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Another Moment of Early Morning Silence – By: mOUNTbRENDON

Here’s a short story I wrote last year. It’s rather lengthy, but hopefully worth the time it takes to read. I will be posting short stories regularly throughout the month of June and hopefully the summer. I finally have the time to write as much as I want to and hopefully as much as I possibly can stand.

Enjoy.

Another Moment of Early Morning Silence

I feel the icy breeze slide along my face as it leaks through the thin cabin wall next to my makeshift bed. Even with my torn-up sleeping bag, it’s difficult to stay warm with the fall, Alaskan air becoming progressively colder through each passing night. I have spent nearly four months out here, surviving through the aid of my two older brothers, Mason and Jeremy. It’s been tough, but I’m beginning to get accustomed to the cold and the hunger. I see now that survival can be rather enjoyable when it’s all you have to focus on. It’s definitely tough, but it’s quite the adventure. I’m almost able to see why some cultures fought colonialism so hard.

As I lay, thinking about life as a Blackfoot in the 1700’s, there is a squeaking of what’s left of the floorboards in the doorway. It’s Anne. She normally crawls in bed with me in the middle of the night as the temperature drops. I say hi with a smile. She answers with a smile of her own as I help her squirm inside the sleeping bag with me. I tell her that I’m glad she found us and that I don’t know how I would make it through the cold nights without her. She gives another smile of contentment and grabs my arm, wrapping it over her shoulder.

– – –

The sleeping bag almost immediately begins to warm from the heat of her presence. I grab her hand. Her ring is cold against my finger. We were planning on getting married as soon as we got home. If this is our home though, I told her not to worry about it. That we are already married. Without her here, I doubt I would ever be able embrace this situation, whatever it even is. I remember the beginning, before the cold was so severe and before Anne was here. I was excited and equally scared.

“Why are we in Fairbanks?” Jeremy asked as we drove into Fairbanks, Alaska. “Fairbanks is not at all near Anchorage.”

“Don’t worry fellas,” Mason said as if he was anticipating the objection. “I found a different place that is going to be a lot better.”

“Great,” Jeremy muttered. “Nice of you to keep us up to date.”

I wasn’t any more pleased with the news. Before I left, I made arrangements with Anne. She was going to meet us out here for the last two weeks of our stay.

“Twenty-eight miles south of Anchorage,” I told her, pointing to the map of Alaska we had on the table in front of us. “Then walk thirty degrees west from the little camping area for about ten miles until you come across a large canyon. From there, we would be in a cabin a few miles south, along the mouth of the canyon.”

“And don’t worry about Anne, Will,” Mason said as he turned his head toward the back seat. “I took care of it.”

Of course he did. He always did. But, for some reason I trusted him like no one else. And he probably put more planning and enthusiasm into this trip than Frank Lee Morris and John Clarence Anglin did for their escape from Alcatrez. He definitely brought an overload of supplies – or so I thought at the time.

“It’s always good to be prepared,” he said.

After a few more hours of driving, Mason finally pulled off to the side of the dirt road and got out of the car.

“Alright guys,” he said with a brimming smile. “You ready for a hike?” He had told us shortly after Fairbanks that we had a twenty mile hike ahead of us. “It’ll probably take a few days to get out there,” he said. “But it’ll be totally worth it.”

“What, w-w-we…just leave the car here for the whole s-s-summer?” Jeremy asked. I could tell the annoyance was building. His stutter always surfaced when he was upset in some way.

“Yeah, but don’t worry about it. I’ve got it worked out.” If I hadn’t grown up with Mason, those two sentences would have already become unbearable He had always had that mentality about things. Always care-free. I don’t know how he did it. But I trusted him. I trusted him with my life.

– – –

I wake up to the bright morning sun and crawl out of bed, careful not to wake Anne. Mason is already outside chopping wood. He’s been leading us in building a new cabin lately. A cabin with thicker walls that won’t threaten destruction with every strong gust of wind. One that is better suited for the winter. The cabin we are currently using is pretty old. It must have been built at least twenty or thirty years ago and I’m sure it wasn’t even in the best condition then either. I can’t imagine why someone would want to build a cabin this far in the middle of nowhere. But I guess it doesn’t matter now.

