It was the first snowfall of the year. I sat up and my bones creaked as much as the bed did. That old rickety bed made of pine, just like that cabin. Made with my own two hands, mind you. I swung my legs around and lay my knotted feet on the cold, grained floor. As I drew in a deep breath and rubbed my wrinkled face, I thought about building that cabin twenty years earlier. A slight chuckle escaped my cracked lips when I reflected on my oblivion; not knowing all those years ago that I was, in fact, building a coffin.
The windows were foggy, which made it difficult to know at first, but the sight was unusually white. My back was aching as it did the previous day, and the one before that. As hopeful as I was that my old, rickety bed would do it good, my first conscious expression of every day was a grimace. Rubbing the glass with the sleeve of my night-shirt was a futile task, but it did not matter, really, because what else could a white wilderness be, besides snow? Nevertheless, I sought to open the front door and investigate.
The animals in the main room stared at me from their high vantage points upon the pine walls. Each day they detested me more. They looked down their snouts and turned the corners of their mouths toward the floor. Glassy eyes narrowed. I hardly acknowledge them any more. The fire never judged me, though. It enveloped me in a warm embrace and told me not to leave. The embers of yesterday’s fire still glowed a faint orange behind a grey façade. My modest pile of firewood was down to seven sizable logs, or six if you discount the one I picked up and dropped onto the ashes as I hobbled passed. I would have to check the store at the side of the cabin to fetch some more before the week was out.
I don’t know what else I possibly expected to see when I opened the front door. It was, indeed, the first snowfall of the year. The ground was painted a blinding white, and had engulfed the four stairs that lead up to the front porch. Icicles dangled from the eaves in the light morning breeze. One sprung loose and fell out of sight. I scanned the trees and the ground beneath them. The whole scene was still. Not a branch faltered. Not a sound uttered. My view was then obscured by my breath, which rose in front of my face as a cloud. I could feel the sting of winter on my cheeks. They were surely redder than usual, though I had not a mirror or reference to check. The thought of restocking the firewood inside seemed, in that moment, a monumental task after briefly considering the need to put on appropriate attire and the prerequisite of shoveling the snow from the front stairs. I decidedly shook my head at the wilderness and muttered, “not today.” A chilling breeze licked my nape as I shut the door behind me.
Gurgles and rumbles emanated from my gut. I wondered if I had any sweet corn left in the cupboard, or only beans. Some meat would be a welcome change, although I’m sure my house guests would not approve. Besides, I had not seen any signs of life outside of the cabin, so without anything to hunt I would have no meat, anyway. What a waste of energy. I thought about it not a second longer and opened the cupboard in the kitchenette, which was adjacent to the main living area.
I suppose you would call this open plan living. It was all one room, really. The main room had the fireplace, quite central, but not directly in the middle. It was made of stone, mostly, except for the metal grating I had to prevent embers spitting. I scarcely utilized it, out of laziness, I suppose. In front of the fireplace was a small wooden table and two wooden chairs that had on them some cushions fashioned out of deer skin. The deer didn’t like it when I sat on them, though, so I did not often sit. Sometimes, if my feet were too sore, I would sit on the floor between the chairs and the table. It was actually a perfect height for that. On the other side of the fireplace was a small table and two chairs, also fashioned from pine wood. It sat two people. It has only ever had one to use it, however, but even now that is rather rare an occasion. I had been eating only once a day, for I can’t remember how long, and usually do that on the other table, where the face of fire breathes more warmth. There is a washroom off the dining area and a bedroom off the opposite side of the main room. The washroom has no usual plumbing, however, it has a tank that acquires rainwater and I have a bucket and a tub that I can use to clean myself or my clothes. It hasn’t rained for many moons, though, and I wasn’t about to dip into my drinking water before more rain. The animals are yet to complain about the smell, so I mustn’t be that ripe.
The cupboard creaked as it always did. The whole cabin creaked sometimes. Even though I thought I would be used to it after twenty years, I am not. It irks me every time I hear so much as a squeak. Like a claw digging into my temple, the sound, I fear, might drive me mad one day. There were only two cans left. They stood silently at the back of the dark cupboard, like the final two competitors to be picked for their sports teams. One can of sweet corn and one can of baked beans. I was faced with a dilemma. Which was I to choose?
“The sweet corn, obviously. You’ve been eating nothing but beans for weeks!” Barry exclaimed. He was the boar above the kitchen counter. He was right, too, I had only eaten baked beans for weeks.
I’m unsure just how long I stood there with the cupboard open, but my arm grew sore. I was pondering. Was I saving the sweet corn for an occasion? What occasion might it have been? Was my birthday approaching? It would be nice to have sweet corn on my birthday. “I shall save the sweet corn, and beans are not so bad.”
“Beans are terrible,” scoffed Deidre, one of the deer the cushions were made from.
“No, they’re not that bad,” I retorted.
“They most certainly are!” Dave interjected. He was the other deer the cushions were fashioned from. He stood above my bedroom door. What he had to say wasn’t very important, though, because I no longer respected his opinion. Not since the rug incident.
“You stay out of it, Dave.”
“Oh, he’s okay,” Deidre said in a softer tone than before, “if anyone should stay out of anything, it’s you. What did the beans do to you to be imprisoned in a tin can for god knows how long only to be opened up at such an ungodly hour of the morning and eaten by you. The likes of you.”
“You’re right. I should wait until later. Maybe put it off until tomorrow.”
“Don’t listen to them, buddy, they’ve just got something against beans. I still think you should have the sweet corn though. Do you even know how old you are, today?” Barry was right. The deer were never on my side. Always stirring shit. I swear they only talk to me because they don’t like Barry, either. I should’ve built a bigger cabin. We’re all crammed in here like the can of beans.
I sat down on the floor and held my head in my hands. I felt the callouses scratch my skin. It must’ve been red, if felt red. I was so hungry,
but I didn’t want to upset everyone,
but they already hate me,
but they still talk to me,
but they put me down.
“I don’t put you down, buddy. Just eat the damn beans, at least. You haven’t eaten in days, you’re going to die out here if you don’t eat, buddy.” I hadn’t eaten in days. So I must’ve drank water, which meant that I could put off eating if I drank more water.
I don’t remember eating the beans. Nor the sweet corn, for that matter. I do remember opening the other cupboard and finding the empty water canteen. I held it up to the roof and watched a solitary drop of water cling to the rim of the bore. My tongue protruded further from my mouth than I think it ever had before. It grew sore, like my arm had, and I licked the drop up. I licked the bore over and over. My tongue slipped into it and over it, and yet my thirst would not quench.
The last thing I can recall is crawling to the porch and scooping up warm snow to eat. It tasted better than the beans, too. And felt better between my teeth.
“And, how long did this happen before they found you?”
“I don’t bloody know, does it look like I can wear a watch?”
“Of course, I-I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just better to give the readers some idea of a timeline.”
“Yeah, I get it, the newspapers are always about the times. I’m sorry if there’s a flicker of resentment in my voice, but it must be the exhaustion. The doc said I’ll be fatigued for a while. I am grateful, really. I’m still here, aren’t I? Still kicking, well kind of. I can’t really kick anymore, either.”
I’m starting to realize there’s a lot of things I won’t be able to do anymore.
Writing Prompt: It was the first snowfall of the year.
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