Teddy could hide in those fields forever.
They were the type of rolling croplands where he had spent summers playing and winters hunting when he was a child.
Back then, he would drop into a green fold of cornstalks and giggle to himself as a friend ran by, doomed to another loss at the hands of the local Hide-and-Seek champion.
Or he would find a crack in the golden-gray late autumn landscape and wait for the season’s prized buck to wander through searching for the dredges of the harvest.
But that was Indiana, and he had been just a boy. This was different, more serious.
Now, he would make his hiding spot in the barren earth and stay there, still and calm, just waiting.
He tried to imagine the people who lived in the lonely farmhouse nestled behind a grove of maples and walnuts in the middle of the vast agri-desert. They might be an old man and woman biding their time until their Springs were done. Or maybe they were a young couple just starting off, pinning their future on the land and the goodwill of the weather. Or maybe no one lived there at all, and the white box that once served as the heartbeat of a thriving family had been reduced to a storage shed for some nameless corporation leaching the land for every penny.
Teddy wanted to believe there were still caring and careful people in the world, and so he decided on a budding family making their way in the world by feeding the world. He would watch over them from his perch on an earthen rise or between ridges, and they would never even know he was there. He would rush away the crows when they tried to eat the family’s crops, and he would call out to the father when that prized buck showed up each fall.
There was a town off in the distance.
Teddy knew this because he could see the church steeple on the horizon.
His farmer family would go to that church every Sunday morning, and Teddy would pray for them through the week. Pray for rain when it was dry, pray for sun when it was too wet, and pray for their little children to heal when they got sick.
The people in the town wouldn’t know he was there, either.
Oh, they might look for him. They would surely know that he was out there, somewhere, but they wouldn’t find him. He had been too well trained and he would hide too completely. He was too stealthy.
He thought about the congregation in that far-off church, and what their lives were like.
Were these people really that different from him, these farmers and children and townspeople? Were they teachers and parents and businessmen and dreamers like the people he knew?
Were they soldiers?
Teddy wondered if any of them would hide in fields and watch over him, if any of them would pray for him. Would they scare away the crows and alert him when a prized buck showed up? Would the vultures pick their bones clean, too?
Most of all, Teddy reflected on why he was there at all. He didn’t know any of these people, so it was impossible to say he hated them or was even angry with them. But it was his job to watch them and stalk them and hurt them, and he had done it well.
But he was done with all that now. He would lay in wait, as always, but he would not advance on the farm or on the town. He would just watch and protect, for as long as he could.
It was already late in the autumn, and the chilly air burned as it rushed over his skin and up his nose. The winter would be long and frigid, but that was OK. He would hide, and he had been cold before.
Maybe a mountain lion would eat him — did they have mountain lions in this part of the world? Or it could be a wolf or perhaps a pack of coyotes. Failing any predator quite so regal, the vultures were always waiting, for him as they were for the farmer and townspeople. Bugs and worms would take care of whatever was left.
The people wouldn’t find Teddy, though, of this he was confident. The fields were too vast and his stealth skills were too sophisticated. In the spring, the young farmer might chop and grind his bones into the dirt alongside his seeds, and Teddy hoped he might, in some way, help next year’s crops grow full and plump.
It was funny, he thought, how his whole perspective on life and people could change in the matter of a few seconds. If his chute had opened, the people in the farmhouse and the citizens of the town would still be his enemies. He would hide from them, and then he would attack.
Now, he would just hide.
As the ground rushed up at him and the homestead disappeared behind him, Teddy spied a magnificent prized buck standing on a barren hill, nibbling on the remains of the summer’s spent crop.
(This story originally published in response to a Flash Fiction Challenge at Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds.)