“Hey there, Will!” Mason says with his patented grin as I walk toward the pile of wood lying next to him. “Go saw down a tree, will ya? It’s getting colder and colder every night so we better speed up the process.”

I grab the handsaw and walk into the trees surrounding the cabins. As I get further into the trees, I finally settle on a spot to cut. I see a group of wolf tracks just a few feet away while I line up my saw. Another reason for a sturdier cabin: a bit of security from the wildlife. The sweat starts beading across my forehead as I cut. I never knew how much effort it took to bring down a tree until a few months ago.

– – –

A loud crack of a gun echoes in the distance. It must be Jeremy. He’s been hunting on his own lately. Unfortunately, he’s not very good yet, so he hardly ever comes back with anything. It’s only been a few weeks since he started going on his own. Before that, he would tag along with Mason. But they don’t get along well enough anymore. Not since Jeremy discovered the ruined cell phones.

“You piece of…of…of shit!” Jeremy yelled. I could hear him clearly, even from outside the cabin and over the splatter of my urine on the ground in front of me. “You b…ba…ba…bastard! You planned this the whole t-t-time, didn’t you? You wanted this to hap…happen!” I rush to the open doorway where Jeremy and Mason are standing.

“Oh, come on Jeremy,” Mason said calmly. “I did you guys a favor. We found a way out. We don’t have to worry about the rest of the world now. It’s just us, living the life.”

“Living the l-l-life? What does that even mean? I didn’t want this! I had a career I was working toward. I had friends. I had a…a l-li – a life.”

“Bullshit, Jer. You were miserable. Will was miserable. We were all miserable in that world. That culture. You just didn’t want to admit it.”

“Because it wasn’t true. None of that was true. I knew this was a miss…mistake!” I didn’t understand what Jeremy was talking about, but I had never seen him so angry. His whole face was twitching. “Will was a semester away from graduating college. He was going to propose soon to his g-g-g-girlfriend,” he said. Mason looked at me and then back at Jeremy.

“Will likes it out here. He accepts it,” Mason said. Accepts what? I wondered.

“He burned the cell phones, Will,” Jeremy said, turning his eyes toward me with some ashy remains of one of the cell phones in his hand. “And the GPS and the m–m-m-maps. Everything. He planned this whole thing. He trapped us he-he…he trapped us here.” I didn’t really know what to say. They were both staring at me, waiting for me to react. The cell phones were the only form of outside communication we had. Service was terrible here, but there was higher ground to be made.

I looked at Mason with astonishment and asked why.

“Because I love you guys,” Mason said. His face was a serious as I ever remember it. “Everyone is always looking for a way out. Well, I found ours.” The corner of Jeremy’s mouth was twitching violently as Mason spoke. He opened his mouth but no words came out, so he walked outside and disappeared in the trees. Since then, things have been different.

“Look at you!” Mason says with a large grin as Jeremy emerges from the trees holding a rabbit and carrying the gun on his shoulder. The sun is beginning to set and fresh meat couldn’t sound better, even it if is a fourth of a rabbit. I’ve been helping Mason with the new cabin since I woke up. I have been thinking a lot about the cell phone incident lately. I remember the next few days after it happened.

– – –

I wondered how he could possibly do something like that. I trusted him and he betrayed that trust. He betrayed me and he betrayed Jeremy. When I finally talked with Mason about it, he told me that he wanted to make up for his and others’ failures with us growing up. He said that we deserved better than what we got and that he knew we were both struggling to get through things and that the modern society wasn’t right for us.

“It always ate me up inside,” he said. “How I wasn’t there for you two growing up and how I missed so many opportunities to help you deal with everything. You guys needed me and I was too selfish to see it. I never did anything back then. But I’m doing something now.”

I couldn’t understand how he was so confident in this whole thing. He had never once shown any sign of doubt in his actions concerning this “trip” as we called it. So, I asked him where he got his confidence.

