When I shot her, she cried out, perhaps to her friends, but presumably to her maker, and I felt bad. I knew I had hit her a bit high because I had determined to shoot her as soon as she saw me, so I was aiming center mass, toward the front of her body. A mere augenblick later and I would have managed a better-placed shot. She kicked at the ground for a bit, and I agonized, deciding to reload my gun in order to deliver the coup de grace. By the time I had the expended primer out of the breech, she ceased moving and expired. I was grateful to my maker.
Once I had torn her guts out of the carcass, I examined the heart and lungs. I had missed the heart entirely, but the fifty-caliber bullet had sliced through the top of both lungs. I puzzled, and still puzzle, how she managed to cry out for a few seconds. Nevertheless, beforehand, a few minutes after she grew still I approached her and spoke to her. “Did I do you a wrong? I hope not.” And she ceased from being a doe and became venison.
A wise man asked me recently what I find most joyous; what makes me happy. I answered almost without hesitating: “I find precious joy in being in the woods, armed, ready to kill. Nothing makes me happier than having a coyote come to me, with nothing between me and him but my .44 magnum. I love to touch the primal. I love to kill.” It was, in fact, a primal moment to even say such a thing. I waited for him to respond, and he did.
“We all have a need to kill,” he said. He then related experiences he has with murderers in prison, of a particular sort (I won’t bother to pretend I know the taxonomy of murderers as a group and over against other criminals). The gist of his comments was that we are all killers; we carry a desire to kill within our bosom, but civilized people manage to channel their killing so that it does no bodily harm. When bodily harm occurs, we must incarcerate, or we as a society descend into barbarism. To go hunting, for example, under the restrictions of the state which serve to manage wildlife populations for their own good, is a civilized channel for my desire to kill. As for me, I literally kill a large game animal.
Killing a large game animal participates in profound questions, the morass of living and eating. On the day I killed my doe, I tracked several coyotes, at least two of which hid under a spruce tree only early that morning, after the dawn broke open the day. They had rushed out upon two turkeys and tore them to bits while they were still alive. One of the coyotes then left a large deposit of his own scat, in a post-breakfast relief, I suppose, and then they were off to the further reaches of the woods which lay across two plowed fields.
When they approached the edge of the woods, they spotted a small herd of deer and intercepted them, and the deer leapt across a ditch full of ice, one of them breaking through the surface of the ice and stumbling onto the farm access road, where the two coyotes thoroughly harassed the deer, leaving torn up snow and mud where their tracks created a chaotic map. Eventually the deer overcame the coyotes, and they sped away into a western woods.
Perhaps the deer were circling back to the eastern woods when I caught them unaware. There were three of them. Two ran away while their friend cried out in realization of death. Perhaps my shot was unfair; after all, they had just given those coyotes the slip, and they were mere yards from safe haven in a bed-down area, a thicket of security.
One of my closest relations suffers from a mental illness. The illness itself remains a puzzle to those who are charged with diagnosis: she does not respond well to medication, yet the illness is so debilitating that the government was easily convinced to deem her a disabled person. The illness manifests itself in times when you and I would experience joy: she experiences misery.
What is it? What about joy causes her such pain? A wise person mentioned to her that perhaps it is ice: before she was conscious of feelings, she was taught to not feel anger. Anger is bad. Anger is wrong. Anger is not to be experienced. Anger, then, is put on ice. Of course, when you put ordinary anger on ice, you put all ordinary emotions on ice with it; anger and happiness are not somehow stored in separate buckets in the emotional realm. They all dwell together in one messy human being. If you ice one, you don’t ice them all, you ice it altogether, the emotional realm, that is.
A joyous occasion: birthday? Christmas? a musical recital? Joy is evoked, but compressed rage is waiting to boil over the ice boundaries like so much lava; though it remain beneath the surface, the water boils, and the pressure of the unleashing causes fissures and upheavals, and whatever it is that lurks beneath cannot be contained, not by any strength, not even medical strength.
So she wants to kill.
As a civilized person, she will stay in the channels, but the urge to kill is heavy in her bosom, heavier than it is as it lies under some sort of control within most of us.
In the Christian realm there is a lordly indictment. Jesus says (paraphrased), “If you say to your brother, ‘you fool!’ you have committed murder, and you are liable to the hell of fire.” All the saints themselves stand under condemnation by this epithet, guilty as hell and going to Hell for murder, murder, murder; murder many times over. And so it is, the saints repent, and they go about the business of expunging murder from their hearts and lips. But then Job’s wife founded Twitter.
I called a friend of mine a tool on that website, back in 2016, the petulant ass. He deserved it; oh, he deserved it so richly, the arrogant, idiotic, mindless, smug, pretentious, ignorant fool, and I was only too glad to bury the knife in his chest. It was a sin; I was ashamed; I removed myself from Twitter; nevertheless, I had murdered him. Just like that, in a slight fit of my own petulance, and in the heat of the moment, with the number of keystrokes not amounting to enough to measure the time it took, I murdered him. A handful of people chuckled, but I assure you, the angels were horrified at my deed.
What, exactly, are we to do with all this unexpunged sin? Even if there is no such thing as sin (surely the wise are correct to note that murder lurks in at least my heart, and I cannot believe I am extraordinary in that way), do we merely toss the carcass aside and go on guard for vengeance? The return shot may come soon; it may come later. Who prevails in this free-for-all neverending murder spree? We walk around scarred for life, gnashing our teeth, in Hell, thinking–nay, imagining–that we will find the way out of Hell if we could only just kill enough of our enemies.
And what do those do, those who know not to kill–what do they do to alleviate the innate desire and the attendant power to kill?
There are some choices over misery. If you cannot bring yourself to kill and be killed, you can turn the gun on yourself. Many people nowadays have ice so thick upon their hearts they find this the only escape from Hell.
There is another figure to kill, however; where all the killing comes to an end, and the outcry goes up into the dark nether.