I heard it's footsteps in the distance, tree limbs being moved and twigs breaking. I turned quickly and saw nothing but six feet of snow and gray gloomy skies. But the sounds of something rumbling through the snow continued. I saw clumps of snow being kicked up like invisible hands were throwing snowballs.
Still, I saw no person or animal.
I was out walking Comanche, a four year old red-haired Russian hound I had inherited from a friend from mine when I was in New york as used car salesman. Gnarly Dave, we called him because of the strange arrangements of his crooked digits. When Dave died, Comanche had no where to go, so I took him in.
This particular day, for some reason, didn't feel right. I woke up with a weird rumbling in my head. A bit like rolling thunder clouds, and when they collide, it's massive noise that shakes the entire area. I had that in my head. Taking headache tablets did nothing to alleviate the problem.
Comanche shook me from my bed, forced me to walk him in ten degree weather at six thirty in the morning. At first he wanted only to walk through the front yard of the cabin. Then he took off screaming and howling at nothing visible. I chased after him, calling out his name until my voice was nearly gone. He led me into the wooded area behind the cabin. I'm about four hundred yards from the next house that sits in the valley below. Around ten miles from town that has one school house for every grade, a police station with one cop, a truck stop cafe for lonely truckers carrying logs to the paper mill forty five miles away.
Comanche disappeared. I heard him howling, trying to sound like he meant business. Where did he go? How could a red haired dog get lost in a white back ground?
I saw it.
It just appeared out of thin air---materialized as they say in books. A red coat deer with a touch of white on the chest. The deer was long, muscled animal, two small nubs for horns placed just inches from each ear. It was beautiful. But, it also had five legs.
Yes. I said five legs. Damn, it looked weird. That extra leg was attached to its tailbone, resting so confidently between its normal two back legs.
I marveled at it for several long minutes. I thought for a moment I was caught in some kind of dream state. I heard Comanche off in the distance, his deep vibrato voice sounded like he was in a well. I started to feel strange....light headed.
Then I heard the gunshot.
Everything went black. As I hit the cold frozen ground, a warm sensation was dripping down my forehead to my chin.
“Oh God!” I heard a man's voice break like he was just reaching puberty. “Are you all right?” I felt hands on me, patting me down, until the cold digits were touching my neck. “I'm really sorry, mister---”
I heard him burst into a high-pitch whine, followed by uncontrollable sobs.
When I came to, I was lying on a couch, my head bandaged as if in a hurry, a towel and surgical tape kept the bleeding from seeping out. I opened my eyes to a round faced woman with rosy-cheeks and a long white neck. Her skin was unblemished, her large brown eyes complimented her honey brown hair.
When I tried to move, the woman gently eased me back on the couch. I was sore, but I really think that had more to do with my fall than getting shot. Every bone in my body ached.
“Hey....” I heard that same man's voice that stood over me after I had been shot. “You're awake. Grand.”
He appeared, placed a hand on the woman's shoulder. She smiled at the man, touched his hand with hers.
“Where am I?” I asked in a whisper. I closed my eyes for a moment to ease the throbbing pain in my head.
“Why, we are neighbors,” The man said. “I'm Jack Dann. This is my wife Clara.”
“Hi,” She waved to me and gave me a warm inviting smile.
“Your Evelyn Williams,” He said with chuckle. “Glad to meet you.”
“How did you know my name?” I tried not to wheeze when I spoke.
“I told them,” A voice called out from the kitchen. I recognized it as Sheriff Hahn. Hahn walked in the living room eating a sandwich, mayonnaise covering his fish lips. “You had us scared, Evelyn.”
“Just what the hell happened?” I adjusted on the pillow behind me.
Jack gave everyone an uneasy look. He released a heavy sigh. “I shot you,” Jack licked his lips. Clara rubbed his arm consolingly. “Most assuredly an accident. Swear to God,” Jack held his hand up in a testimony.
“The bullet must have grazed you. Because I got that deer too.” Jack said, pumping out his chest, very proud of himself. “Got it hanging in the barn. When it's ready I can give you prime cut.”
“No, I'm not so sure I can cook it right.” I told him. “Should I go to the hospital?' I said to Hahn.
He chuckled. “Well...if you want to, Evelyn. I don't think you need to.” He continued to sloppily eat his sandwich, mayonnaise dripping from his chin.
“I can cook the deer for you, if need be,” Clara piped in.
“Clara's a great cook,” Jack assured me.
Something caught my eye. I rose up slightly, looking out the living room window.
A woman with long brown hair and olive skin, was standing in the snow wearing nothing but a thin teary cloth dress. She was looking straight at me. I shivered. It felt like someone had just walked across my grave.
She spoke, her full lips moved in slow-motion. I could hear her voice echo my head. I felt a jabbing pain throughout by body, tiny needles. I squeezed my eyes shut. It helped to ease the horrible sensation.
I reopened my eyes, and the woman was gone.
“Did you see her?” I screamed, tried to lift myself from the sofa and fell weakly back to it.
“He must be delusional,” Jack said.
“He needs rest,” Clara said. She shushed me as I tried to speak again. She tossed a blanket over me, sat at my side. “The two of you just go in the game room for awhile. Let him sleep.”
“I have to get going,” Sheriff Hahn said, placing his hat on his head.