“Let me tell you something,” he said as he put down his ax. “Life is all about confidence. How do think American colonies defeated the British back in the day? It’s confidence, Will. It’s all about confidence. Even when you have no idea what you are doing, if you have confidence, it’ll work out. People believe you and you start to believe in yourself.” Although he was trying to comfort me in his own strange way, it left me deeply troubled. I felt even more deceived then before.

Since then I’ve had some time to digest his words though. I think I understand his motivations and I’ve come to the conclusion that he knows what he is doing. There is no way he is planning on keeping us out here forever. I’ve been studying him closely lately and I’ve seen no sign of doubt in him. He knows what he is doing, so I’m just going to enjoy the time we have out here and make the most of it. We doubted him on the hike and he came through then and found this cabin, even if it is poorly constructed. He’ll come through again.

We stopped for a water break and the only sound was our heavy breathing until Jeremy spoke.

“Are you sure you know where we are…we are, w-w-w-we’re at?” he said over his breath.

“Yeah, don’t worry about it, Jer. I know exactly where we are. I’d say we have about six or seven miles to the east. We’ll be able to make it by this evening.”

Jeremy shot me a doubtful look. I could tell that he was frustrated. I didn’t know what to think. If it turned out that Mason was lost, then we were in serious trouble with my poor sense of direction and Jeremy’s lack of wilderness experience; not to mention the fact that Mason was the only one who had even a vague understanding of our location. He was the only one who knew what he was doing out here.

After we had a few more small drinks of our water – Mason was having us conserve what we could for the time being – Jeremy and I looked at Mason. He was looking up at the sky as he kept turning around, looking in different directions. Then his face lit up and he said, “Yep, this way,” and motioned us to follow him as he started off in his brisk pace.

“I don’t think…think that he knows what he’s doing,” Jeremy said quietly to me. I told him that I was sure he did and that we needed to just trust him. Jeremy looked forward with a sense of reluctance. I told him not to worry.

“I’ll follow him,” he said. “But I will worry. I’ll definitely wor-worry.”

We continue working on the new cabin as Jeremy walks through the trees holding up a rabbit. Mason drops what he is doing and runs over to Jeremy.

“Yeah you did!” Mason exclaims and gives Jeremy a brotherly shoulder punch. I can see a slight, crooked smile subtly appear on Jeremy’s face through his scraggly beard. I’m sure it is the first smile his face has conjured up in weeks.

“It’s only a rabbit,” he says. “Only a small rabbit.”

“Nonsense,” Mason says as he begins to pick up what he was working on before. “It’s just the kind of thing we need. You know how to skin it and everything, right?”

– – –

Mason and I continue to work on the cabin as Jeremy works on preparing the rabbit. Pretty soon, he nearly has it skinned and is sitting by the campfire, finishing up. I can’t wait to scarf that meat down. Anne will be so excited when she sees Jeremy’s rabbit sizzling over the campfire like a small roasted pig. Last time Mason shot a deer she jumped up and down like a six year old girl who just received a pink pony for her birthday. She gets so excited about things. That’s one of the traits I love most about her. I don’t know how I would be taking all of this if she hadn’t somehow found us. I remember when I saw her emerge from the trees.

It was a few days after the cell phone incident and we had been out here for what had to have been nearly two months. I had been feeling particularly lonely and fairly depressed so it was perfect timing. Mason was gathering firewood and Jeremy was attempting to hunt when she arrived. They hardly spoke anymore; at least Jeremy. Mason always tried to act normal but Jeremy either ignored him or walked away.

When she emerged from the trees I was chopping wood. I dropped my ax in amazement. It was the most beautifully astounding sight I had ever seen, far greater than the Alaskan night sky, or the mountain-filled backdrops, or anything else that nature could have provided. Her smile filled her entire face as she ran toward me, giving me the tightest and warmest hug I had ever had. I felt like I had just been rebirthed and was seeing the world with brand new eyes for the first time. Her make-up was flawless, like she had just stepped out of a dressing room on the set of a movie. She was so beautiful; she always is. When I asked her how she found us she just smiled and said that Mason gave some pretty darn good directions.

