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The sky, overcast and grey, looked ominous as the clouds thick with the impending rain floated slowly across the lake towards the cabin – which stood like a beacon against the green canvas of the forest. It had stayed dry for the three days he had been here, not a single drop had fallen, although it had been cold. Jack had checked the temperature on the little thermometer, nailed on the inside of the cabin’s only door – it had read -2 degrees Celsius. Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey, his Grandad used to say, when the winter chill came blowing in from the North.

Back when he was a child, his Grandad would bring him up here fishing and trapping. They would pull out salmon from the river beyond the lake, decent sized ones too, and catch themselves a few rabbits or pheasant even. Jack loved his time here with his Grandad, the open air and the peaceful stillness that you would only find deep in the wilds - a place he would often visit in his dreams. When things started to turn bad.

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Today he would hunt. The few mouldy tins, he had eaten - along with the meagre rations he had brought along – hunger now settled its icy spike inside his guts, it needed slaking.

With the weather looking grim, Jack would need to move fast. One thing to avoid, at all costs, was being outdoors when the storms hit. He glanced at the small table in the cabin’s single room living area, and spotted the knife, along with a few other items he had discarded on there when he had first arrived. His mobile phone bleeped weakly at him – informing Jack that it would be soon out of battery – not that it mattered. The nearest phone signal was at least twenty miles away and internet access was as futuristic and marvellous – and as likely – as a spaceship landing outside, full of advanced, intelligent alien life.

That was all part of the charm, no contact with the outside world, no one knowing he was here, just him alone with nature, living the life he always dreamt of. His only neighbours were a family of blue tits in the tree outside, and occasional visitors to the yard – foxes and red squirrels mostly.

Jack pulled on the large waxy jacket, his gloves and the woolly hat that he had left by the door. The rifle was standing on its butt end, leant against the wall and he scooped it up on the way out.

Stepping outside, the chill wind blowing in across the lake hit him like a hammer, taking his breath for a few seconds. It was cold – he would need to be quick. The ground was hard under his feet still but in a few hours it would quickly turn to mud

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and walking would be difficult; he had seen it so many times. It comes without warning up here.

Jack had walked a hundred yards into the forest before he heard the familiar noises of his quarry, the shuffling and scurrying in the undergrowth. He paused, leaning against a tree to cock the gun, feeling the click as it engaged and he once again felt the rush of the impending kill. The pause turned into a wait – patience was always the word (according to Grandad). Ten minutes passed, still Jack waited. Then, sniffing the air for danger out popped a rabbit. Jack was down wind so his scent carried away on the breeze, and did not alert the creature. It took a few more steps into the open and began nibbling at the grass.

It was a quick kill, the bullet taking the rabbit just behind the ears and snuffing out its life without it even realising. Jack trotted over and picked up the carcass, throwing it over his shoulder and heading back to the cabin.

The smell as it cooked was delicious, Jack’s stomach growled appreciatively. The cabin had an open fire, over which the rabbit was rotating on a small spit. Its fat and juices dripped down into the pan that was set underneath. He would use it as a spread later, once it had cooled.

Jack thought that he had never tasted anything as delicious in all his life, ripping the meat from the bone ravenously, the juice running down his chin. A smile touched his lips, a smile often perceived as cold and unfeeling.

His thoughts turned to the reason he was here at all, twenty years after his last visit. Hands rubbed together involuntary and he could feel the blisters on his thumbs

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and palms sore and open. The work carried out to receive those blisters had been necessary. He pictured his first day here, cold, tired but with a purpose – one that had driven him to lock up the house, leaving everything behind and drive the three hundred miles out into the forest to the cabin.

There was no other choice; the alternative had no appeal whatsoever. Jack’s wife, Marie, had said as much. Her incessant whining and moaning drove him crazy at times – but he had learned to live with it, to switch off and drift away into a faraway state – one in which his mind seemed to belong to someone else, someone who was in control.

