Without further ado, here is Part Two to the short story that I began last week. Here is the first part of the story, if you’re interested.
The wanderer kept thinking about the men. The image of the hunters crossing the maze of trunks seared his mind. They were the only spot of light left. His forest had become a darkened wasteland. As he approached civilization, nature seemed to turn on him, afraid of his possible departure.
And still he hesitated. It had been long, far too long.
He decided to cross the creek. They might’ve left a trail in their haste, enough trampled branches to follow. Probably to a small lodge, a cabin with space for one more. He prepared his excuses. It was just for one night, nothing two fellow woodsmen couldn’t grant. And besides, he could do anything they could, the scouting, the firewood.
He found a spot where two stones interrupted the flow of the creek. He jumped from the bank, looked closely. Could see the stars now through the break in the trees. The current flowed around him like it always did. Yes, there. A stray pillar of smoke to the southeast.
In the trees again. He saw a few crushed ferns, smelled faint blood. He hadn’t seen them drag an animal behind them, but it was possible. He went paces at a time. The trail was sparse, and every moment a new noise began in the twilight.
It was then that he caught a glimmer of light.
He’d almost passed it, how small it was. The cabin was square, tucked away in a clearing. Trees loomed around it like the roof of a cathedral. Light trickled through the chinks. Waiting for him.
He weighed whether to knock or make his presence known now. He took a branch from the ground, broke it over his knee. Silence. They could’ve thought it only an animal. There was no point in delay. Now he approached. He approached boldly, every step shedding the past he’d known.
And before he reached the door, it opened.
Copyright Michael Nellis 2018