That was a turning point for me. I didn’t have to deal with Mason and Jeremy’s tension as much anymore. I had someone else to talk to. Someone else to escape to. I had a motive for surviving and a motive for embracing the wilderness. From that point on, I haven’t cared as much about my brothers’ frustrations. I have been able to just work on the cabin silently alongside them, enjoying the wilderness and then retreating to my bed with Anne. She was all I ever really needed anyway.

I run inside to tell Anne about the rabbit and she lights up like the sun. She expresses her worries about food and then gives me a big hug. Despite the fact that we haven’t eaten meat in over a week and have all been pretty hungry, she had never once complained. I’m never ceased to be amazed by her.

Once the sun goes down, we go out and sit around the campfire and eat our portions of the rabbit. It doesn’t take us long to scarf it down so Mason pours us each a cup of hot water. I’m definitely glad Mason brought the kettle. You’ll never know how good a cup of hot spring water tastes at night in the Alaskan wilderness until you’ve experienced what we have.

“Mom would be proud of us,” Mason says smiling after he sits back down on a log across from me.

“Don’t talk about mom,” Jeremy says. “She would be any…anything but p-p-proud of what you’ve d-d-done.” His stutter is becoming more constant.

“Don’t worry, Will,” I remember Mason telling me in the car as we were heading to our new home at the Wilson’s for the first time. “I’ll take care of you. We’ll make it. Don’t worry about it.”

– – –

I came home from school that day to find several police officers crowding our home. Jeremy was sitting silently on the curb as one of the police officers was trying to talk to him.

“Are you William?” an officer asked me. I’ll never forget the look on his face as he told me that mom had died. His eyes seemed glazed over and his breaths were shortened. Everything turned into a daze. The few days afterward are a blur. I only really remember the night after the funeral.

“Alright kids,” Mrs. Wilson said. I could still hear the pity in her voice. It annoyed me. “I made some hot chocolate for you.” We were sitting in the living room of their large six bedroom house. They didn’t have any kids of their own. We drank our hot chocolate as we sat and pretended to watch The Lion King. I hated Disney movies. We all did.

I couldn’t sleep that night, so I went into Mason’s room. Jeremy was already there, sitting on the floor against the wall.

“We were just about to come get you,” Mason said as I approached his bed.

“I-I-I h-h-hate the Wilsons,” Jeremy said. That was the first time I had heard him speak since she died. It was the first time I had heard his stutter.

“We can’t live here,” Mason said. “We need to run away.” I saw something different in his eyes that night as the light of the lamp next to his bed left his face shadowed and his eyes glimmering. “They don’t understand us. They can try all they want. And this house sucks. It’s way too big and expensive and fancy and…” his voice trailed off with his thoughts. Jeremy and I sat there in silence until Mason dropped the bomb on me.

“Mom killed herself, Will,” he spouted. The daze hit me again, much like the one just days prior. “I know that no one has told you. They probably think you’re too young to know. But it’s the truth and I think you should know.” I looked at Jeremy. Tears were sliding down his face as he stared at the floor in front of him. I was unable to say anything as Mason studied me from just a few feet away.

“She doesn’t deserve to raise us,” Mason said. “She’s a coward. We can take care of ourselves. Let’s run away.”

– – –

The rest of the night escapes my memory aside from Mason continually insisting that we needed to run away and Jeremy shaking his head. The next several nights were similar. Two weeks later, Mason had developed a plan of escape. I don’t remember too many details, but I remember that it scared me to death. He couldn’t convince Jeremy to come. I was too scared.

“This is j-j-just l-l-like when we were…we were kids,” Jeremy says a certain amount of intensity that only he could play off as mild. “You r-r-ran then, except you w-w-were s-s-smart enough to…to leave th-th-the two of us be-behind.”

“If you two would have come with me in the first place, things would have been different,” Mason says. “It would have worked and none of us would have had to stay with the Wilsons and their house maids.” I begin to walk away. I’ve had enough of their arguments. The times where I am actually able to enjoy being out here are the times when I’m alone or with Anne. Never when I’m with the other two. Not anymore.

As I begin to near the cabin, I hear Mason yell something directed at me so I turn around. They’re both staring at me.

