I don’t like calling myself a hunter. Hunters enjoy what they do. They revel in all facets of the kill. I’d much rather spend my time on other pursuits. There have been times when I couldn’t escape from pride. Especially after a particularly intense or difficult kill. But, even the most spiteful employee will beam after a job well done. That’s what i am, an employee.
It was my father who first explained “the balance” to me.
“Boy, someday man is going to destroy himself. When we’re gone, the world will keep turning and everything we consider wild will rule this rock again. But right now, we have to coexist and unfortunately, that includes culling the herd. Both herds.”
I know what he meant when it came to the animals. That was easy. It was only after I was old enough to witness and understand the effects of disease and time that I began to realize what my father meant by the culling of man. It still amazes me how quietly sinister this so-called “wild” can be.
I remember trying to explain my father’s theories to Bronston. I’m surprised our friendship survived. Bronston’s a doctor. A good one at that. he doesn’t see many patients, his time is used creating the cures that other doctors use. He’s also the one who forced me into an exam room when I became ill.
The wires wrapped around me like sweating jungle vines. The paper covering the table was as white as Siberian snow and just as cold. I’ve spent days covered in filth, urine soaked and hungry. Yet, it was only after I agreed to the examination that I felt true regret.
The tests went on for hours. Every fluid that could be stolen from me, was. Bronston’s lack of bedside manner became apparent with every thrust of the needle. Our years of friendship seemed to vanish as he donned his uniform and began his work. I was his bounty that day.
“It’s G9.” Bronston told me after days of careful examination of the test results. There were more words readied in his mouth, an explanation of the disease, possible sources, but I knew enough about G9.
“How long?” I asked.
Bronston took his time putting his words back into their holsters.
“That’s the thing. You should be dead right now. In fact, you’ve survived a decade longer than you should’ve. I’ve never seen G9 this matured.”
“Excuse me if I’m a little confused by this.”
“Basically you’re body has figured out a way to coexist with one of the worst pandemics humanity has ever seen.”
Bronston always had a gift for drama. But, his claims weren’t wrong. I wish they were.
“Looks like I’m being cut down.” My dad told me when he finally allowed me to see him on his deathbed. “It’s only fair. The balance, boy.”
I should’ve done more research. I should’ve tried to be more informed. But, like my father said, it was all part of “the balance”, no one is safe from it, that’s all I needed to know.
“You’re body may hold the key to putting an end to G9. We’ll just have to run a few more-”
“That’s not going to happen Jim.” I said.
“Please don’t let your dad’s ridiculous beliefs stop you from possibly saving millions of lives.”
“They’re not my father’s beliefs, they’re mine. Look at it out there. Cities are overflowing. The world is nearly bone dry. G9 and every other disease may be the only salvation out there. As much as we try, we simply can’t kill each other fast enough.”
I may have been a bit extreme. I could’ve at least said goodbye when I walked out that exam room. Bronston was still trying to convince me to change my ways even as the door shut.
The years went by. I became more determined in my hunting. I felt like I had tipped the scales. I for some reason cheated the world. I had to make amends. My trophies grew, not only in number but in size. Until I finally won the biggest one of all, love. I’m aware of how sentimental that may be. But even my father, as adamant as he was, was taken by love.
We married. We lived happily for a couple years. I even convinced her to come with me on a few of my excursions. “The balance” was always there in everything I did. But, it’s presence wasn’t as powerful as before. In fact, the words never even bothered to show up when I discovered I was going to have a baby girl.
I don’t know who told Bronston about the pregnancy. So it goes without saying that I was surprised to see him arrive on the day of the birth. I was relegated to the waiting room as my wife began her struggle to bring life into the world, that’s where he found me.
“Congratulations.” He said.
“What are you doing here?”
“I need to talk to you.”
I knew what he was trying to do. He was hoping that the arrival of my daughter would soften my stance on the tests he wanted to run. If I had been completely honest with my friend I would’ve told him that he was right. But that would’ve only given him hope that I would then take away when I told him no.
“I mean no offense by this, but I don’t have faith that you bothered to do anymore research into G9.”
“Then you wouldn’t know about some recent discoveries we’ve made about it.”
“Are you here to actually tell me something or teach me about things I don’t care about?”
“Both. What I’m trying to tell you is that we’ve discovered that G9 is a genetic disease.”
I understood what he was saying. I may be a hunter, I may live my life in simple ways, but I’m not an idiot.
“Your daughter. She may die from G9.”
“That depends on you. There’s still time.”
I heard my daughter’s first noises coming from the delivery room. Her first wails, her first violent seconds in the world. I had brought another member of the herd into this world. A herd that must be culled. “The balance” demands it. My father would’ve done the same had he known what I know. Yet, I’m alive.
“There’s still time.”