The Cabin 4

by Kevin Cantrell

Into the Forest 

 War is bad. War in winter is worse. But in the world of the Cabin, winter hadn’t ended in the thousand and some odd days since Amos and his friends had crossed over. Winter hadn’t left, but snow didn’t depend on the weather, it depended more on the snow fairy now circling Amos like a halo, making him look like one of them paintings in his Momma’s bible of Joseph and Mary at the nativity.

Amos climbed over the ridge to peer into the valley. It was as barren as an overflowing outhouse, even the evergreens chopped down.

“Where’s he?” Fanny asked.

“Don’t see Kaine,” Amos said, shivering at the name that’d brought war to such a peaceful land. “But no doubt he’s down there with those…” He wasn’t sure what to call them and Seraphina, the snow fairy flittering about him, had already given up trying to teach Amos how to pronounce their name.

“Those’re just some flaming coondogs.” Fanny said. She was never without descriptive words no matter how preposterous it sounded to say it. In this case, it was a pretty good description, though they were a bit more fox-like in look than hound.

“My Pa would’ve already been done with’em. Bust’em with a rock,” she said, “and if that didn’t work, then he’d’ve put some buckshot in their hide.”

“We ain’t got no shot round here,” Amos said, “and tossing a rock at them was how Chester got caught.”

Fanny stopped talking. Normally, that’d been a nice respite, but the memories that replace the prattling were more troublesome. Fanny reached over and squeezed Amos’ hand. Both stopped to remember Chester; Amos not even knowing if his friend lived. He’d been gone for weeks. Though Amos’d played war with his kin hundreds of times, especially when his Pa’d went off to the western front, the game’d never quite seemed like this. Then, when someone was captured, they’d just wait for the dinner bell and then go free. Except that one time Nettie got tied up real good to the persimmon tree. Everyone took a beating for that one. Here, though, no one was big enough to give a beating to Kaine, even if he’d refused to release Chester.

“One of his outsiders is cresting the point.” Seraphina said, her voice flat letting Amos know that the outsider wasn’t coming to hurt anyone.

Amos turned to where Seraphina’s sparkles gestured. No one was there, but he knew better than to doubt the snow fairy. She, as always, was correct, the particular outsider she spoke of crested the hill moments later. This creature was different, and that was saying something in the Cabin. Its skin shone like discarded snakeskin with ridged scales running down its monkey-like body. Three quick swings and it backflipped off the tree and landed with a heavy thud fifteen feet away.

“Our lord comes bearing a gift,” the outsider said as it held up a shoe. Chester’s shoe. “He invites you to a dinner in his honor.”

Amos looked at Fanny. She bit her lip. Whatever response she had coming, she knew it best to keep it to herself. Amos turned to Seraphina.

“Kaine’s gifts cost those who receive it.”

The outsider smiled like the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland. “Indeed, but this gift will be worth the price,” the outsider turned to Amos, “for you.”

“I’ve learned better,” Amos responded.

The outsider turned from Amos. “Then I will return to your lord,” the outsider said before turning its head and baring its teeth. “And tell him you will not pay the price for young Chester’s freedom.” The outsider hunched down to launch itself back into the trees.

“What price does Kaine ask?” Fanny blurted.

The outsider released his tension and stood tall once again. It turned and gestured to Amos. “Not much,” It said, “not much at all.”

“And that’s as good of a stopping point for the story as any.” Michael said with a wink to his daughter, closing the book that was his prop.

“Thanks, Dad.” Abbey said. She rolled over and snuggled into her blankets. “It was good.”

He appreciated the sentiment, even if he doubted the statement’s veracity. He hadn’t opened the book nearly as often as he’d used to. Abbey didn’t seem to mind. She was growing up and learning to like boys more than stories, though he had caught her once or twice telling her own at the slumber parties that seemed to happen almost weekly. With book in hand, he tucked her in and went to the kitchen.

“Story over for the night?” Trish asked with their cup of peppermint tea in hand.

Michael nodded and took the cup from her to take a sip. “Got them to the point of listening to Kaine’s offer.”

“Another cliffhanger ending.” She said as she took the cup back to take her own sip.

Michael exhaled through his nose and nodded.

Trish cocked her eyebrow. She knew what that meant. Michael did also, even though it didn’t stop him from doing the nearly involuntary gesture. “What’s the matter?” Trish asked.

“Nothing really,” he said, “it’s just…she’s growing up.”

Trish spread her hands. “That’s better than the alternative.”

Michael sighed. “I know, but…she didn’t seem nearly as interested in Christmas today. And the story, well- -”

“She’s just learning who she will be.”

Michael looked at Trish for a long moment and then down. “And I’m just wondering who I’m going to be to her.” He had been the fun parent, telling stories and playing games, at least when he was with her and not on the rig. Now, each time he returned, she’d grown into a new person. Even her eyes had changed color.

Trish put her arm through his and pulled him close. “You’re going to be her father. She’ll just have different needs.”

He inhaled and then gave a heavy sigh. “I know.”

“Dad,” Abbey called from her bedroom. “Can you come here for a minute?”

Michael looked at Trish. She gestured with her eyes that he should go, swatting him as he went. He walked into Abbey’s room. She sat up in bed.

“Would you be mad at me if I asked you something?” Abbey asked.

Michael squinted. “Of course not.”

“Tonight, could you give the Cabin some ending.”

Michael’s heart began to pound. “End the whole story?”

Abbey looked at him as if he were an alien. “No.” She said in that incredulous way that only teenagers are capable. “Like, don’t leave it with wondering what happens next.”

Michael gave a questioning glance. “You don’t like the cliffhanger? That’s what keeps people coming back for more.”

“Dad, it’s not for people.” Abbey said. “It’s for me.”

Michael smiled and felt his eyes tearing up. “You’re right, Abbey. It’s all for you.” And then he grabbed the book and opened it, just for traditions sake, and continued. “Amos pulse quickened like his blood were a bubbling brook. He took a furtive step forward. He knew better than to trust the outsider. He also knew what he’d have to do.”

“ ‘I am going into the forest,’ Amos stated, not sure if he’d ever see his friends again, but knowing that if he didn’t, he’d most assuredly never see Chester again. No greater love than this, he thought, but hoped he’d not have to finish that particular Bible verse.”

Michael closed the book. Abbey smiled. It was all he’d ever wanted.


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