By Lance Gray
Swipe left. Swipe left. Swipe left.
Social. Swipe left.
Mustard Yellow. Rifle scope crosshairs.
(in the crosshairs) HUNT
Gunshot. White flash.
He hated the Splash Screen. That awful yellow triggered him as soon as it flooded the screen. Those “familiar” with the app could spot a user, in public, by the jaundiced glow it cast on their face. He made sure the screen was covered, mainly to avoid the eye rolls and mock-concerned comments about “that poor queen, going through liver failure”, as if they didn’t have their own profiles, complete with headless torso, bulge and ass pics.
DAY HUNT or NIGHT HUNT
PREDATOR or PREY
He hated this app. The Home Screen gave you 2 sets of choices. “DAY HUNT” is the free version. Everyone online, arranged by distance from the user, and no filter options. “NIGHT HUNT” is the anonymous paid version, for animals who would rather keep their visit to the hunting grounds a secret. It included access to filters to pair compatible users. He only used “Night Hunt”, since nearly getting caught. That couldn’t happen again, so he moved to the island, where there was a revolving door of tourists, who sometimes went missing.
He chose “PREDATOR”. The Alphas, doms, and total tops went this direction, while passive or submissives, twinks into daddy/son play, or guys that wanted to be used, chose “PREY”. They made it so easy.
BEAR. WOLF. BOAR. HAWK.
Tonight was a rare Halloween/full moon combo, so he chose “WOLF”, and the user name “Grey & Hung-ry”, which was punny AND descriptive, the sign of a good screen name, if he did say so himself. From here on, he is Grey, the wolf, hungry and clever, on a night hunt for…
BOAR. SHEEP. CHICKEN.
Stupid app…but Grey chose “SHEEP”. They were extremely passive and wanted to be used. Not as aggressive as a “BOAR”, and not as young as a “CHICKEN”. Sheep were passive enough that by the time they realized what was happening, it was too late.
Profiles, matching Grey’s, filled the screen. There were more than usual tonight, but it was Halloween AND a full moon. An abundance of drugs and tourists, around holidays, boosted the numbers, especially prey.didn’t matter though. He started with the first profile and continued until one of the flock responded.
It didn’t take long. The fifth profile, Matty715, answered Grey’s “Woof!” immediately, almost desperately, “I wanna be baaaaaad.” No need to go into the details of the conversation. They decided to meet at Blowjob Beach (not the official name), a secluded stretch of sand, bordered by trees and moonlit paths. If cruisers wanted more privacy, a little further through the trees, the paths wind along rocky cliffs and caves. Once in a while, someone lost their footing and fell to the rocks and crashing surf below.
It was 10pm, and Grey wanted to be finished before the bars emptied, and drunks flooded the paths, followed by tweakers. In half an hour, he is meeting Matty, who sent a face pic, so Grey would recognize him. “What a shame,” he thought. “Matty would have made a sexy wolf, one day.”
Grey grabbed his keys, a bottle of water, and his bag, with the essentials, condoms, lube, poppers, plastic wrap, zip ties, and a sharp knife, just in case. The predator left to hunt.
He hated this fucking app…and its users.
After parking far enough away, he took the first path over the dunes, to the beach. Grey stopped, next to a trash can to take off his sandals. Taped on the side, was a MISSING poster. It was one of his, but he didn’t do it here. That one was on the other side of the island. It had been a particularly rainy evening, and the spillway coming off the mountains could get dangerous, and sweep you out to sea, if you’re not careful. He was careful.
He walked to the edge of the water, just enough to get his feet wet, and made his way down the shore, to hunt his sheep. The language of HUNT, made the whole thing seem ridiculous. What should have been tragic stories, sounded like a slapstick horror comedy. Nobody, not even the sheep…ESPECIALLY the sheep, understood the gravity of what was happening around them. Literally, the death of their flock.
It had been cloudy all evening, but looked like it might break up and let the stars peek through. Even so, up ahead, Grey could see a figure in the dark, leaning on the twisted and bleached remains of a fallen tree. He knew that tree well.
