyed his father.
At least he doesn't object to killing animals. He just doesn't understand. Vincent thought as he led his son through the forest to the hideout he'd made earlier in the week. It'd be too hard to relate to him otherwise, and I still want a relationship with my son. I don't want to be strangers.
As they entered their hideout, Aaron shrugged off his pack and slumped in a corner. Vincent did the same, but he faced the small window where he could observe the forest beyond them.
"Dad, I've never even seen an Achlis. How do I know we need to kill it?" Aaron rifled through his pack and pulled out a bag of jerky. He tore at the dried meat with his teeth.
The sweetened teriyaki smell filtered into the space with every other breath. "All right, let me tell you about the Achlis, and you tell me what you think:
The Achlis is similar to a female moose since they haven't any antlers. Their upper lip is so large it hangs in front of their mouth and gets in the way of eating, so they have to graze backwards. If that's not stupid enough for you, they have no joints in their back legs and have to sleep while leaning against a tree, or something large enough to hold their weight. They are extremely stupid. Like, they won't notice the smell of the jerky you're eating, like any other animal would. Their sense of smell hasn't really done them much service, so it can't be very good."
"So, why do we have to kill it. Can't it just die on its own? Why do we have to do something about it?"
"Because, Aaron, we're doing a service to the community. Everyone fought like mad to kill these things, and when rumors spread that one still lived, every last space of wilderness got hounded by hunters. With this last one gone, it'll all be over. We never have to worry about them again."
"What's to worry about? If it's so stupid, what's the rush?"
"They wander places they shouldn't, and they're too stupid to stay put. This last Achlis has been pretty wily. It took me a week to track this one down, but I finally found his route. We'll just wait here, until it starts to get dark and he comes to this clearing to rest."
"So we have to wait all day?" Aaron slumped against the wall behind him and crossed his arms. "I thought this would be quick."
Vincent shook his head without moving from the viewing hole. "Why would we pack a full day's worth of food, if we were only going to be here for a few minutes?"
Aaron only huffed, but said nothing, returning to his bag of jerky.
"It won't be all day. We just need to get the rush on it after it falls asleep."
"When it leans on the tree," Vincent punctuated his words with acted out paw motions, :we'll wait until he goes to sleep, then cut the tree so it falls out from under him. When he topples over, he'll just lay there waiting to die."
"Dad, animals don't just let you kill them."
"You haven't seen an Achlis. You don't know."
After a few hours of waiting, and the sun set the sky aglow in a wash of orange and pink, the hue reflected on the meadow. They waited, and soon the creature came into view. It hobbled along, dragging its long unbendable legs behind it, occasionally swinging one leg wide to gain extra ground. After a few big leg swings, it would pause and graze, turning his head backwards to eat.
"Aaron," Vincent whispered, "It's in the clearing now. Come look."
His son scooted nearer to him, and Vincent moved his head so Aaron could see. He watched his son stare, his mouth growing wider and wider, then looked back at his father. "That's it? Its eyes float around in its head." He returned to the view hole. "Like those googly-eyed toys."
Vincent nodded, but he wouldn't smile, he didn't want to give anything away, or spoil the moment. He let his son soak it in.
"Dad, it can barely eat. That stupid lip keeps sliding in the way." His mouth hung open as he stared. "Did you see those legs? They're all stiff." He paused for a moment. "Do you really think that it'll just lie there and let us kill it?"
"Yup. It's all ours."
Aaron continued to stare out the hole transfixed, his whiskers twitching above his gaping mouth. "Will we . . . eat it?"
"We could, but it doesn't really eat enough to get meaty. I've heard it's not much different from moose or elk. We're more about getting rid of the dumb thing than eating." Vincent sat back while his son took over watching. "Now we just wait until he picks a tree and falls asleep."
So they waited. Finally, after grazing for so long it became painful to watch, the Achlis fumbled its way to a tree and leaned against it.
"Now's our chance, son."
The two snuck out of the shelter and crept toward the Achlis. Its slow breathing loud in the quiet night. Its whistling and grinding drowning out all other sounds. Why hasn't some wild animal killed it off yet? Well, it's ours now.
Stalking closer, Vincent pulled out an axe and aimed a blow at the trunk. He steadied himself, waiting for the moment the Achlis let out another snore -- then he wacked the trunk. He held the axe in the tree while the Achlis took in another breath, and Vincent pulled the axe out to aim once again.
When the Achlis let out another snore, Vincent repeating the swinging axe, and after a few more whacks, he began to carve a wedge out of the tree. Once the wedge grew large enough, an earsplitting crack signaled the tree falling.
Vincent rushed toward his son and they moved out of the way. They watched as the tree toppled to one side, and the Achlis, in a honking whine, toppled with it, landing on his side.
Both father and son rushed toward the Achlis, and just as Vincent had said, the creature lay there, its eyes pointing in different directions. It didn't make a sound, or move, just remained on the ground.
Vincent pulled out a knife from his belt and handed it to his son. "You want to do the honors?"
Aaron held out a paw, but retracted. "Maybe you should do it. I don't mind watching."
With one slit, Vincent sliced along the Achlis' throat. Its neck opened without a sound nor twitch. While the Achlis bled out, Vincent stood and looked at his son. "Now we are a part of the circle of things. No longer will such a useless and pointless thing grace the earth."
This creature was really stupid. According to the book, the Achlis was created by the Roman writer Pliny the Elder. He described the creature as I did, like an elk (elk in Europe means moose) but with an upper lip so large it has to graze backwards, and no joints in the back legs, so if it falls over, it can't get up. That's how people killed it, by cutting down the tree it leaned on while sleeping.
All I kept thinking was how dumb this animal was, how stupid this Pliny guy was for writing about it in the first place, and how badly I just wanted to kill it myself. So I let a lion family get rid of it for me.
Thanks for reading.