The hunter bursts inside his small worn down house, eager to get out of the frigid weather. The shingles are falling apart faster than they can be repaired, cold air blowing in through every crevice. He tries to light a fire, with the hope of thawing his frozen home. Each gust of wind make that flame more and more impossible to obtain. His game fresh from the hunt, hangs outside waiting to be skinned and cooked. When was the last time he has eaten? He thinks back to the days when his son would join him on their annual hunting trip. Them laughing and reliving old memories of previous hunts. His son’s first perfect shot, in the centre of a moose’s heart.
“Always aim for the heart or lungs,” he would tell his son. “That way there is no pain and no suffer.” His son would nod and roll his eyes because he had already heard it a thousand times.
The hunter’s fingers shake as he finally strikes a spark and a flame flickers to life. He sighs in relief. Briefly the flame warms the tremor out of his fingers. He thinks back to the home he once shared with his family.
Huge windows that allowed the sunlight to stream through and erase the shadows. The front porch where he and his wife could sit and drink their morning coffee. The kids’ cheerful voices ringing through the house as they play with the dog. His wife sitting on the couch, nose deep into an old book. She looks up at him, he grins, and her emerald eyes sparkle in return.
The whistle of the wind whooshing through the cracks in the walls brings him back to reality. He listens to the crackle of the fire and allows it to drown out the sound of stifled moans and scuffles of chains on wood behind him. He couldn’t bear to stay in that house that was once so full of life, now too full of reminders. Clenching his fist, he thinks back to the night of the accident. With a turn of his head he looks into the eyes of fear and remorse. He does not even recognize the reflection that looks back at him; long hair speckled with grey and a frown that has permanently wrinkled his face, partially hidden by an ungroomed beard. Despite the cold, sweat drips down the other figure’s face. The deer hangs through the window. Lifeless with bulged eyes that seem to follow the hunter’s every move, thick black blood dripping from its mouth. The hunter’s victim lets out a repressed shriek, as the realization sets in that he holds the same fate as the deer. Only this death would be worse, not a clean shot to the heart. No. The need for closure was stronger than any hunger the hunter had ever experienced.
The dog hobbles over, grey with age and sadness, and rests its head on his lap. They sit like that, waiting for the fire to warm their cold hearts. The wind shakes the house and a mound of wet snow falls down the chimney and his small flame his snuffed out. He sits back and his body goes limp as he dozes off.
Laughter and singing fills his ears. He feels the warmth of her hand resting lightly on his knee. He glances in the rear-view mirror and chuckles at the boy who is yelling at the top of his lungs in an attempt to out-sing the song on the radio. The reflection of the moon shines off his golden hair, a trait he shares with his mother. Her scream brings his eyes back to the road but it’s too late. A flash of headlights and then the world goes dark.
He awakens with a startle and reaches to wipe the sweat off his brow. Only once his hand meets eye level does he notice the gash. The knife he was gripping before lays beside him, dripping wet with crimson red. The pain from the fresh wound and dream sets in. He picks up the knife with his good hand. He knows what he must do. The rattle of chains grows more intense behind him.