The figure turned its head toward him, and Grey could swear he saw light spark in its eyes. It stood and made its way towards him. As they got closer, he could tell it was Matty, but Marty’s pics didn’t do him justice. His hair had grown out, and his eyes were shockingly blue. All he was wearing was a pair of board shorts, it looked like little Matty had been eating his vegetables and lean meat. Grey still had about 3 inches and 20 pounds on him, but he was glad he brought the knife.
“Yeah. Grey & Hung-ry?” Matty asked, putting his hand down the front of Grey’s shorts. “I guess so. Nice.”
Grey pulled away, surprised by his prey’s aggressive move. “Who’s hunting who here?”
Matty made a mock sad face. “Sorry Mr. Wolfie. I told you I wanted to be baaaaad.” Grey couldn’t get over how beautiful this man was.
In another lifetime, he would have fallen in love. They’d have a little place Upcountry, with fruit trees and dogs. They’d have chickens for fresh eggs, and a goat, because goats are really popular gay farm animals. They’d drink coffee together, on the lanai, every morning, and watch the sunset every night…but that isn’t what is going to happen.
Grey grabbed Matty’s hand, pulled him close and kissed him. “Let’s go to the cliffs, where we won’t be interrupted.”
“Lead the way.”
They navigated the dark paths, stopping along the way to make out, like an appetizer that would never lead to the main course. Finally, they made it to His favorite spot.
They stood together on the cliff, holding each other’s hand, and for one last moment, everything was beautiful and perfect.
“I hate what HUNT, and other hookup apps have done to the dating world. Nobody meets for drinks. Nobody talks. It’s not like it used to be. With PrEP, there’s no fear of contracting HIV, and even if you do get it, they can keep you alive forever, ‘with one little pill’. Our lives were better when it was life or death. I’m sorry that it’s you tonight.”
“Don’t be sorry. I’ve been watching you HUNT for some time now. You should have never moved into my territory. Missing tourists are my thing. There were never posters when it was only me doing the killing. There’s only room for one of us on this island.”
The clouds were breaking up, and the full moon started to shine through. For the first time, Grey was nervous about how this was going to turn out. “Fuck you, Matty. You’re the prey,” he growled, and tried to let go of Matty’s hand, but it was too late.
The grip on his hand tightened quickly, causing excruciating pain. “Come on! My name isn’t Matty. Do you think you’re the only one who can come up with a clever screen name?”
Grey’s mind was racing, half infuriated, half terrified. He looked at Not-Matty with a look of pain and confusion. Was his hair that long when they met on the beach? And there was no question, Matty-Things’s eyes wer definitely glowing in the moonlight.
“Matty715? Too deep? Matthew 7:15. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”
Suddenly Grey’s arm was free, and he reached for the knife in his bag. He soon realized his arm wasn’t free of the creatures now clawed hands, but free of his body. Grey turned to see the final bit of transformation, from beautiful man to terrifying creature, that was wielding a now severed arm, like a club. He giggled inappropriately, as he realized that the monster was literally exercising its right to bear arms.
For a moment wolf and wolf, murderer and killer, stood facing each other with the moon shining down on them and the deafening sound of crashing surf underscoring the scene. Grey opened his mouth to scream, but was stopped by a flesh ripping flash of teeth and fur. His body crumpled to the ground and slid over the edge of the cliff. The last thing he saw was the werewolf’s triumphant howl to the full moon above, it’s fur caked with fresh blood.
The last thought to cross his dying mind, as he fell to the lava rock below, was how much he hated that fucking app.
Lance Gray was born and raised in Martinsville, IN. In his 20’s he was well known on Indianapolis stages. He lived on the East Coast for 22 years, in NJ and CT, performing, writing and directing for 15 seasons at Downtown Cabaret Theatre in Bridgeport,CT, and Fairfield Center Stage in Fairfield, CT. After the death of his husband, Lance briefly moved back to IN to start his own theatre. In April of 2021, he left everything behind but his dog, Ithaca, and moved to Wailuku, HI, on the island of Maui. He is already a part of the local theatre community, and will be appearing as Wadsworth, the butler, in CLUE, and works at Maui Veterinary Clinic. Lance has written the book for five musicals and two short plays. HUNT is his first short story.
You can find Lance, and whatever he’s up to at @LanceGray on Facebook, @LanceAGray on Instagram, and @LanceGray515 on TikTok.
Thank you, and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!