by Anastasia Towe
Dorien was jolted awake as soon as the nightmare began, when the awful moaning started. It was so loud in his dream that he almost thought he was actually hearing it. He started to close his eyes again... and then jumped up in a panic. He was hearing the moaning. It was coming from just outside of the cabin, from behind the only door. His only escape. If this was going to be his end, he wished he had just died with his family. He should have died with them, instead of hiding like a coward. Watching them die.
As he stood in the middle of the single room in the cabin, sweat breaking out on his forehead, he realized there was another sound under the moaning. A dull roar coming from the north. He had no idea what it was, but there was a faint, futile hope in the back of his mind. Because he knew what it sounded like. A snowmobile.
There was a series of explosions right outside the door, so loud that Dorien jumped back a couple of feet. And then there was a moment of silence, broken by a pounding on the door and a gruff voice shouting into the cabin.
“Hey! Anybody in there? Come on out, these buggers won’t be botherin’ you again.” Whoever the voice belonged to, he clearly thought that last was amusing, because he let out a low chuckle.
Dorien slowly walked towards the door and opened it, his hands shaking and palms sweaty. He was suddenly faced with a giant of a man. Dorien wasn’t short; he had grown an extra inch or two in his first year of college and now stood at about six foot three. Yet this man towered over him, and he definitely had him beat by at least a hundred and fifty pounds. The moon was shining behind him, and it was too dark for Dorien to see the expression on his face, but he could make out his massive beard.
“I thought I saw somebody walk in here about an hour ago. I was keepin’ watch and I thought to myself that I ought to come down here and check once the snow settled a bit, but then I heard that moanin’ and figured I might as well get my shotgun and kill two birds with one stone. You really shouldn’t be travelin’ alone, things bein’ how they are these days. Nice to meet you though, name’s Rob Turner.”
Dorien stared at the man’s large outstretched hand for a moment before taking it. To say he was in shock would have been an understatement. To have this man, who seemed so comfortable with the corpses at his feet, be the first living person he had come across since losing his family was a little more than his mind could handle. He swallowed and tried to pull himself together.
“N-nice to meet you too, sir. I’m Dorien. Thanks for...” he looked down at the bodies on the ground, “that.”
“No problem. I can’t have the likes of them runnin’ around. I’ve got my family to look after, you know. Speakin’ of which, why don’t you come on up with me to our cabin? Unless you’re waitin’ on your own family to join you here?”
“No, they... they’re not coming.” Dorien looked down at his feet. He didn’t want to risk Rob seeing the expression on his face.
“Ah, I see. Well come on, there’s room on the mobile for you to ride behind me.”
Dorien didn’t hesitate, despite his shock. He grabbed his pack from the table and walked out into the night, following Rob to his snowmobile.
* * *
Rob’s cabin was at the top of a hill, and seemed to blend into the forest around it. Despite its proximity to where Dorien had been, he hadn’t noticed it through the trees. Yet, as he stood on the front porch, he could make out that smaller cabin, which was bathed in moonlight, and he could even faintly see the dark shapes on the ground in front of it. He shuddered and turned around to follow Rob inside as he called to his wife.
“Mel? Honey? You awake? Come out here, I’ve brought home a stray!” Rob turned to Dorien and winked. Dorien offered back a weak smile.
Mel walked out into the front of the cabin, talking as she came, “What on earth are you talkin’ about Rob? Did you find a dog wanderin’ around or some... oh. Who is this?” She flicked her questioning gaze from Dorien to Rob, and her green eyes hardened as she waited for an explanation.
Rob put his hand on Dorien’s shoulder. “Dorien. I found him down at the little cabin, two moaners just about bangin’ on the door. He’s, ah, traveling alone. I figured he could come stay with us.”
Dorien barely managed a weak hello. He didn’t like the look that Mel gave Rob when he said he had offered him a place to stay. It was clear she didn’t want him there, and he could understand her apprehension. End of the world or not, people weren’t usually inclined to invite strange men to live with them. He certainly didn’t want to force himself into her life, so he swallowed and decided to speak up.
“Look, I don’t want to impose on you. I’m sort of used to being alone now. If you would be willing to give me some food, if you have any you can spare, I’d be glad to get out of your hair.”
Mel looked at him for a moment, and something about her expression began to soften, just barely. Her tone didn’t change, but Dorien wondered what had caused her change of heart.
“You can stay. We have the extra space. Rob, I’m going back to bed. You’d better show him to the spare room.”
She walked back into what Dorien assumed was their bedroom and shut the door, perhaps with a little more force than was necessary.
“Ah well, she’ll come around. She’s just tired, is all,” Rob said. “You’re gonna be stayin’ in the room at the other side of the house, come on.”
Dorien followed Rob across the cabin, which could rightly be called a house. It was larger than any of the others he had come across, and was set up more like a traditional house, complete with a dining room, living room, and kitchen. Rob opened the door to the spare bedroom and Dorien walked inside. It was strange for him to think of sleeping on an actual bed again. Everything about this was strange. He turned to face Rob, who was still standing in the doorway.
“Thank you. Seriously, thank you so much. I just... I don’t even know what to say.”
“Don’t you worry yourself about it, it’ll be nice to have some company. Besides, I’m sure you can help me out with the huntin’, always good to have a second pair of eyes out there.”
“I’m not sure how much help I would be, I’ve never hunted before.”
“Well we’ll just have to fix that, won’t we? And if you want to take a break, you can always stay here and keep Mel company. She’ll appreciate it, even if she doesn’t show it.”
Dorien nodded, and Rob said goodnight and went back across to his bedroom. As Dorien settled onto the small bed, he could hear the couple having what sounded like a quiet argument. He couldn’t tell what was being said, but Mel didn’t sound pleased, and he immediately felt terrible. Soon they were quiet though, and Dorien was too exhausted for his guilt to keep him awake.
* * *
Copyright © 2012 by Anastasia Towe