He walks towards the cabin in a slow trudge, knee-deep in snow. His thick fur clothing weighs him down and the cold is finally starting to seep through. The white blizzard night is blinding. Specks of snow and ice cut the face red. Shackled trees shake and splinter dry branches. The wind whistles like a demon and the pale of the moon is nowhere to be seen. The cabin can't be much further. It was just up ahead. He could see it, the thin glow of warmth inside guiding him, beckoning him forward. But the snow was thick and the wind was against him. His left hand could barely feel the guidelines anymore. His right hand felt frozen stuck to his cane.
Should have bought those damn snowshoes. Never knew it could snow enough to turn walking ten feet to thirty. Would also help reduce the amount of snow trying to burrow its way into his socks. Cold sharp flecks of ice melting and piercing the ankle skin. Luckily, his feet were already too numb for the pain to be felt. His knee cartilage was starting to freeze, and that was causing him more pain. A weird numbing sense like you can't breathe. As though the air is so cold, breathing it in hurt. A required toxin that chills your insides. There isn't enough time left. The cabin is the only hope. The body moves itself, emergency systems pushing onward towards the faint glow.
Little by little, the glow grows. At one point, the size is noticeable enough that a new resurgence can be felt. The warmth is close, oh so close. The body's gambit will prevail. The treacherous snow will not take another. The door can be seen now-yes. Its wooden shingles frosted apart from the rusting locks. The smoke of a warm fire seeps through to be ripped apart by the wind. But it's so close now, the smoke can be smelt! A rugged stew, spiced in a cauldron. Fresh venison boiled with onions and garlic. Lemon juice and oil brimming near the top. A hint of cream.
The hand reaches out. He grasps the handle, feeling the coolness strike through him deep inside. He pushes, but the door gives resistance. Another push, but to no avail. His mind sees the image of the delicious warm stew fade away. The scent teases him, the warmth is inviting. But the door is stubborn and refuses to give. The cold night is not done after all, and as if it somehow knows, the wind shrieks as it slashes through with renewed intensity. The man strikes the door.
"Let me in! God, please, let me in! The cold! The cold is killing me!"
He continues banging the door, shoving it with all his remaining strength. But it's not enough and the lock stands strong.
Suddenly, a gunshot. It sparks through a corner of the door, missing the man by a few inches. Splinters rain down and the man collapses onto the floor in fright.
"Why is a man like you outside in such a-"
The wind shrills again.
"Those guidelines weren't meant fo-"
"No, no I found those in the perimeter! They saved me! I-I didn't know wher-"
"-isn't the first time. I've done shot many of yous already. Now get going!"
"In this snow?!?!? You may as well shoot me!"
Fed up from the cold, he takes his cane, firmly grips it in both hands, and strikes the door handle. The lock bends and fractures as the cane snaps in two. The door shudders as it loosens itself. The person inside doesn't have a chance to react as the person outside seizes the moment and comes bursting through. The man inside blindly fires a second shot in shock and it misses the intruder. The shotgun slips out of his hands and drops empty on the floor. With a second breath, the intruder grabs the split end of his cane and runs to stab the other. The other person has but a yelp as the cane punctures through. A streak of blood and a cry of pain. The wind shakes the door wide open with such strength the hinges are almost blown off.
The wounded person slumps down. The cane is still poking through his chest. The intruder pants and sits down to catch his own breath at an opposite corner, away from the blood. But snow is quickly building up at the entrance. Raring himself again, he tries to get up to shut the door. Except, he freezes as he hears an unfamiliar sound outside. The sound is lightning through him. Old fears remind him it's the sound of a growl. An all too familiar one at that. In a swift motion, he grabs the shotgun on the floor and runs to throw his body weight against the door. As the door gets smushed back against its rusting hinges, the growl turns into a roar. Shakily, the man reloads the gun and feels the weight of it resting in his hands.
But strangely, the growl changes to a voice. A deep, guttural voice, but words could still be understood.
"You will let me die out here?"
The man is taken aback at first and delicately replies.
"That storm will not kill you! Demon! I've heard of you before! I know what you will try to do if I let you in."
A cackle can be heard from the other side of the door.
"Am I really any more dangerous than you? I am not the one who has killed tonight."
"That was not my intention! He was going to kill me first!"
"What's so funny?"
"Are you going to be the murderer of another tonight? My death will be in your hands."
The man thinks about it for a second.
"I can live with that. But you, good luck to you, sir."
A force slams hard against the door. The man is rattled, and the door creaks open a tad before he can push back against it.
"I AM NOT A DEMON!"
Aiming the shotgun through a hole in the door, he pulls the trigger. The shotgun bursts the hole larger as it powers through to the other side. There is no further sound from outside. No growl, no cackle.
Reloading, the man doesn't leave the door. He doesn't plan on doing so maybe for the remainder of the night. He tenses himself and mentally prepares. He judges the cabin for the first time. A single cot, small table, two chairs, and a small stove with a cast-iron cauldron above it. The food, is it still good? He forgot how hungry he's been, the cold night sapping his strength. He could see too, the stove was not faring better. The cauldron shudders. The flames have died down, and the stew is getting cold. The warm scent is gone.
Can he get some stew? The stove is across from him on the other side of the cabin. Right next to it is the other man's body slumped down, a pool of blood slowly collecting below him. The broken cane still pointing out of him.
Who was that man? Where is this cabin? Why go out into this night? What caused this tragedy? The voice from earlier was right, he is now a killer. Does it bother him? Will the weight of it hit him if he survives the night? Why survive if come by day the guilt becomes too much. Why try to survive now?
Thinking is tiring for the man, and he finds himself unable to keep his eyes open. Slowly he dozes off, carefully watching the dying embers of the stove. The blizzards continue to hammer and shriek, but there is no force trying to break in. No intruder to worry about anymore. A weird calm that lets him drift. He doesn't even realize he's fallen asleep. The stove goes cold. The pool dries. The voice is silent.
The snow festers outside. It arches around the windows, spilling through the gutters. But the home inside is a bubbling with warmth.
"I think I've seen this before." She clicks the tuner, and the picture on the small box changes. Its shifting grey glow is the only source of light.
"Really? I haven't seen much." Her hand twitches as she reaches out and grabs the bottle. She shakes it and observes the content swirl around.
"I remember the last time. It was only one other time, but I remember it easily." She grabs the same bottle, pulls the cork, takes a sip, and confidently hands the bottle back to the other woman.
"Bit stiffer than I remember."
Carefully, the other woman tests the fragrance. A chambered smell, junky with attar. Completely unfamiliar. She questions it as she watches the first woman grimace from the lasting taste.
"No, but I think... I think it has its merits. I've seen worse, and I still have some questions about it. But really! I really think it's enough for us in this case. We can't expect too much given what it is."
"Hmmm, I guess so."
Corking the bottle, she returns it and starts rummaging for something new. The other woman clicks the tuner again, flicking the picture to something else.
"Here's one. I think I've seen this before."
"Isn't that what I said about the last one?"
"No no, that was the show I was reffering to. I'm talking about this bottle."
"I thought we were talking about the show last time?"
"Well, I don't really care about the show. Mind you, you changing it every few minutes makes this confusing for me. I can never sort out who is who in that tiny grey screen."
"Well, why don't you pick the channel then. And I'll pick the bottle."
"Sounds good to me."
They switch seats and tasks. The channel changes one more time, and a new amber bottle is brought out. In the delicate night, they finally settle on something to watch and drink to make the time go by.