Chapter 1 – The Palenque Cave
Pinar del Rio, Cuba, 1852
With one clean shot I got him. Shooting him wouldn’t be
enough. I would have to slice the baby boar’s throat and make
sure to drain all of its blood out. The blood would go back to the earth,
for it was not mine to keep. It was the flesh that I could take back
to feed a bunch of starving cowboys, wild men who in these hills we
called cimarrones. I washed the blood off my machete in the river and
slid it back into the sling which hung at my hip. With my rifle on my
back, I thrust the hunt over my shoulder. But before I was completely
upright, I heard a swish in the water behind me. I didn’t have to turn
around to know what that sound was. I should have been more careful
about tainting the waters with the enticing drops of boar’s blood that,
even though diluted, had drawn over to my side of the riverbed the
goliath croc that tended to vacillate at the swampy end.
What was I going to do now? Fight or flight? With the extra
weight on me, I didn’t stand a chance at outrunning the croc. It was
going to be either me or the boar. The choice was obvious. I flung
the boar back and ran a few yards before turning to find the prey
secured between the croc’s jowls, along with smaller crocodiles that
had risen to tear at the flesh that protruded from the sides.
“Shit!” There went my prize feast. If I showed up with tree frogs
and snails again for dinner there would be a protest or—worse—I
would be ridiculed. I was going to have to save face even if it meant
hunting down a hutia. I really didn’t like killing those creatures because,
even though they were rodents per se, their fluffy fur and
friendly faces accompanied by their cheerful nature made them entertaining
mascots. Forget keeping one as a pet though; one of my
guys would definitely slash its neck at the strike of hunger pangs.
Hours would pass before I would come across another prey.
Relieved at the sound of rustling in the bush, I flung my machete
and struck an entity that traveled close to the ground.