Shepherd’s Winter – Part 16

thI8PQF237A Night Visitor

“I’m a friend!” he shouted. He had a rifle and let it drop. “Are you Shepherd?”

Shepherd’s muscles relaxed, but he held the rifle steady.

“My name is Dennis. We met a few weeks ago in Ruby. You are Daniel’s friend.”

Shepherd eased the rifle allowing it to fall to his side.

Dennis was burly with a round plump face perturbing from the fury hood of his parka.

“Come in, Dennis,” Shepherd said. “And get warm.”

Dennis removed his parka as he stepped inside. “I suppose you are wondering what I’m doing here.”

“Yes,” Shepherd said. “I could have shot you.”

“There was a report of the creature we were talking about at the council,” Dennis said.

“Go over to the fire,” Shepherd said.

Dennis quickly walked to the fire and rubbed his hands together. “My snow machine got wedged in a gully. I saw it and tracked it into the woods across the plain. It came to your cabin and went behind it.”

“I heard it,” Shepherd said. “There were footsteps in the snow and then another, that must have been you.”

“I should have called out when I approached your cabin,” Dennis said.

Shepherd walked to the kitchen. “We must get something in you. You like eggs, biscuits, sausage and gravy?”

“Sure,” Dennis said, “but I have nothing on me to pay you with.”

“You are a guest,” Shepherd said.

Dennis warmed himself and Shepherd prepared a meal for both of them.

As they ate they talked.

“What brought you out on a night like this?” Shepherd said.

“We in the village got a call on short-wave about a dog killed east of Ruby. Like the one at Daniel’s. Five of us headed out on our snow machines. I sited something moving south through the woods. I turned off my trail. I drove for 30 minutes. I could go no faster then a couple miles per hour. I thought about leaving my snow machine and starting off on foot, but I stayed with the snow machine. I followed huge tracks. I even thought I caught it in my headlight. Bam! I fall into a gully. I couldn’t get my snow machine out so I grabbed my rifle and started following the tracks.”

“You say large tracks?” Shepherd said.

“Yes,” Dennis said. “With large strides. Only two feet. I saw it stop at the edge of the trees. It acted tired. Suddenly it started across the open toward your place. The thought crossed my mind to shoot, but if I miss, it may hit your cabin.”

“We can climb on my snow machine and follow it,” Shepherd suggested.

“The woods is even thicker beyond your cabin,” Dennis said. “It is too far ahead of us. We could never catch up to it.”

“Spend the night, Dennis,” Shepherd said. “I have a radio. I can get a hold of somebody in Ruby and let them know of your whereabouts and you‘re okay.”

“I am exhausted,” Dennis said. “I’ll take you up on spending the night.”

“There is a bed in the loft or you can sleep on the couch,” Shepherd said.

“The couch will be fine,” Dennis said.

“What do you think it is?” Shepherd said.

Dennis hesitated.

“Dennis,” Shepherd said.

“Amoruk can be many things,” Dennis said. “It changes. They say it can change before your eyes.”

Shepherd leaned back in his chair.

“I know that people from the cities think it is foolish,” Dennis said. “Such things don’t live around people. They want to be left alone. It lives off the lonely and alone. That’s how it survives.”

Shepherd slowly nodded. “You saw it, I saw it, and Pal saw it. You get some sleep, Dennis. I’m going to stay awake for a while.”

Shepherd sat in his chair facing the door and Pal assumed his position in front of the door.

The next morning Shepherd got a call on the radio that a friend of Dennis would come out to get him. Shepherd and Dennis had breakfast together. Soon someone in a snow machine came for Dennis.

Shepherd pondered trying to put together a puzzle from pieces that may not belong to each other. During the briefness of daylight there was suspicion that was overlapped be the imagination when the darkness came and brought unsettled thoughts. Shepherd read and Pal was vigil.




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