“Where are you going?” Mason says.

I look at him confused and tell him that I’m going for a walk.

“Come back over here,” he says. “I want to know what you think.”

I shake my head and continue to walk away. I don’t want any part in their argument. As I walk inside the cabin, I see Anne sitting in my bed, staring at the floor. Mason’s yelling something at me, but I don’t pay attention. He has never liked Anne. Not since the first time I introduced them back in Washington.

– – –

“I don’t understand what you see in her, Will,” he said after I dropped Anne off. We had all gone to dinner since it was the first time Mason had visited me at college. I was excited for the two to meet. I thought for sure they would hit it off.

“You’re too good for her,” he said as he rolled down the window and lit a cigarette.

I asked him what he meant by “too good.”

“She seems so materialistic,” he said. “Everything she said was so self-centered. She has changed you.”

I didn’t even really know how to respond to that, so I just shook my head and continued driving.

“See,” he said as he let out the cigarette smoke. “You need to fight for yourself. She has weakened you. I can’t stand to see my little bro be influenced like this.”

I told him not to worry. I had control of my life and if he gave Anne a chance, he would see that she was not who he thought she was.

He wouldn’t let it go the rest of the night, no matter what I did to try and kill the conversation. That was the only time I ever remember yelling at him. He was going on and on about how I had changed since we were kids and that I was putting too much of myself into my relationship with Anne. The next day he left without saying a word. The next time we talked was when he pitched the idea to come here for the summer. He said we needed to escape the American culture for a while.

– – –

I could tell that Anne wasn’t too excited about it when I brought it up with her the next day, but she still said that I should go.

“I’d really like to shoot one of those wolves,” Jeremy says, clutching the gun as we hear some wolves howling in the distance. “One of these days I’m going to figure this whole h—hunting thing out.”

I smile and ask him how he’s doing with this whole thing; how he is really doing.

“I think that M-M-Mason is a s-s-s-sleazy piece of, of shit,” he says as casually as his stutter will allow.

I tell him that I’m sorry that things happened the way they did and that Mason is going to give up on it soon. I assure him that he will lead us back.

“I don’t know,” he says as he rubs the nozzle of the gun with his sleeve. “He seems pretty de-de-determined.” He points his face up toward the sky and closes his eyes, taking a deep breath. “As much as I do enjoy the fresh air,” he says as stands up, using the gun as a crutch. “I would r-r-rather d-d-die than spend much longer out h-h-here alone. It’s too c-c-c-cold.”

– – –

There have already been a few snow flurries; nothing heavy but enough to leave a light blanket on the ground. We can sense that it won’t be long before it comes down with a vengeance. We’ve all been working hard on the new cabin, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do to get ready for winter. Jeremy and Mason continue their mutual silence aside from the occasional yelling match. I’m so glad that I have Anne to talk to at night and give me someone else to spend my time with. She has always been comforting in rough times. Always has the right thing to say.

After the sun goes down, we eat some berries around the campfire. No one seems to feel like talking much. Just the sound of wind swiping against the back of our ears and the crackling of the fire fills the empty space.

“I-I-I’m leaving,” Jeremy finally says to break the silence. “Tomorrow mor-morning.” I don’t even look up from the campfire. I have assumed that it was bound to happen sooner or later. Mason begins an attempt to reason with Jeremy but it has no effect. Jeremy gets up and heads toward the cabin and Mason follows, continuing his attempt despite its obvious ineffectiveness. I look at Anne and she sends back a look of pity. We’re both thinking the same thing. Jeremy’s going to die if he leaves. There’s no way he’ll find his way alone and Mason is too stubborn to lead him in the right direction.

I put the fire out and Anne and I head to bed. We can hear Mason continue to talk to Jeremy. Soon after, we can hear him give up and go to his own bed.

An hour later, I walk into Jeremy’s room and toward his bed. The dirt covered floorboards creek as I walk through the door but stop creaking when the floorboards stop as I get further inside the room and the bare, forest floor begins. He looks up at me as if he was expecting my arrival. “I c-can’t do…it,” he says. “I would r-r-rather die than stay here w-w-with h-h-h-im.” I remind him of our failed attempt to leave a few weeks previous.

