Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language.
I couldn’t ever really get away from the ice. The thick, white blanket that covered the emaciated trees was so desolate, it was as if I was enchanted to remain there forever.
I don’t regret what I did.
The lake-mirrors threw back at me my reflection. I stared at it for a while, my face refracted back to me slightly askew and broken. I tried to bore my way into the soul of that reflection, but the ice was too thick – I was foiled. With an alarming heat rising through me, I rebelled against the boy in the lake. I pummeled at his face with my gloved fists, but to no avail. I couldn’t reach him. He simply stared back, with bated breath and a beckoning look in his eye.
I knew I was in for it when I opened the cabin door and the fire was out. The wood in the hearth was still crackling and the glowing embers gave the room a small, devilish glow.
“Fire’s out, boy.” A gruff voice from the corner of the cabin. Satan himself. He sits there in the corner, ominously lit up with the amber light of the dead fire.
“I didn’t find any firewood.” I mutter. It was a lie. I didn’t look.
And for a while, an infinitesimal moment, time seems to expand around me. I hear the silence grow, and begin to pick up the small details of the sound. Like an ambience of white noise, I hear the wind scrape its nails against the sharp edges of the naked tree branches, I hear the silent screech of its boots against the ice. All of this is far, far away from the dark cabin from hell.
I wake up, and the fire’s going again. My head spins as I try to lift myself from the floor, my body racked with new aches. My eyes dart around the room, dreading seeing another vision of Satan, but there is only a man spewed across the living room couch, gleaming ooze of liquor streaming from the corner of his mouth. I go to him, and against my better judgment, I cover him with his favourite red blanket. Christ’s blanket, he calls it, because it’s as red as Christ’s in all the paintings. He loves that sort of thing. Religion, blood, violence, moral superiority. All of those things are down his alley, and in this part of the world they go hand in hand.
My stomach begins to rumble. Heeding its call, I go to the kitchen and open the fridge to see if there’s anything to satisfy my rumbling belly. Nothing. Cursing him and his Christ’s blanket, I head for the door, pausing only to get the rifle from the wall. He always puts it there, right next to the crucifix.
Some people would call our world hostile, harsh even. But they don’t know shit. This world is what beauty feels like. There is a stretch of silence so deep you could drown in it, the cold is so sensual it nips at any skin you dare show it and the sun loves it here so much, it barely ever lets go.
But like all beautiful people, this world can be a bitch. Nothing stirs, everything that’s living hides away. I didn’t feel like driving for an hour to get to the nearest town and buy something. I’d hunt, like the men of yore. Only in this cold, and with my severe lack of skill, it wasn’t the best of choices.
But hunting was cathartic. At least in my head. I would lay there in the frozen wasteland and stalk the tiniest of sounds. It wasn’t too long till I found a lone deer or if I was lucky a moose or an elk. If I shot one today, it’d feed us for a while. He’d like that, I thought. Not that I cared.
After a half hour or so of tuning my sense, my ears pricked up at a rustle and a crack. Silently, I crept from my hiding place and followed, with great haste. I could almost smell the rank odor that the elk or deer carried, the smell of filth and shit that all animals have. In my head I was already imagining lugging its carcass down to the cabin, skinning it and slicing it open, all with the purpose of making a mangy stew to fill my stomach and that of the raging alcoholic passed out on the couch.
The rustling stopped, and I was near the frozen lake again. There is no elk nor deer, but I can make out a figure on the lake, looking down. Is this some sort of joke? I feel like I’m looking at a vision of myself, only a couple of hours ago and the image is unsettling. There is a flurry of movement. I squint, trying to make out what the figure is doing. He’s punching something down onto the lake. I hear clinking.
“Oy!” I shout out. Something isn’t right, the figure ignores my calls.
“Oy!” I shout again, even louder. The figure ignores me again.
Something in me snaps. I cock my rifle, aim it just a bit off the figure and a shot rings out in the air. The movement stops and silence returns.
I run over to the silhouette and it coalesces into the figure of a boy. Skinny thing, round my age. A mop of blonde hair, falls around his face. He wears an expression I can’t understand.
“What the fuck are you doing?” I manage to spit out, panting from the run. He has a small hammer in his hands. Again, he shoots me that expression. I look into his eyes, big and blue, slightly reminiscent of a bug. A butterfly, I decide. He has the eyes of a blue butterfly.
“Don’t you know the ice is thin here?”
Again he says nothing. “If you broke the ice you’d never get back out.”
He looks away and mumbles something I can’t understand.
“What?” I ask. There is irritation in my voice.
“That’s exactly what I wanted,” he says, finally, and looks at me with his own bout of irritation and I notice gleaming tears freezing to his face. I don’t know how to reply to that. I get so angry, I grab him by the scruff of his neck and drag him and his weak sobs of resistance away from the mirror lake.
The warmth of the cabin hits me of all of a sudden, and I feel sick. I hand the shivering boy a blanket as he looks quizzically at the alcoholic passed out on the couch. I grunt at him and order him to sit by the fire, all the while thinking to myself why the hell I brought him here. I fix up a plate of fried, mangy vegetables – the only thing we have and hand a portion to him. He looks at it with disgust.
“There wasn’t any game. It’s all I have.” I mutter, justifying the measly meal.
“Of course there’s no game,” he retorts, a bit too snarky for my liking, “it’s the fucking deep freeze.”
Again, I don’t know how to reply. “Eat,” I say.
He obliges, stabbing at his food, with no vigor whatsoever. There is silence, but this time I don’t like it. It’s a very different silence from what I’m used to.
He feels it too and finds it necessary to start small talk. He asks me why we live in the middle of nowhere. I don’t reply. Then he asks me if the alcoholic is my dad. I don’t reply.
“Where’s your mum?” He asks. I shoot him a venomous look, and then feel a bit guilty.
“She’s dead.” I say.
He appears flustered. He musters a small apology, stumbling through it and again there is silence. When the crackling of the flames turns into a vehement cackle, I can’t bear the silence any longer.
“Why did you want to kill yourself?” I ask, bluntly.
This time he didn’t answer. I insisted.
“It’s a long story,” he replied, vaguely.
“I’ve got time.”