I’m starting to get the mental gears greased for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and decided to try to write improvised stories of varying length and likely questionable quality as part of the process on a daily basis for the days remaining until NaNoWri starts in earnest. The inspiration for each piece will come from scrolling through my Home page on Pinterest until I find a picture I feel (for whatever reason) to be inspirational as my prompt. I apologize in advance.
The winter swirled and howled around John as he cursed himself for leaving his snowshoes back at the cabin. Lyssa had wanted him to take them along but, with all the machismo he could muster, he had refused.
“Really, John, I think we can live without beer for one night. Just stay here — they say the storm could deposit a lot of snow.”
He responded in a stage whisper so that Holly and Jeff couldn’t hear. “I’m not going to force our friends to be sober on the first vacation they’ve had in years just because we forgot to stock up before we drove up north. Jesus, Lyssa, I can’t have them think we’re bad hosts with no sense of planning.”
Jeff must have overheard at least some of the conversation. “Nah, man, don’t worry about us. We’re cool with a warm fire in the fireplace with some of that cocoa I saw you had in the cupboard.”
Holly chimed in too. “Yeah, it’s all good.”
John was nothing if he wasn’t stubborn. Being snowed in at their cabin without booze would drive him crazy, even if the others didn’t think it was important. The idea of going completely sober for even a day or two was enough to make him shudder.
So he grabbed the keys to the truck and hopped in, Lyssa pleading with him to take the snowshoes and him muttering he wouldn’t need it because the truck had four wheel drive and, hell, the storm hadn’t even started and there were only flurries… He drove off without saying goodbye, frustrated and angry that she hadn’t loaded the booze before they drove off earlier in the afternoon for the three-hour drive north. It had been her job to make sure their truck was packed — he had to work all goddamn day before they had left.
Part of him suspected she’d forgotten on purpose. She’d been riding him again on his consumption levels and John wouldn’t put it past Lyssa to “forget” on purpose.
The nearest town with anything more than three-two beer and wine was forty-five minutes away and the snow had started in earnest shortly after he’d left. By the time he was heading back on State Highway 320, the roads were covered with slick, greasy snow and he couldn’t see more than fifty yards in the growing night, the light of his headlights catching millions of flakes of falling snow and almost none of the road.
Though he wanted to be back at the cabin almost as soon as he’d left it, he was forced to slow down due to the blizzard forming around him.
He’d turned down the gravel road leading to the cabin and gunned the engine, knowing that the next half mile was roughly straight road before it wound aback and forth to bypass the various wetlands adjoining the lakes in the area. He didn’t think anyone would be on the road with the storm and, besides, he would see headlights if someone was coming the other way. Anyway, he had the treeline to guide him.
One thing he hadn’t anticipated, however, was the hulking, hunched man that appeared in his headlights.
John slammed on his brakes, forgetting the deep, wet snow on the yet unfrozen gravel of the road, gravel that had not bee graded in several years and was more mud than dirt and rock.
John felt the steering wheel refuse to obey and the truck start to spin as he raced to the dark figure in the road that just stood there staring with eyes that reflected the headlights back at John while John yelled, “Shitshitshitshitmotherfuckshit” as the truck slid sideways now, slamming against the idiot man in the middle of the road before cresting one of the ditches on the side of the road, hovering a few moments on the pivot of a tip before once again finding just enough momentum to topple over the side and roll over one, two, three times before slamming into a stand of pines marking the edge of the road.
John took a deep breath. The windshield had spider veins crisscrossing the surface, but it looked like everything was intact expect, perhaps, his recent purchase. There was beer and rum all over the cabin of his truck with most, if not all of the bottles broken in the rollover.
“Motherfucker,” he said, slamming his hands on the steering wheel.
He tried to start the engine, but it refused to turn over.
And then he remembered the man in the road. He realized that he might be having a pretty bad night, but that guy might be having a worse one.
John jumped out of the car and ran back in the direction when he thought the road should be, but the snow was falling even harder than before and he could no longer even see the tree lines in the dark to guide himself.
When he finally found the way to the road, John could see no sign that anyone had been there. Then again, the evidence of his own path were almost already obliterated by the heavy falling snow. He called out, hoping someone was unhurt enough to respond, but he heard nothing, the snow seemingly swallowing up all sound around him.
John picked the direction he thought would lead to the cabin and started walking.
“Half a mile,” he reminded himself aloud. “Half a mile and I can figure out if it was a deer tomorrow. Might a’ been a deer.”
He was weary after only a few minutes. In ninety minutes, the blizzard had brought in a several inches of snow, Enough snow to make John wonder if he really was on the road, or still out in one of the meadows lining either side of the road. His feet would sink into the snow, the heavy, wet stuff pulling at his boots as his lifted his foot.
“God damn it,” he muttered, wishing he’d brought along the snowshoes ‘just in case.” But who could have imaged he would find himself walking in a blizzard the last half mile back to the cabin?
Something like a wolf’s howls filled the night sky. John could not tell from which direction — it sounded like every direction, both near and very far away. The DNR had released relocated timber wolves in parts of the State, but John didn’t think this was one of the areas.
Not liking the implications, regardless of where the DNR had put the wolves, John started to hurry, though he was quickly getting worn out from trudging though the snow and the wet of sweat and snow in the strong winds starting to chill him.
The beasts cried to the sky more frequently and seemingly closer as John drew up to the forest growth, a telltale sign he was almost back at the cabin — assuming that is, he hadn’t gotten turned around and head head to the tree windbreak that lined the highway…
That’s when he saw the eyes glowing in the dark about where you might expect eyes to be if you faced a wolf. Or a dog as black as night.
A low growl of warning crossed the space between John and the wooded area. He started to turn, to run away when he felt a hand on his shoulder, a very human hand.
It was the person he’d hit!
“Oh thank god I didn’t hurt you,” he said, half-turning to see who hand put their hand on his shoulder, hoping it was an understanding face who would forgive John for hitting whoever it was with his truck, hoping that someone had a gun and knew how to use it against the dogs, someone who —
John saw long, pointed teeth inside a too-long mouth as he turned to thank the person for rescuing him before they closed around his throat and ripped the flesh from it.
He only barely felt the many teeth bite into his flesh and the dogs pounced him and worried at each of his limbs, pulling this way and that, amazed at the brightness of the blood on the snow as his eyes turned black.
The featured picture, by Valin Mattheis, is the inspiration for tonight’s improvisational short fiction. Only minimal edits were done and the work is the effort of a single writing session as preparation for NaNoWriMo.
Length: ~1370 words