“Wh-wh-which way is east?” Jeremy asked as we stopped; the trees above us roaring. I said that I had no idea and looked at Anne who shrugged her shoulders. The trees were too thick where we were so I couldn’t even see where the sun was.

Jeremy let out a loud grunt of frustration and picked up a large rock and threw it at a tree. “W-w-w-we’re lost! What are we supposed to…to do?”

I told Jeremy to settle down. I didn’t want him to upset Anne. He picked up the rifle and fired it into the air. “Yell for Mason,” he said with defeat. “We c-c-can’t do this.”

I tell Jeremy to just have patience; that Mason is bound to give up on this sooner or later.

“No,” Jeremy says. “He w-w-w-won’t. H-h-he’s cr-cr-crazy, Will. He wants us to…to bond. H-h-he told me that w-w-we need to be-be-become b-b-brothers again.”

I tell him that we could fake it until we get out.

“I’m s-sorry, but I c-c-can’t d-d-do that,” he says. “I’m a terrible actor.”

– – –

“Congratulations,” Mason said over the phone. It was a few days after he first told me about his plan and I had just told him that I was going to propose to Anne.

“You sure you want to do that though?” he questioned.

I told him that I had never been so sure about anything in my life. I had been talking with Anne about the trip to Alaska. It wasn’t for sure yet, but I was starting to look forward to it anyway. She mentioned that it would be cool if she came out to see us for the last week or so.

“Just to make sure you are all alive,” she joked. I was going to do it then, after she met up with us.

“Alright, well we better make sure that this trip happens then,” Mason said after I told him my idea.

“Have you told Jeremy?” Mason asked. I said that I hadn’t, but I was going to write him an e-mail with the headline, “I got married,” so that maybe he reads it at the very least.

A couple days went by and then Jeremy finally called me.

“Y-y-you got m-m-married?” he said without saying hello. “What were you thinking?”

I laughed and told him that I wasn’t really married. Then I told him about my plans to propose.

“Oh,” he said. “Well, congratulations then. I h-h-hope things go well for you.” I reminded him about Mason’s plan and he said it sounded stupid. I told him about my plan if we do make it out there, but the conversation never really went anywhere. It never does with Jeremy.

A few weeks later, Mason contacted me with a detailed plan for the summer. He had a list of things to pack, a map and about everything else. I told him that if he could get Jeremy to agree to it, then we should go for it.

Two weeks later, Mason showed up at my apartment.

“He agreed,” he said as soon as I opened the door.

I asked how he convinced him.

“I’m just a very persuasive person,” he said. “You better start getting things together. We’re leaving in two weeks.

– – –

Scattered snowflakes are softly floating down the white forest floor. I can’t look up at the flakes for very long because of the brightness of the sun. The only sound I hear is the soft crunch of my footsteps. It has snowed off and on the past couple of weeks, but no kind of blizzard or anything, at least not yet. I really thought that we would be buried in snow by now. I switch the saw from my right hand to my left. The metal of the handle gets too cold to hold in one hand for very long and I forgot my gloves back at the cabin. I should be cutting down a tree right now, but I would rather just take a walk.

As I come to a bit of a clearing, I see a bald eagle silently fly overhead. It looks so free and triumphant. It has no restrictions. If it gets lost, it can fly high enough to find its sense of direction again. Do eagles even get lost? Probably not. It’s in their instincts. And that’s all they need to survive, their God given instincts.

A small gust of wind causes a brushing sound in the trees behind me. Maybe we could make it out here for the rest of our lives. Where else can you take a walk for only minutes and see a prestigious bald eagle? We may not have the instincts of a bald eagle, but maybe we can develop them. We can learn by experience, by watching the wildlife. We have done a pretty good job so far. I think we could be happy. I could take care of Anne. She could be happy. She’s all I really need to be happy anyway.

There is a man’s yell in the distance. It’s Jeremy. I drop the saw and take off running back through the trees. It feels more brisk in the shadows, but as I run, the sweat accumulating on my forehead tells me that the cold is not an issue. The snow is beginning to thicken. All I can hear is the wind brush my ears as I run. All other sounds seem to have disappeared.

