The Duties of a Man in the Forest

He was well aware of the bead of sweat dropping off his brow and dissipating gradually downwards on his bare chest; and although the drop itself was an indication of his natural discomfort - it had been a cheap shirt anyway and the glorious tear straight down the middle from hours past had done nothing to curtail the posture of a dedicated man.

The barrel of his gun was rested soundly on an in-turned v-shaped rock; it was the most comfortable and perfect gunning spot in the vicinity; and he knew it because he'd spent all the time available ensuring thus was the case, as well as the many other factors to consider when preparing for a final stance against the impossible.

The thunder of horse hooves hammering against the sodden mud could be heard in the distance, they were coming, but Tom was unafraid.

He was listening casually to the oncoming toll of death with complete disinterested interest. There would be no big show here, no big ending, and no glorious victory. The battle was over, the war was lost.

But someone was going to feel a perfectly placed bullet.

The captain would be leading the charge; he knew it. They were cleaning up, they were finishing off; mopping up the remnants of a destroyed resistance; they were expecting to trample down fleeing cowards from behind.

He would make them pay for their over confidence.

Tom had heard of this man, one Bill Rootor: an officer born and bred; the son of a general; and the grandson of a baron-lord. Captain Rootor would pay; he would pay with a bullet cleanly placed in equidistance between his two maddened eyes; and seconds later Tom knew he himself would be dead, and it would all be over for them both.

The hoofs drew closer. Tom drew in a great breath of the fresh forest air, his eyes closed for a second, and for one perfect moment he felt completely relaxed. All the strategic mistakes of his beloved comrades washed away into the distant past; the war was over now and everything would soon mean nothing.

But first one more man was going to feel the perfection of a fatal shot in the forehead from the gun of Tom Parker.

His eyes awoke again to the bursting morning light of the wooded mossy hill. He glance down for a moment to the wound on his right arm, blood was still seeping out from underneath a rag-tag bandage crafted from his own shirt at a considerable rate. For a moment he acknowledged the pain, and he almost winced; but thus would not be the action of a true man. The wound was bad even without the moment soon to come; he would have died within hours anyway.

They were here. His concentration was pristine. He saw the silhouettes through the trees against the morning sun. He saw the first glint off the helmet of the leading man; he saw the colour of his jacket, he saw the shape of his face; and then he saw through his eyes and into his soul.

The barrel was clean, the joints were greased, the aim was straight, and the sight was fixed firmly on the target's head. Tom had made sure all was the case.

The shot was perfect.

Captain Rootor was sent hurtling magnificently backwards from his horse; his bulleted bleeding skull cracked hard against the unforgiving surface of an ancient oak, and his lifeless body slumped pathetically to the ground.

Tom stood to his feet and raised his head to the sight of insurmountable odds. He looked uncompassionately at the numerous dumbfounded moronic members of the oncoming fascist battalion raising their rifles to fire. This was the end.

Their shots were clumsy, but they did the normal work of lead against skin.

The sides of his torn open shirt flew backwards in the wind; he almost grinned.

Afterthought: the following is based on a true story, and statues of the great Tom Parker can be found even today; ordered to completion by the victorious General Rich leader of the second rebellion. As convention dictated from ever onwards, the statues' plaques' always read the following:

"Man cannot be defeated; man is not made for defeat; a man can only ever be destroyed."