359. The Constellation Hunter, Aquila, and A Lot of Booze

When Aquila retired from Zeus’ courts to become the constellation in the northern sky, he imagined it would be an idyllic life full of pleasant monotony. Which was true, for the first couple of thousand years. Where he was stationed, there was enough alcohol for all the old gods of the forgotten pantheon; and since none of them were around, there was no obligation for Aquila to share any of it with them for old time’s sake.

Never would he have thought that he would find himself staring up at the pointy end of an arrow.

“Hi,” the Constellation Hunter said, grinning.

Aquila blinked twice. Thrice. Spilled his glass as he raised his hands in surrender. “Hi,” he replied.

The Constellation Hunter glanced at the alcohol cloud. “That’s a lot of booze.”

Aquila swallowed hard. “It is.”

“Care to pour me a drink?”

Alcohol coursing through his veins, Aquila’s brain was at least clear enough to know that he could not profit from defying the man who had the golden arrow pointed at him. He swirled the alcohol into a goblet made of stars and offered it to the Constellation Hunter. The Hunter did not receive it, keeping his bow and arrow trained at the spot between Aquila’s eyes.

“I know who you are,” Aquila said.

“Yeah?”

“You’re the death of the old gods. The collapse of stars. The darkness at the end of all things.”

“Oh, me? No, no,” the Hunter said. “You’ve got it all wrong. I’m just a hunter. Looking for good game, you see. What you’re talking about is the anti-life here.” He nodded at the bow. “This is the end of all things. I’m just here to collect the bodies for my gallery.”

“This is just a game to you?” Aquila said, straitening his spine. “Twenty-four of us you have hunted down. Tracked me all the way around the cosmos, searching through galaxies, only to find me here. You’re telling me that it is not for some grand purpose? That you’re not trying to blot the light of the sun? You’re just here because… because you think this is fun?”

“You can’t please everyone,” the Hunter said. “You just have to please yourself.”

“And when you have hunted down the last twelve of us. What then? Will that be enough for you, to have snuffed out the life of all constellations?”

The Hunter shrugged. “Maybe.”

Aquila doused the Hunter’s face in alcohol. It floated off his face in swirls of purple, orange, and pink. The Hunter did not even blink.

“You done?” the Hunter asked.

“Do what you must.”

Except Aquila never managed to finish his sentence. Somewhere towards the end of “what”, before he started to say “you”, the Hunter released the bowstring and the golden arrow split Aquila’s skull apart. Then Aquila was no more – one by one his light dimmed and died. On his split forehead, the star Altair went out in a brilliant supernova.

The Hunter checked his list. Next, after a crude drawing of Aquila, was what looked like a crab.

He can wait, The Hunter thought as he made himself a drink and took a long swig from the cup made of stars.

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