“The universe is a dark forest. Every civilization is an armed hunter stalking through the trees like a ghost, gently pushing aside branches that block the path and trying to tread without sound. Even breathing is done with care. The hunter has to be careful, because everywhere in the forest are stealthy hunters like him. If he finds other life—another hunter, an angel or a demon, a delicate infant or a tottering old man, a fairy or a demigod—there’s only one thing he can do: open fire and eliminate them. In this forest, hell is other people. An eternal threat that any life that exposes its own existence will be swiftly wiped out. This is the picture of cosmic civilization. It’s the explanation for the Fermi Paradox.”
― Liu Cixin, The Dark Forest
He woke up in the underbrush, his pack still on him. He sat for a second, listening to see if he had been abducted as a slave to another hunter. Or if there were others nearby. Luckily there weren’t any nearby. The Hunter had lived here for months, but now he had to leave, he had to migrate to safer lands, away from the fire. But before he left, he left a capsule, a copied stick of his great knowledge, his great secret, his journal, his biography. It included all of his life, his imagination, from his first awakening in the brush, to his current moment. But that great secret also contained the journals of all of his victims, it included all of their lives, imaginations, and their first awakening to the moment their candles were snuffed out.. He buried it, deep enough for the fire not to reach it. And he moved silently, breathing carefully, moving silently, with an arrow on his bow. He moved towards the massive horn, he considered blowing into it, notifying the many other hunters that he hadexsised here, once the fire consumed it. Having the other hunters, those who may not be acquainted with the dark forest yet, to go too close to the fire and burn to a crisp. He did so.
That may be cruel, but one less hunter is one less rival. But it won't destroy the ost dangerous. He thought. A loud sound came from a place but 100 meters from him. Almost as if it had been a response to his own call.
A response? That must be a real fool! To be so naive is to ask for death!” he thought as he moved to this, he saw the being, looking as if that of a bug. His bow was stringed and an arrow drawn and let loose. A corpse fell. The hunter dashed down to gather the pack of the hunter who’s candle had just been snuffed out. He found the hunter’s journal and added it to his own. He set a trap for the next hunter to find, they would spring the trap and alert him to their circumstance. He would rush over, and gather their belongings after his trap had snuffed them out.
He continued to leap through the top of the trees, when underneath him, he spotted something, the glistening iron of a quiver of arrows. He stopped, staring,
Could it be a trap? Mean to lure me in with the promise of a new quiver and easy prey. Or could they have literally not seen me, were they just as cautious as me, but they just didn’t look up. The first to shoot will win. Slowly, and without panicking, he descended to nearly ground level, and drew an arrow. He didn’t know exactly where the person was, nor what they looked like. But he aimed as well as he could to just above the target’s quiver. With steady hands he loosed his arrow. He wasn’t sure if it had hit, but the light vanished. He hid behind the massive trunk of a nearby tree. He sat there and waited, unsure if the arrow had hit it’s mark.
How do I tell. Should I look? No, if they aren’t dead then they will have a projectile ready. I’m looking. He peeked his head around the corner. For a second there was silence, near serenity in the half hour preceding the start of the long night, then a javelin struck the tree he had been hiding behind. His face instinctively hid behind the tree again.
The other hunter must be thinking what I just thought. If I don't shoot now, then my candle will be snuffed out, and all these other hunters whom I have killed, their journals may be burnt by them. Carefully, Without peeking out of the tree he drew 10 arrows, One of these should land a killing blow, the upside of arrows as opposed to javelins. He let them all loose, a shriek of death came out of the other hunter’s mouth. He dashed to the corpse of the other hunter, discovering 10 journals within their pack. Quickly he took his arrows out of the corpse, and he quickly climbed a tree, carving a hole into the trunk and climbed in. He went to sleep. Living for another day.