Three sudden loud knocks on the
door made Tony jump. He stared at the door in disbelief. Three more knocks,
firm and demanding, set Tony’s heart racing. As he rose and approached the
door, he wondered how anybody could have happened upon his remote cabin.
Tony opened the door.
Looming in the darkness was the indistinct, bulking shape of a man.
“Can I come in?” A slow,
deep voice intoned.
“Uh, sure,” Tony stammered,
and he stepped back to allow the man to enter.
The man was tall and heavily
built. Long black hair and a thick, unruly beard obscured his face. A heavy
coat hung almost to the floor. Visible below the coat’s dark folds was a pair
of worn fur-lined boots made of leather. The strange footwear seemed completely
out of character for Kodiak. The man stepped inside the cabin and swung a pack
from his back and onto the floor.
Tony closed the door. “You
surprised me. I sure don’t get much company out here,” he said with a nervous
The man made no reply, but
stood hovering over the stove, his back to the light.
“You must be hungry,” Tony
said, trying not to stare or act surprised at the man’s unusual appearance. “Do
you want something to eat?”
“Some tea,” the man replied.
“Coming right up.” Tony pumped
the gas stove tank, poured water into the kettle and set it on the stove, all
with the animation of a short-order cook.
The wind outside had
settled, and the cabin was bathed in an ethereal stillness. “What brings you way out this way?” Tony asked.
“Wanderlust, I guess.”
The man turned his head with
the reply, offering Tony a better view of his appearance. Matted hair hid all
but the stranger’s eyes and nose. The eyes were small and tight-set, and they
disclosed nothing. The man’s mouth opened in what might have been a smile,
revealing two thin, yellow teeth.
Tony stood speechless,
unable to summon a response. He busied himself with pouring water into the
kettle and putting it on the stove to heat up. He was preparing a mug and tea
when the cabin’s hypnotic silence was pierced by the screaming of the water
kettle. Tony flinched violently as if he’d been stabbed and rushed to the gas
stove to grab the kettle. He sensed two beady eyes observing him as he poured
steaming water into the cup. His hand shook, but he did his best to control the
tremors as he delivered the cup of tea to the stranger.
The man received the cup, a
grunt confirming the transaction. He dragged the old wooden bench closer to the
stove and sat down. As he sipped his tea, the cabin resumed its unnatural
Tony’s mind raced. His
emotions hammered back and forth between anger at the man’s rude behavior and
confusion about the man’s odd appearance and malevolent self-assuredness.
The man stared at the two
fox pelts hanging on the wall. “That’s a nice silver,” he finally said. “You
trap it or shoot it?”
“I trapped them both,” Tony
answered with a rush. “Trail sets.” He wasn’t sure why he chose to lie, and he
quickly looked away from the man’s probing little eyes.