Photo Credit: Culprit Creative
I stepped into the cabin, and shook of the day’s snow. It was a cold morning, if not the coldest that winter. But my little cabin was warm and calm. It was a fortress of silence that stopped the wicked winds and the noises of hungry animals. I took off my heavy coat and rawhide snowshoes, and for a moment I forgot why I hesitated to come to the cabin in the first place.
And yet, I didn’t know why I returned to it that day either. Part of me wanted nothing more than to forget the creaking wooden planks, the small frosted window from which the world peeked through, and all the memories attached to that place.
We had built it together. We spent many days and nights here, our little home away from home.
I placed the clear bottle on the wooden table and took a seat.
The sight of the fireplace brought back memories. The smoky smell of burning cedar and gentle flames that kept the night away flooded my mind, and I could almost see her there, stoking the fireplace on a cold winter evening. But the memory didn’t last long. I shook my head, and collapsed back into the reality of being alone in the cabin.
The bottle was cold as ice, and I took a drink. It didn’t burn my throat anymore, and after so many drinks I figured my body simply got used to the abuse. I took several more swigs from the bottle, and a pleasant feeling, like the world becoming light and airy, clouded my head. Naturally, I broke into song, a familiar but almost forgotten one:
There was a man
Of wild lands,
Through which there ran
A Silver river.
There a woman
Combed the shore;
Busy was her pan,
Gold was her hair.
And then the man…
I noticed a dripping sound, and I checked the window and the roof for any cracks. A few more drips and I realized the sound was near me. Then I looked down and I realized it was coming from me; dark red drops kept pattering the floorboards near me. My left stump of an arm was bleeding, and it soaked through the shirt I had on.
I had no idea what to do, or what was going on, and I held the base of my stump with my good arm, smearing it with blood in the process. Oddly, touching it didn’t hurt. A tourniquet would have been useful, I thought, and I took out my belt and noticed the blood on my hands didn’t rub off on the leather. In fact, the drops of blood on the floor were gone. I checked my stub and it was clean, and my shirt dry.
I took several deep breaths to calm myself down. The world was a bit foggy due to the drink, but it couldn’t have messed with my senses in such a way. I still couldn’t control my breathing.
Then, a sound from outside.
I moved myself near the window, and saw a heavy blizzard outside. There were small brown spots moving out there, but the snowfall obscured what they were.
“Axel, help me!”
Then through the storm, I saw little bear cubs, all looking at some shared sight ahead of them. I looked, and wished I hadn’t. I knew I would never forget that sight.
I grabbed my gun and in a motion that seemed automatic, as if I’d done it before, I pulled the bolt, pressed a bullet in and pushed it back all quicker than I thought was possible in my state. Without a coat or boots, I burst outside into a cold winter storm and saw a large bear mauling my wife. The sound of it grunting, snorting, tearing apart flesh with its claws and jaw blotted out the sound of the blizzard. With shaking hands, I aimed my rifle at the bear. My rifle sights went from its head to the body to its head again, all because my hands couldn’t stop trembling. But the more I waited to steady myself, Dagny…
Snow swirled all around me and got into my eyes. I closed them, and in that brief second I pulled the trigger. With my eyes still closed, everything seemed to stop for a moment, the roar of the gun cancelled out nature itself, and I couldn’t hear the bear or Dagny anymore. After a long pause, I opened my eyes.
The bear was gone. So was Dagny. There were no cubs around me, though the storm raged on and stung my skin with its cold bite. With no boots on, my feet felt frozen.
I decided to abandon the cabin and return home, about a two hours’ walk in that terrible weather. Storm be damned, I wasn’t going to stay there any longer than I needed to. Inside, I warmed my feet up a bit, took my coat and snowshoes and trekked back. I left my rifle behind.
The storm didn’t want to stop for a second, and snow kept piling higher along the trapper’s road. It was tough going even with snowshoes on. Often one or both of my legs would sink through the light and fluffy snow, and I feared with such a slow pace I wouldn’t make it before sunset.
I pushed myself harder than I should have, and felt sweat creep along my back, around my chest, and under my arms. If I stopped, it wouldn’t have taken long for my wet body to freeze to death. Through luck or perseverance, that didn’t happen.
The sun was hanging just above the horizon when I arrived back home. I opened the door and was greeted with a sweet smell of freshly baked pie.
Dagny was there, waiting for me.