Monday, March 21, 2011

Cold Covers...66

He walked out of the lodge and into the snowy predawn. He was feeling flushed, and his chest heaved from his exertions. Small drops of blood fell from his mouth, leaving crimson circles in the snow. He saw footprints, and noticed that they led toward the closest stand of trees. His eyes narrowed as he looked at the dark forest. He had never felt this way before. Never felt this alive…this driven to complete a task, a task that was not his own, but another’s. He had no choice but to hear the voice and obey. He closed his eyes for a moment to gather himself and allow the rush of adrenalin to course through his body. Finally, at just the right moment, he raised his head toward the moonlit sky and from his throat came a long mournful howl dispersed by short static yelps. The sound, which originated in his chest, was a proclamation of many things. He was telling all who would listen that he would vanquish all of his foes and that there would be no quarter given. Nothing would stand in the way of his assignment, whose pull was stronger than any of his natural inclinations. He ran toward the woods, following the tracks in the snow. In the dark forest he found a ridge among the trees. He climbed to the top and raised his nose into the air. His sense of smell had never been this acute. In fact all of his senses had come alive. Every fiber of his being was on full alert. The scent of the deer reached his nostrils as did the smell of the hare, but his focus was no longer on his stomach and how to fill it. That would come later. Right now he was searching for a different kind of prey. At that very moment the forest breeze brought the scent that he had been looking for, and leaping off the ridge, he began running through the brush. Coming to a stream of water, he halted momentarily, his nose sniffing the air. The scent was faint but he was sure of the direction, and crossing the stream he turned left. He raced beside the flowing water, leaving his prints in the snow with each step. He caught a faint whiff of burning wood and slowed to a walk. Somehow he knew that this smell was compatible with the smell of the one he pursued, but how he knew that he did not know. The scent was strong now and he walked away from the stream into the brush. A few yards later he stopped instinctively. Lowering his head he peered down into a deep ravine. The smell of burning wood and the scent of the woman were strong here, and he saw a faint glow of light piercing the darkness. Satisfied that she was safe, he lay down in the snow to keep watch…a silent sentinel…with a wooden cross hanging from his neck.

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