I closed my eyes, drifting to sleep, still hearing that mysterious woman's voice in my head.
Six months down the road, I became pretty good friends with Jack, Clara, and Sheriff Hahn.
I ate at Jack and Clara's house twice a week, fished with Hahn in the spring every weekend when I was off from the bottling plant. Clara would come over to my cabin and clean up behind me, and when Jack was away visiting his family in North Carolina, she stayed with me. I grew quite attached to Clara. Even at one point discussing our feelings for each other. Then, of course, realizing those feelings were a deep friendship two lonely people were experiencing.
Sheriff Hahn also became a very dear friend. I was with him when his wife Dee was diagnosed with breast cancer. Hahn was not as needy about friendship as Clara and Jack. He just needed someone to sit with him in silence at the jailhouse to play cards.
In my spare time I became very obsessed with that deer I’d seen. A rare type, indeed. A fifth legged creature only reported as a mistake or freak of nature. In myths, it was stories told how a young woman in Indonesia had died of a horrible disease. She was reincarnated as a red coated deer traveling from village to village curing the sick, or killing the arrogant who did not praise her for her sacrifices.
I had talked to Jack many times about that strange red deer he killed. He couldn't remember anything about it. He said the meat wasn't even edible, Clara had to throw it out. That fifth leg? He always laughed it off, said no way in hell that deer had five legs.
As for the mysterious woman, I have seen her a lot over the last six months, whether in my dreams, or just appearing in a room where I am. Always the same. She would speak, and I could not understand a word she spoke. I wasn't sure, but I believe the language was Arabic or Hindi.
At times, this presence from the woman, would turn me into a mad man. An obsessive who could not leave his home, didn't or wouldn't see anyone for days.
I'd had one such episode the events that have led me to this final chapter to the story.
Jack came to my cabin nearly knocking my front door down.
I opened the door and he flung himself inside bawling.
“I really fucked up!” He screamed at me.
“Calm down, Jack----”
“No!” He sat down on my sofa violently. “Look, Evelyn, I fucked up bad.”
“Jack...just calm down. Tell me what happened,” I offered him a beer.
He waved it away. I opened the bottle and gulped it down.
“Oh, Evelyn....geez, man.”
I sat beside him, put my hand on his shoulder.
He sighed. “Clara...Clara kicked me out.”
“I've been cheating on her,” He said calmly, tears running down his cheeks.
I took my hand from his shoulders.
He continued. “I met her at the cafe a few months ago. The relationship picked up steam and I did a fool thing and said I would leave Clara. Of course, I didn't. I strung Deanna along. I tried to stop...but I couldn't....” He began sobbing loudly. “I guess...I guess you should meet her. She's out in the truck now.”
Still I said nothing.
I followed him out to his truck. I saw the young pretty dark haired girl in his truck....but it was not who he said she was. It was the mysterious woman out there. I wouldn't go to the truck. I wouldn't meet her. I stood on my porch drinking my beer.
I looked at Jack, finished off the bottle, tossed it aside. “Get off my property,” I told him.
“Huh—what?” he was perplexed.
“Leave!” I screamed at him. “I don't want to meet your whore. You hear me? We are through, Jack. No more hearing bullshit stories from you or bragging about family members being kin to historical figures. You don't deserve Clara.”
With that last spear thrown into his side, Jack got in his truck and drove off. As the truck passed by, I could hear his girlfriend say:
After a few days, I still couldn't compute the weeks happenings. Loneliness set in my bones again. I needed to talk to someone.
I went to visit Clara. She was gone. The house was empty. The doors were not even locked. No furniture, nothing. No signs that anyone had even been there in a few days.
My terrible want for those I cared for weighed heavily upon me. I needed someone desperately. I went into town looking for Sheriff Hahn.
I found Deputy Gilbert instead. He was very upset. I came into the jailhouse and found him sitting at Hahn 's desk.
“He's gone,” Gilbert said. 'He'd hung himself with his belt over there....in the that cell, Evelyn, and I’m the one that found him,” He fought back tears, sucking in air through flared nostrils.
“I -I can't believe—this....Why?” I sat sat down uneasily in a chair opposite Gilbert.
“He stole county funds. Embezzled the money meant for the police department. The bills...his wife's cancer treatment....he had to do it...I'm sorry i'm saying this, but...he had to, Evelyn. He had to pay all of that shit off.
I went home.
I was shattered.
I just sat in my living room not know what to do next. I know that week I had missed so much, that they were had most likely fired me from the bottling plant.
Hahn was right to end it.
Then she appeared.
She was standing over me, her dark hair falling over top of my face. She offered her hand to me. I took it. The room disappeared, only the white of the snow became the background. Comanche could be heard barking in the distance. I was standing outside in the woods like the same day I met Jack, and had been in Clara and his house with Sheriff Hahn. She was still holding my hand. She spoke, this time I understood her.
“A life for a life.....” Her angelic voice was overcome by a thunderous sound echoing through the quiet woods.
I felt a sharp pain in the temple of my forehead. The wind came and whisked the mysterious woman away.
The last I remember was I was lying on the cold ground, a warm sensation running down my face and Jack hovering over me, screaming he'd shot me.
Darkness came swiftly and I was no more.