The Shot

Yosef cups his hands around his mouth and blows a steady stream of warm air into them. He is in the snow, stomach down, on a piece of rock protruding from the mountain. There is a bag of supplies by his side containing everything from food and water to parts for the lethal machine placed before his hands. He is completely clothed in white, camouflaging him, as he stalks his next victim. Propping himself up on his elbows, he wraps his fingers around the weapon. It is a black device, a blemish on the white mountain side, and he holds it firmly. It is placed on a mount, to keep it steady while the long, cylindrical front extends out over the snow. He pushes his curly, brown hair back and tucks it behind his ears. He cannot afford any distractions. He looks through a lens attached to the device and into the forest below.

There, among the foliage, he spots some movement. It is nearly as white as the snow and at first, he doesn’t notice it. But then he sees its eyes, two bright yellow orbs - the only indication of its presence - and knows for sure. He can now discern the rest of its body - an elegant, sleek design. It is shaped like a bullet, long and aerodynamic, making it an extremely efficient killing machine. Today, however, this beast is not a predator, it is prey. Prey to the steady, surgeon-like hands of Yosef. Prey to the accuracy of his bright, blue eyes. Prey to the cylindrical barrel of the technological masterpiece in his hands. He shifts once in the snow, so he can take aim. For a moment, he is sure the beast has heard the crunch of the snow beneath his belly. He is certain the sound has echoed off the mountain walls and has been picked up by the sensitive ears of the creature. But it does not move. He takes a short breath of the icy air and holds it in his lungs. He will not inhale again, till his task is completed. Breathing would cause the device to shift by a tiny amount and with the beast at such a great distance, even an infinitesimally small shift would mean the difference between a hit and a miss.

Time seems to slow down as the beast - a rare Snow Leopard - stands exposed and vulnerable in this valley in the Himalayas. After travelling to India from Israel, staying for weeks in a sleepy mountain village and trekking repeatedly to different parts of the mountain range, Yosef finally has the Snow Leopard in his sights and he is determined to get it in one shot. He gingerly applies a minuscule amount of pressure to one side of the device and it rotates by a micrometer on the stand - lining up the head of the Snow Leopard with the cross-hairs on his lens. At this new angle, a ray of sunlight strikes his device and reflects down into the forest, giving away his location. The Snow Leopard notices and turns its head to look at the shining spot on the mountain. Yosef whispers a few curses and prays that the animal will not run away. The beast, fortunately, is frozen like a statue, not daring to move. It is now facing him, and its eyes, those fiery circles, seem to be staring into his own, through the lens. Yosef, however, thinks nothing of it. The only thought in his mind is, “Shoot”. The cross-hairs of his device are now perfectly positioned between the eyes of the Snow Leopard. The word, “Shoot”, repeats in his mind. It reverberates through his body, till every fiber of his being screams the word. His finger hovers for a moment, only a moment, and then squeezes as he slowly exhales. A short burst of sound is heard from his device that disturbs the otherwise silent valley.

“Click”, goes his camera.

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