The Woodsman

The evening faded fast as Red trudged through the deep snow towards her Grandmother’s cottage. Grandmama had never been fond of people, particularly, and her old age had come as a much needed excuse to seclude herself away from the rest of society. She had played her part in the world and had earned the right to be alone, by her reckoning. She didn’t much care for her daughter, even, but Red had always found herself at least tolerable to her wizened would-be-ancestor. Red understood her rooted displeasure at the world at large, what she didn’t understand was how Grandmama had ever got knocked up in the first place. Being that intimate with anyone seemed to go against every credo she held dear.

Errant flakes of snow showered down all about her at every light breeze that rolled through the forest, tiny little snowstorms against the dark of the encroaching evening. The track she followed was hardly worn down at all, a couple of footprints preceded hers and that of the dogs they obviously had with them. As she carefully watched for anything else the pets may have left she noticed one set of tracks awkwardly large, belonging perhaps to a Newfoundland or maybe a St. Bernard. She checked her phone briefly, using the fading signal bars as a gauge to judge how deep into the woods she was. They were almost depleted, a single rogue bar braving the LED on its own. She pocketed the device and carried on, eager to finish the chore and get home.

It wasn’t long before she could hear a repetitive tock in the distance. Curious and unfaltering she continued onwards towards the noise – she’d be damned if she were to take a lengthy detour because of some alien noise. The sound grew sharper as she neared, a definitive weight to every perfectly timed thunk. Soon a figure emerged from the shadows of the dark that had begun to consume the forest, a man shaped figure, definitely. In his hands he held an axe and swung, with varying ferocity, the weapon into a nearby tree. She watched as she walked past, crunching pleasingly across the white below. He glanced up as she drew near, mopping his brow with the back of his wrist and resting his axe against the tree. His rhythm still sounded in the absence of itself, the axe swings reverberating and echoing – in the forest or in Red’s subconscious, she couldn’t be sure.

“A bit young to be wandering these woods alone, wouldn’t you say?” he asked absently as she passed, concentrating instead on unscrewing a thermos he had in his hands. Red rolled her eyes – was it national take an interest in a little girl day or something?

“I wouldn’t, no,” she replied irritably “I’ve been walking through these woods far longer than you’ve been cutting them down.”

“So you’ve got some bite to you, I see,” he said, audibly amused, looking up at her finally and raising the plastic cup to his cracked lips. Red sped up to avoid any further comments if he had any, as she sensed he did.

“Watch yourself out here, lady,” he called after her. She rolled her eyes again. “There are beasts out here, you know. Beasts far worse than the wolves.”

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~ by Joseph Blame on March 7, 2011.

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