It is February 1st.
A little cooler than the usual Georgia weather. It took a while to get down here, but it was worth it. North Carolina winters are brutal. I have a small cupcake and eat slowly to savor the taste.
Today is my sixteenth birthday. My family is gone, away on a two-month trip. I just finished my cupcake when there was quick pounding on the door. I get up with a gun in hand.
“What do you want?” I say.
A thick, gruff southern accent says, “Shelter. We mean no harm. My name is Daryl and this is Rick. He was a sheriff. Open the door.”
I see two men. One with a crossbow and one with a gun. They look desperate yet dangerous. I raise my guard up. I shut the door behind them. They take a seat on the couch and catch their breath.
“So, how did you find my cabin?” I have my pistol in my hand.
The one named Rick says, “We are looking for supplies. Guns, ammo, medical supplies, and food. We also need some people for our group. Are you alone out here?”
I look away, “I’m waiting for my family to get back from a trip.”
Mom and Isaac should be back in two days. Daryl is staring at my weapons. I had gone back my house and collected all the other weapons from the safe and put them up here.
“How did you get all of those weapons?” He stares at me.
“From all of the people I have killed. That is a nice crossbow.” I tell him, just to scare him.
“We would be happy to let you join our group.” Rick says.
“Where are they?” I ask, trying not to show my interest.
I can’t trust them, not yet.
“We are at the state prison. There are eleven of us right now. If you join us, you would make a great addition.”
I let the silence consume the room before saying, “I will think about it. I don’t have any food or weapons to spare. Don’t come back. Please leave.”
I stand up and follow them out the door. They get into their car and leave. I watch them standing on the porch. I listen as the car rolls onto the pavement of the main road a mile and a half from the cabin and go back inside after a few minutes in the late winter air. I toss a couple of logs in the wood burning stove and sit by the window with a rifle.
I hear the call of Mars and spring to the door. Mars is my family’s trained red tailed hawk. When some of the family leaves on a trip, we send messages by Mars.
Mars lands on the railing on the porch. He turns and I eagerly unfold the piece of paper.
We miss you in Montana. Yellowstone is quite lovely this time of year. Our ETA is now three months longer now. Business up here is hectic. Stay safe, the months will fly by.
All our love,
Mom and Isaac’
I curse quietly to myself and rush inside to respond to them. I first write the date and then begin my message.
’Dear mom and I,
Eat some buffalo for me, you know how much I love it. Maybe you could bring back some elk or mule deer? Can’t wait to hear how the business went. I hope the months go by in the blink of an eye. Stay safe.
I fold the paper and tie it tight to Mars. I tell him to go back to mom and Isaac. With a flap of his wings he is up and gone.
I wrap my arms around myself and go back inside, locking the door. I glance at the clock and see that it is almost dinner time. As the sun begins its decent, I grab my rifle and hunting knife before walking into the woods.
I have set up a few sloppy traps, nothing compared to the kind that Isaac, my brother can make. Dad taught him when he was younger and Isaac showed me how a while back.
I grin as I see a rabbit squirming to get out of the rope that has its foot. I kneel and whisper a word of thanks and quickly end the rabbit’s life. I reset the trap and hurry back home.
Locking the door after I gathered enough logs for the night, I put the black out curtains down on all of the windows and prepare the rabbit, skinning it and grilling the meat in the wood stove that is in the kitchen.
After dinner I double check the locks on the windows and doors. I settle down in my room. The cabin has three bed rooms, two bathrooms, and a basement. There is a nice deep stream down the hill where I swim in the summer and bring water up. Isaac is working on building a system to bring water up to the house easier. In November, Isaac and I built a fence around the stream and dammed the bend so if there were roamers contaminating up stream, it wouldn’t poison our supply.
I place a log in the two wood stoves before climbing the stairs to my bedroom. It is small compared to the other two bedrooms. Mom has a king sized bed, and Isaac and I both have queen beds. My room can barely fit the bed and night stand that is how small it is. Soon spring will come and more animals will be out to repopulate or come out of hibernation. Hunting will be easier then. For now, I have to ration what I have.
I read my book by the light of the electric lantern for about thirty minutes before curling up under the covers and drifting to sleep.
Two weeks later the snow on the ground is half way melted. In those two weeks, I have caught seven rabbits and repaired a broken fence post for the pond. The meat I don’t eat I store in the cool basement. Before this happened, the basement was the den. It had a couple of futons and a tv with some dvds. Now all it has is shelves for the canned food that we have been storing.
Some part of me likes the world this way. I mostly hate it.
I’m sitting in the kitchen with a book when I hear the cry of Mars. I rush out to the porch and grab the letter.
We have decided to stay in Montana with the rest of the family. They need us. Plus, business is forcing us to stay here as well. We hope you come up and join us. If not, we understand. If you decide to stay, don’t be alone. Know this, protect yourself, follow your instincts, and don’t tell them your secret.
All our love,
Mom and Isaac’
Moans in the distance fill my muffled ears as I sink down on the porch step. I can feel my heart beat double in my throat as hot tears stroll down my cheeks. I clench my jaw and let Mars perch on his bar in the kitchen with some bird seed.
I pace around the room as my mind is spinning. Do I go? Montana is vast and family is there. Montana is a sanctuary for my kind. My dad wasn’t like us, but we inherited all of mom’s genes. Dad died here, in this cabin. I can’t just leave. Mom and Isaac were always close while Dad and I were close as well. Isaac sticks to mom’s tradition, and I do too, but Isaac could barely be around dad.
I clear my throat and grab a tissue, blowing my nose and throwing it in the trash before sitting down with a piece of paper and responding.
’Dear Mom and I,
I have decided to stay here. After all, Dad was buried here and this cabin is the best thing in this world to me besides family. Two men came by a couple of weeks ago and offered me to join them. I think I will go with them. Everything you taught me I will keep in mind as I will join them tomorrow. I love you guys. Stay safe.
I tie the letter to Mars and send him off. I gather all of the traps, clean them, and store them down in the basement in case this group plan doesn’t work. Next I start to pile the foods that are perishable in a big duffle bag. I will bring it as an offering to the group. I get out a second bag and put a few of the guns, rifles, and boxes of ammo in them. The rest will go to the basement in the safe.
I go upstairs to pack some clothes. After that I move Isaac’s bed into mom’s room and lock all of the doors upstairs. All of the pictures, anything that anyone would think that this cabin was filled with memories is in the safe. I drive stakes into the ground surrounding the pond so that even when I’m gone it will be protected.
I take out a map from the living room and find out the prison where the group is at is only ten miles away from the cabin. I will get up early tomorrow, go to the prison, bring back Rick with the car, load up the bags, lock up the cabin, and settle at base.
As the sun starts to set, I go down the hill behind the cabin, past the pond, over the second hill, and sit next to Dad’s grave. I tell him what has happened and tell him that I will still come up to see him. I sleep on the couch with both wood stoves burning. All of the chopped wood is being burned before I leave tomorrow. I hope this works out.