September 29, 2015 by Laird
The man dreamed of his gray, rheumy-eyed dog, missing for many years now.
“I always loved you!” the dog said. “Even when I did wrong!” The dog did not speak as men speak, of course. His notched ears crumpled and he howled. But it meant the same thing.
“I always loved you as well, you incorrigible asshole,” the man tried to answer. He could not speak because it was a dream.
The man woke and kicked dirt over the ashes of the fire. No more water, no more hardtack or jerky. His snowshoes had gone up as kindling smoke. He leaned his pack and rifle against a tree. He buttoned his coat and tightened the laces of his boots.
Sky and the earth were the same. Cold as the metal of his broadhead axe. Icicles snapped from his beard. Tiny icicle tears snapped from his lashes when he blinked.
The man was no tracker, although he’d lived in the woods and knew how to survive. He limped in ever widening circles along the slope of the mountain and eventually cut across the dog’s trail. Flakes of old blood glittered in the paw prints. North.
He’d followed the prints for a short time when it began to snow.