He stepped into the middle of the gathering and approached the boar. By the bubbling cauldron a long, twisted knife lay on the ground; Clint picked it up by its bone handle. Murmurs were again silenced by the hand of the red-robed figure. Clint stood next to the boar, which sat still and calm, staring ahead as though in a trance.
“So, uh… what’s the technique here? Do I just stab it or, uh…”
The figure in the red robe removed its hood to reveal a gaunt face marked with dark paint. The other figures removed their hoods; every face was splattered with crimson markings. The man in the red robe extended a forefinger and drew it across his throat. In response, a tall man emerged from the shadows and crept with a gliding step behind Clint. The man drew a dagger from his robe and raised it above his head.
“Oh, I get it,” said Clint, unaware of the danger at his back. “Slit its throat. That makes sense. More humane, I suppose. All right then, let’s give it a go.”
As Clint straddled the young pig, the man in the red robe motioned with his hand, and the would-be assassin put away his dagger and slunk back to the shadows.
“So I just drag the knife under its neck, here?” asked Clint.
The robed figures watched.
“All right. Here goes.”
Clint held the boar by one ear, sunk the blade deep into its neck, and sliced across. The victim gave a kick and a shudder then sank to the ground. A robed woman rushed in and lifted the boar’s head; she held a silver goblet beneath its neck as the wound drained.
“Oh, gosh, sorry,” said Clint. “I didn’t even think about the mess. You’ll probably need more than a cup to catch all that blood, though.”
Clint placed the bloody knife back on the floor where he found it; he looked at his bright red hands.
“Well, I gotta say, that’s one heck of an experience.” He approached a man in a stained, white robe. “I wouldn’t say it was pleasant exactly, but hey, that’s the way they do it living off the land, am I right?”
“You know, I’d love to stay for the cooking part of the activity,” said Clint, wiping his hands on the man’s robe. “I hope you don’t mind—they didn’t give me a robe, and yours is already messy. Anyway, like I said, I’d love to stay, but I really need to find my tour group. Helen—that’s my wife—will be startin’ to worry. Ha! She’ll sure be jealous when I tell her I got to be part of the cooking tour.”
He looked around the room; hollow faces stared back at him.
“Well, I’d best be going.”
As he groped his way around the rock walls, trying to find passage through which he had entered, the robed figures closed in around him; at the forefront was the man in red. Clint stopped by a large parchment hanging on the wall. Jagged black script marked the parchment.
“Next Global …Griss?” he read aloud. “Oh no—Crisis. Next Global Crisis.”
Three robed men drew near, each retrieving a dagger from his sleeve.
“You folks havin’ some kinda brainstormin’ session or somethin’?” asked Clint.
The three assailants extended their weapons toward Clint’s back and stepped closer.
“What does that say? Water contamination. Yeah, I don’t know about that. It’s a crisis, all right, but where do you go from there?”
The man in red mumbled some foreign word, almost a grunt, and the three men lowered their knives and stepped back from their prey. Clint stepped back from the wall, examined the writing on the parchment, and drummed his fingers on his beach ball belly.
“Yeah, you see, it’s too obvious. Too hard to control. I mean, that’s what they’d want with a worldwide crisis, right? More control.”
Some of the robed figures looked at each other.
“People will only take so much,” continued Clint. “You can take their money, their fun, their freedom—up to a point—and they’ll go along with it. But water? I mean that’s life and death. Imminent death. I mean, they’re relyin’ on people havin’ a certain amount of civility, right? But in a situation like that, all bets are off. No sir, what you need is somethin’ slightly less apocalyptic. Hmm. I see y’all got Internet up there. That could work. War. Difficult to manage. Financial Meltdown. They already tried that one, didn’t they?”
One of the robed figured elbowed the man next to him, who responded with a defensive glare.
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