Snow Bound

Posted: March 8, 2013 in Short Stories

Eugene Stephenson lived in the middle of nowhere.  His nearest neighbor lived four miles away.  His driveway consisted of a dirt lane branching off of a gravel road off of a little-known back road.  He had always been a recluse, but it was worse in recent years.  The idea of mingling with people on a daily basis, of being unable to get away from people at the moment of his choosing, made him cringe.  He could mingle, of course, but he chose to avoid people most of the time.

It was late January.  He hadn’t bothered to dig the snow away from his door for over a week; he had more than enough provisions to last all winter, if he didn’t mind eating chunky soup every single day.  He woke up with the dawn, made himself breakfast, and worked on the puzzle he started the previous night before he looked out of his front window.

More snow had fallen during the night.  The world looked brand-new and sparkly.  The sun’s glint on the ice-crystals hurt his eyes, but it was still beautiful.  But something was wrong.  Eugene frowned, his attention suddenly captured by the random footprints marring the white landscape of his yard.  Who would have been out here in the middle of the night? No one had any excuse to be around his house without permission.  After all, he posted “No Trespassing” signs on nearly every other tree around his property.

He cursed and put on his winter attire.  He had to work at the door a bit to shove the drifted snow away, but he made it outside quickly.  He paled when he recognized two sets of giant paw-prints coming towards his house, along with one set of ordinary boot-prints.  Large dogs bothered him more than he cared to admit.  He followed the prints behind the house, where they seemed to stop beneath his bedroom window.  Claw marks glared out at him from the window frame.  Whatever that thing was, it had attempted to get in his house.  Unacceptable.

He was about to go back inside, to make sure that his shotgun was loaded and ready to take out the intruder, if it happened to show up again, when he noticed something disconcerting.  No tracks led away from his home.  Instead, it appeared that after the creature stalked his room, all three trespassers had meandered over to his garage.  The prints stopped at the side door, standing slightly ajar.

Go inside, Eugene, the voice of reason in his head demanded.  Get your shotgun, call the police, do anything other than go into that garage.  He nodded once, turned on his heel and marched back inside.  He was just loading his gun when a knock sounded on the front door.

Who could that possibly be?  A trespasser wouldn’t knock.  Would they?  His curiosity proved too much to bear, so he edged closer to the door.  “Who’s there?” he called loudly enough to be heard through the thin door.

“Are you Eugene Stephenson?” a young man’s deep voice growled in response.

“I asked you first!” Eugene sputtered.

“I’m sorry for breaking into your garage,” the voice apologized.  “It’s just…I was hunting and got lost, me and my two dogs.  We just needed some shelter for the night.  Didn’t want to wake you last night.”

Eugene sighed.  Of course that was the most logical explanation.  Ever since the incident several years before, he had been paranoid, especially where dogs were concerned.  He cracked the door a bit to get a look at the young man and his two perfectly ordinary wolfhounds.  They weren’t as large as he feared they would be, which meant that his greatest fear had yet to be realized.  “Come on in for a cup of tea.  We’ll discuss how you can repay the damages to my property.  Leave the dogs outside.”

The hunter smiled and tied the dogs to the porch railing.  “Thank you, so much, Mr. Stephenson.  I was worried you were going to call the cops or something.”

Eugene chuckled.  That would have been interesting, indeed.  I wonder what the cops would think of my basement?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The dogs keening didn’t stop for three days.  The naïve hunter never did bring home any trophies.  Eugene Stephenson added a few more “No Trespassing” signs the following spring.

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