"Take the fatal shot," said Horseshoe. He must have laid down his rifle because I remember him helping to steady my own. "Easy now, you'll own this forever—" I stared the thing in the eye and squeezed the trigger.
It threw back its head, rising up. It gasped for breath, spitting more blood. It barked at the sky. Then it fell, head thumping against the deck. Its serpentine neck slumped. The rest of its blood spread over the boards and rolled around our boots and flowed between the planks.
I was the first to step forward, looking down at the thing through drifting smoke.
Its remaining eye seemed to look right back. I got down on my knees to look closer. The thing exhaled, causing the breathing holes at the top of its head, behind its eyes, to bubble. I waited for it to inhale, staring into its eye—I could see myself there as well as the others, could see the sky and the scattered clouds. The whole world seemed contained in that moist little ball. Then the eye rolled around white—it shrunk, drying, and the thing's neck constricted. And it died.
Horseshoe slapped my back, massaged my neck. "How's it feel, little buddy?"
But I didn't know what I felt. I could only stare at the eye, now empty.