As I emerge from the trees and into the clearing where the cabins are, I see Mason running out of the old cabin with one of the makeshift blankets. His face is filled with urgency. I rush over the woodpile and see Jeremy lying there with blood leaking from his leg. The ax is on the ground next to him; the tip coated in blood.

“It’s alright, Jer,” Mason says as he begins to wrap the blanket around the wound as a bandage. Jeremy rips the blanket from Mason’s hands.

“I’ll d-d-do…it,” he snarls as best as he can manage. Every time Mason tries to help with the wound, Jeremy pushes his hand away and grumbles something neither of us can understand. He stands up as best he can and limps into the cabin. Before he walks in the door, I can hear him stutter something about dying out here and having “enough of it.”

“He was chopping fire wood and the ax ricocheted off the wood and into his leg. It’s a pretty deep wound, but he’ll be alright,” Mason says and then walks over and picks up the ax. “Just hope it doesn’t get infected.” He wipes the blood off with his shirt and begins to chop.

“Where’s the saw?” he says to me between swings.

I’ll get it later.

The rifle is leaning against the woodpile, so I grab it and take it in to the cabin to give to Jeremy. I lean the gun against the wall by his bed and tell him to let me know if he needs anything.

“He t-t-took our l-l-lives, W-W-Will,” he says through his teeth. “W-w-we didn’t ask…for…for th-th-this.” I turn around and walk outside.

The next morning I wake up to the sound of yelling. I look at Anne. She’s obviously been up for awhile listening. Her face is extremely troubled. I crawl out of the sleeping bag and run to the front of the cabin. Jeremy is pointing the gun at Mason.

“I’ve had e-e-enough of th-th-this sh-sh-sh-sh-it. Just take…l-l-l-lead us home. Please.” I can see Jeremy’s eyes starting to water, his voice filled with desperation. Mason takes a step backward.

“What do you have to go back to?” he in a calm but shaky voice. “You were wasting your life away back there.”

“M-m-m-my l-l-life is w-w-wasting away here,” Jeremy is able to choke out.

Anne walks up from behind me and leans up against my side. I put my arm around her but continue to look at Mason and Jeremy.

“T-t-take u-u-us b-b-back,” Jeremy says.

“Jeremy, just stop. Put the gun down and here me out.”

My ears are ringing from the blast as I stand in the doorway. Everything seems still as if frozen in time. My surroundings seem to be filling with mist as if part of a dream.

Another blast.

The air is still and the blanket of snow is turning red just ten yards in front of me.

I turn to look at Anne. She’s not there. It’s silent. My arm is still held out as if around her, but there is only empty air. The earth has stopped spinning. My heart is pounding like the inside of my chest is the head of a kick drum. Otherwise, I feel numb. Not cold, not warm, not scared, not angry. Nothing. I feel empty. Everything around me feels empty. The world is empty.

The sky has turned a blend of orange, pink, red, and blue. A cold shiver takes over my body as I stand alone above their still bodies. I can hear a wolf’s howl from close by. My hand starts shaking violently. Hours have passed. The smell is indescribable, causing vomit to fill my mouth and explode onto the ground. I don’t know where to go from here. There is no breeze against my ears. No cold against my skin. No feeling inside. Maybe the lack of feeling is a feeling within itself. Even the smell is gone now, along with the taste of vomit. I feel completely empty. And where does one go in a world that is empty? I have been abandoned, just like I abandoned my normal life.

There is some shuffling in the trees nearby. I bend down and pick up the gun lying next to what was Jeremy. It feels heavy. I raise the nozzle to my chin and slowly pull the trigger. Nothing. Only a click. A small pack of wolves emerges from the trees, sniffing the air in front of them. Another click.

The gun is out of bullets.

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About B.R. Mt.

I am a writer of fiction, poetry, song, and philosophy. I drive a school bus to pay my bills and write most the day to pay my soul. My primary missions in life are to defy expectations and encourage others to look beyond the surface.

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