The rain started to fall. Light at first but then large, penny-sized droplets bouncing off the roof of the cabin, making it sound like he was on the inside of a very large steel drum. The noise was deafening, but comforting at the same time. It instantly transported him back to when he was six, lain awake listening to the rage of the storm outside. Rain, sleet and wind, all combining to create one humdinger of a North Eastern. Jack remembered the feeling of awe and of being a little afraid, scared that the cabin was going to be ripped out of the ground, and carried away into the air, away to who knew where. Lost forever.

That never happened, of course, but sometimes the feelings of youth stay with us, surfacing in times of stress to remind us of what could be, of what might happen to us if we don’t conform.

Marie wanted to argue, he could feel it. Deep down, he knew it would come to this, eventually. There were tears on her part, which usually happened, but this time, it

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grated him – rubbed him up the wrong way. The eyes glistened, the lower lip came out and Jack knew she was over the edge. Still, he baited and provoked. She threw the letter at him; it hit him in the chest and fell limply to the floor. He stared at it for a long time, before bending to retrieve it. The contents were not a shock, although it knocked the breath from him nonetheless. Four words stood out starkly on the cream coloured sheet of paper, with the official looking letterhead at the top. Those words were ‘Notice of Divorce Proceedings’.

Jack had refused, shaking his head slowly and staring blankly into space as the gravity of it crashed home. “No”, he said. “It’s not happening”, he added after.

She had screamed at him then – into his face, telling him all the things he did not want to hear. Truth has a funny way of finding the hidden places in the psyche, and going to town on them, tugging and pulling, accusing, berating. This is what happened; this is how she caused him to snap. The threat of “I am taking Anna and I am going - we are leaving and you won’t see her or me again” sealed the deal.

Jack could just not let that happen. The red mist descended – so they say – although he had never really understood that statement until that moment. He did actually see red, and something inside of him snapped.

The rain continued to fall outside, heavier now and more persistent. Suddenly, he needed to be out in the cool evening air, breathing in the crispness – the beauty of it. The rain was bitterly cold on his exposed skin – his jacket still hung on the peg inside the door. Jack found himself by the stand of trees to the right of the cabin – halfway

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between it and the lake shoreline. The cover from the trees relieved the cold somewhat – although Jack barely noticed.

Marie was the reason he was here. She wanted to take his daughter away from him, forever. What kind of mother does that to a kid? Denying the father his right to spend time with his child was wrong. How would she have liked it?

Jack squatted by the small mound of freshly dug earth, gazing at the footprints that surrounded it. He would have to do something about that – after all – it made the place look untidy. If he were planning to spend some serious time up here then it would need putting right. For now though, it would keep.

He walked back over to the cabin, pausing for a moment before opening the boot of the car. The smell hit him, making his eyes water and gag involuntary. Marie stared back at him, her face (or what was left of it) a rictus of horror, still covered in dried blood along the edges of the cut made by the axe – which incidentally – was still embedded deep into her skull.

Anna was his first priority, he wanted to make sure she was comfortable and at rest – her passing had been less messy, just a pillow and a bit of force.

Marie on the other hand. Well, she had struggled and so it became an ordeal – not just for her but Jack too. He would deal with her tomorrow. Maybe.

He was hungry again, the grumble deep down in his guts told him as much. He was absently rubbing at the blisters on his hand again, causing one to pop open and

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dribble up across his fingers. He took one last look at his wife, her eyes still wide open – accusing him - before slamming the boot shut, sealing her in.

The rest of the rabbit went down a treat. He cleaned up the few dishes in the sink, with water from the lake, and then settled down for the night. He would need rest, tomorrow promised to be a busy day.

The End



   The author is 47 years old and lives in the Yorkshire countryside, in the north of the England, with his wife, Helen and their two dogs. He has written numerous short stories and collections since his early twenties, having several accepted by publishers.


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