Leaves of gold form a halo around the Hollow One. Her shotgun rests on her shoulder, a fishing pole she will use shortly to bring in her biggest catch yet. She is an owl inside the pine tree of her hoodie, her own face half-blown away more than a decade ago. The Hollow One, she hides her craters as a courtesy to the innocents left in the park.
It’s only moments before nightfall and the light that is left makes one final squeak before surrendering to the strangled darkness. Two middle-aged men stand by a creek taking turns with a cat. They wear working gloves to keep away the frantic scratching as they dip the tabby fur into the waters, increasing their count with each pass.
“Nineteen, twenty, twenty-one,” the bald one jerks the golden tabby up, dripping wet, its energy draining with each dunk.
“How many dips does it take to drown a mangy cat?” his partner puffs a black clove cigarette, which he leaves dangling as he takes over the next count.
“Guess we’ll see who gets lucky. Winner gets the first female runner,” and his face forms a gross grin of domination as he dips the cat back down and begins to count, this time to twenty-two, but the cat has given up all fight and flops up from the water like a fat coy fish.
The Hollow One is close enough now to smell the sickly-sweet fragrance of the cloves and hear the crackling of its paper. The men toss the golden cat back into the creek, laughing as it floats downstream.
“That’s one weak pussy; let’s hope the next to pass has a bit more fight in her, eh?” the man lets the butt of his clove drop alongside more sniggering about the butt of his crude joke. The clove lands underfoot, scarring the weeds, but before his boot can crush it, the sound of the shotgun pops like an incandescent lightbulb and both men shatter by the stream.
The Hollow One lined her shot to go through both craniums with one bullet. She will dig for them but one grave, which is more than they deserve.
In the morning, she’ll return to her hunt, determined to stub out as many bullies as she can before they torture more unlucky souls. Before they create more Hollow Ones.
This flash fiction is in response to Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #115.