21 December 2009

Short Day, Long Dread

The solstice crumbled the sky into fine white powder, and with that came the hot-blooded ones in search of sustenance. Alone in the cabin, Henry David felt his bowels turn to ice water and wondered if it was wolves or mountain lions come to get him.

He sniffed halfheartedly to hold back the slow tide of mucus seeping from his nostrils. He was tired, too tired to lift his left hand and wipe with the filthy rag clutched in blue fingers. His right hand lay in his lap. It was curled around the worn leather-encased tang of a enormous hunting knife. Henry David felt the knife was becoming a part of his body, living flesh melding with preserved skin and oiled metal. He was tremendously afraid to let go of the knife. It was the only weapon remaining.

Snow sandpapered against the log walls, little raspy demons daring Henry to come outside and play in the frozen waste they called home. Henry ignored them, as he had been doing since sunrise. He sat very still on the soot stained stump of a birch tree, the body of which had been burned on the rough stone pile passing as a fireplace at the rear of the cabin. Opposite the fireplace was a small door of rough hewn planks held in place by a timber and a precious few bits of ironwork. Henry smiled slightly as he recalled bartering some fox pelts for those black iron bolts, down in the small town at the head of the valley. Warmth, light and noise in abundance if one cared to put up with people. Which Henry David didn't, although his current predicament was perhaps swaying his opinion.

Henry swallowed hard as another loud rasp scraped along the planks of the door. There was a chuffing noise, and little puffs of snow like powdered sugar curled through the gaps about halfway up. The puffs ceased, and there was silence but for the sibilance of the wind. They were out there, he was sure of it now. He began to regret frying up the last of his bacon. He thought maybe the smell of it had caught their attention.

Or maybe, Henry sighed, it is me they smell. His gaze drifted torpidly to the rifle leaning against the wall beside the door. The barrel shone with the dull radiance of a blue pearl in the somnolent light filtering through the oilskin windowpane. Henry chuckled ruefully, thinking the gun was now no better than a walking stick. The last of the cartridges had been used up three days and a lifetime of storms ago. No longer was there the luxury of getting to town when he felt like it. The murderous snow and the four-legged hungers pacing around his cabin had seen to that.

Henry David swallowed another lump of fear, cold grease inching its way to his belly. If he didn't leave soon, try to make town, he would die here in the dank, dirty cold of the cabin. He couldn't leave, though, not with them out there.

Henry David sat still as a sphinx for twenty heartbeats, thirty, then forty. A rank odor was wafting through the door, the scent of filthy fur and hungry desperation. The planks bulged in slightly, the scratching of claws testing the frozen wood.

He gulped, tightening his grip on the knife. Forget the rifle, he muttered, forget all that, this here knife's all I got. So be it. There's only one way out of this mess.

Henry stood up and shuffled quietly to the door. The hungers on the other side grew quiet. Henry pictured their ears pricking up as they strained to hear him. I don't want to die like this, cold and alone, he said to himself as he silently unlatched the door, Time to go.

He took three steps back and raised the knife, still and calm, as the door swung slowly open.


  1. Ooh a solstice story!!! And a skeery one at that. Did he make it out? Was it all in his head? Was the man delirious with loneliness?


  2. Are you trying to give me nightmares? I'll wake up in a cold sweat as a slow tide of mucus moves towards me. My gaze will drift to my rifle. Wait, that won't stop the tide, arrgh!!!

  3. Cliffhanger!! Ack! Happy solstice?!

  4. Ah! Is this part of a series you have already started? Okay, I am ready with him...gulp!

  5. Yikes! Henry! Don't do it! Nooooooooooo!

  6. This better be part one of more, IG! I had to peel my face off the monitor trying to see what happened!

  7. You do have a powerful way indeed my friend of putting your reader right inside the situation. Tis a gift I tell thee!!

  8. I would like to know more about Henry David. A great short story.

  9. But he won't die cold and alone, will he?
    He won't. I know he won't.


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...