“It’s not kick you in the face spicy,” my brother said in a joking tone when eating the meat my father always brought back from his hunts. I was having the same dream every night about my family and that must mean I am close to finding them. I awoke to the sound of strong gusts of wind whipping at the cabin and the outhouse door banging with a steady rhythm.

I jumped out of bed and quickly ran over to the front door where my large fur coat was hanging. Throwing it on and rushing out the door I saw that the door to my outhouse was being battered by the wind. The snow was deep, I forgot my snowshoes so I was sinking deeper and deeper into the snow. Snow had flooded my boots by the time I made it over to the outhouse and I latched the door shut. The damage wasn’t severe and I could repair it once I got back from my hunt.

I made my way back inside the house and started getting my hunting gear together. A bow and a quiver with thirteen arrows were all I had left, but that would be enough for today’s hunt at least. This bow has started to show its age, the wood was worn down with most of the once glossy finish gone. I kept using it because my father had gifted it to me on my first hunt and it made me feel as if he was still hunting with me.

The sun was rising higher in the sky now as I finished my prep work for the hunt, not forgetting my snowshoes this time. I made my way out the door and started walking into the dense trees. The wind had calmed and now the forest was a place which no sound emanated from except the crunching of my feet stepping on the fresh snow. I walked at a slow and steady pace making sure to listen for the telltale rhythmic thumping that I was searching for.

I was growing worried when I saw that the sun was at its highest point and I still hadn’t heard anything. I sat down, leaning up against a tree, and looked at the footprints I had left behind. If it snowed before I completed this hunt I’d have to rely on the sun’s position to get home which wouldn’t be as direct as a path. I lay down in the snow and thought about going back home and how I would have nothing to eat that night. While lying there thinking, I heard a rhythmic pounding on the ground that was so faint it could be covered up by the rustle of my clothes. I shot up onto my feet and listened for the thumping again. It seemed concentrated in my left ear so I cupped my hand around it. It was indeed to my left and I started running as fast as possible. The sled dogs can outrun me so I’d need to be quick and lucky if I wanted to intercept them.

The sound was getting louder every second and as I quickened my pace I saw a streak of white and black through the trees to my left. I knew the path must be close because I could see the mountain peak looming over me. A small path runs very close to the mountain and many dog sleds use it. The small path where no trees stood was ten feet in front of me and I dropped down onto one knee and readied my bow. I waited, frozen like the ground around me, holding firmly to my bow, my heart was pounding in my chest even though I had done this since I was a boy.

The sled dogs rushed into view and I released my arrow into the lead dog. The dog dropped into the snow painting it red as its momentum carried it. The second dog tripped over the first’s body and fell into the snow, starting the dog pile. The rest of the dogs followed suit and the man’s sled crashed into the dogs and he flew over the front handle of his sled. I still had twelve arrows but I put my bow over my shoulder and grabbed my wood hatchet. This hatchet was my most valuable tool because it was even more useful than my bow. Chopping firewood or combat was made easy with this tool and I treated it with care and always carried it with me.

Gripping it tightly in my hand I crept closer to the fur-covered man lying in the snow. He didn’t seem to be breathing and I hoped the hard part was already over. I left the man and took a look at what he had in his sled. He had some essentials like; crackers, canned meat, and 5 gallons of fresh water, but nothing that got me super excited.

I moved my eyes to the pile of dogs now trying to untangle themselves from the spider’s web they had woven and looked at the base of the mound where the man had been lying. He had vanished and as I came to this realization I was struck in the side of the head with something. It knocked me over and I took some staggering steps towards the tree line, but I heard something rushing at my back so I whipped around!

The man was charging at me screaming with an expression of both terror and rage so I gripped my hatchet tightly in preparation. He swung at me again but I was able to dodge his large slow moving arm by ducking and this exposed his stomach. I was about to take a swipe at him when I heard him scream as he reached for his back. I was confused and didn’t move out of the way as he fell limp onto me. I reached around him and fell on his back and found there was a tree branch sticking out of it! I pushed the man off me and raised onto my feet to face my next foe, but when I looked around, no one was there.

I wasted no time and ran for cover behind a large pine tree’s trunk and listened for any footsteps. I heard nothing but a slight breeze whispering in my ears. The wind seemed to whisper a word that I couldn’t distinguish and the rustling trees made it hard to focus on the wind’s words. I peeked my head around the trunk and gripped the cragged bark looking for any movement on the blank white canvas of snow. Nothing moved before my eyes, it was as if the cold had frozen the entire world and I was staring in vain at a painting like a child who doesn’t understand art.

I crept out from my hiding place and walked slowly over to where the sled was. I was stunned and frozen in place as I looked down at the stain of blood on the snow. No dogs or sled remained and the only evidence that anything had been there was the splintered wood and trail of blood leading deep into the forest. The trail went towards the mountain and I just started walking without thinking of the consequences.

I didn’t run because I simply couldn’t. I was puzzled beyond belief. I just kept walking, looking at the trail of blood at my feet. I saw the trees dissipate and a clearing at the base of the mountain relieved a large opening to a cave. I walked to the entrance of the cave with my gaze locked on the impressive opening.

I stopped at the entrance to the cave and listened for any sign of life inside. I heard a low rumble coming from deep within the cave’s bowels that I could feel shake my entire body. Taking a glance over my left shoulder I could see that daylight was running out and I wouldn’t be able to make it back home. I would have to spend the night in this cave or I would certainly freeze to death. With only a few options and death a possibility, I took a deep breath and entered the cave.