• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 04
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Pestilence and Misery

When I saw you last, with your lantern and your boat, fading away within the darkness of the ravine, you reminded me of a heretic solemnly accepting their punishment. The light had already faded from our valley, and the twin peaks of the mountains flanking your departure stood as monstrous sentinels, sealing your sentence. I stood on the shore weeping over your receding silhouette, your tremendous sacrifice, and you never looked back. I didn’t know then you were dead set on making your great escape.

In the hollow days following your absence I tried to piece our lives, my life, back together. Those familiar routines, when performed in isolation became jagged and cold, crushed glass in my red raw hands. Like the rot I found spreading in the larder, the logs you’d chopped for the fire mouldering in my hands, and the shivering in alone in our big bed at night.

The vision of you shovelling in the flurries of snow in your thick black cloak returned to me again and again. Do you still hate me for blaming you for her death? I know we had no choice, the pestilence had taken her already. I know.

One night, for one moment, I forgot everything and I called out for Misery. How could I forget? You’d found her wide eyed at the front door. You took her by her scruff down to the icy river. She was yowling and hollering the whole way, but you had on those big leather gloves and she couldn’t get to you. I watched from the kitchen window, my heart in red pieces, a trail the snow, leading from home to her. You held her little head under, and you pulled out her body long after the bubbles had stopped. You buried her in a shallow grave frozen earth and I didn’t cry. You told me that the snow would preserve her body, until she was discovered by coyotes.


Pestilence and Misery

After it was over, you went right back to chopping wood for us for winter. For me. You must have known it then, you must have known it was too late for us.

Of course, eventually the men came knocking. Must be abandoned already, one said. We should burn it, said the other. They must have left for a reason. Just in case, said the first.

When you left you told me you were going to find help, you told me you would come back with food and medicine. You probably told them all down at the village that I was already dead. They probably gave you a nice chicken broth with carrots for that.

After I heard the first crackle of flames I kicked open the door and shot both men down with our shotgun. Their heads a thousand red pieces of misery in the snow. As I stepped over their bodies I started smiling. I can’t believe you thought I’d let you get away from me.