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The wind licked the hunter’s face as he trudged through a freshly fallen bank of snow. It chapped his lips and singed his nose, reddening his face to the hue of a midsummer tomato. His wispy hair fell across his face in a greasy curtain; shielding his eyes from the perils abound, but making sight nearly impossible.
His cabin was close, and he thought of the shoddy rocking chair beside the fire, his wife leaning over the cooking spit, and his warm cot. He thought of his children; the two boys and his darling little girl. They’d rush up to him the moment he opened the door. They’d hug him, and shower him with kisses and words. He would run his calloused fingers through their flaxen manes, (which was so much like their mother’s), and he’d laugh heartily. His wife, with tears in her eyes, would scurry to his side and help him into his prized rocking chair. She would slip the satchel from his shoulder and hurry off to cook a savory meal.
These were the thoughts that kept him going. However, in his heart he knew that there would be no home-cooked meal, or kisses, or even the exchange of lighthearted words. He knew that he would return to a silent house, with sickly children huddled helplessly atop a threadbare cot, and a grief-stricken wife confined to an old oak rocker.
The hunter was not a dumb man. If he was, he would had stopped the moment the weather turned, and made is way back to town. But he knew that the survival of his family depended on him, and that alone was enough to fuel his fire.
The wind continued to whisk around him; up-heaved snow blistering his face and fingers. He had long grown tired, but still he pressed on. Only until he reached the forest did he even think about resting. The towering conifers did well to block the wind, so he plopped himself beneath one.
The forest was very still, and only the eerie cry of a lone wolf could be detected amidst the wind’s song. The hunter did not care for his far-off foe. Though feared by most, the hunter found wolves to be magnificent creatures. He thought about the solemn canine. whom much like himself, was alone in the unforgiving wilderness. He then cupped his hands around his mouth and howled. It came as quite the surprise when the wolf howled back, for the hunter had not expected it to do so. Realizing its proximity, the hunter became a bit frightened and gathered his things and kept walking.
As the hunter trod through the snow, he made certain to check his compass every so often. But he knew the way by heart, so the effort was in vain.
The sun had long dipped far bellow the Alaskan hills, casting a violet shroud over the tundra. The wind had since picked up, and even amongst the trees, the hunter could not escape its wrath.
Day had handed the hunter’s fate to Night.
About an hour passed, and the hunter had found himself unable to walk any further. Slumped upon his knees, his glassy eyes were fixed upon the heavens above.
By no means was the hunter a religious man. Although he had been raised a catholic, he had all but disowned his faith in his adult years. But now, so helpless and alone, he had no choice but to turn back to the faith he had so crudely forgotten.
He lofted his hands to his face, steepling his calloused fingers as he squeezed his eyes shut. He begged and pleaded with the Lord, asking him for forgivness and strength.
However, fatigue was beginning to take its toll. Croaking out a final plea, the hunter leaned forward and collapsed face-first into the snow. His breathing slowed and his heart-rate plummeted. He grit his teeth and clawed the ground, the snow numbing his bare fingers. He shouted, and shouted, and only until he lost what little was left of his strength did he begin to sob.
The wind continued to spiral around him, pulling at his furcoat and submerging him in song. He thought of his wife, his beautiful wife, struggling to feed and support three hungry mouths without him. First, she would have to strip the couch of its leather, which the children would undoubtedly detest. After that, she would most likely resort to clothing and hide, and even the wooden furniture. Then, one-by-one, the children would each whither away into skeletal husks. They would die without him, and he could not do anything to stop it. All the fight in his body was gone, and even though his mind still hung on, his muscles were tired and useless.
The wind died down, and its howls seemed to become audible to the man. No longer were they primitive yowls- they were words! Phrases… statements; he could make them out, clear as day! The wind was singing for him!
The coldness surrounding his limbs subsided, and he found himself instead enveloped within a cradle of warmth. His face no longer stung, and his muscles ached no more. The wind called to him still, but in a voice of someone he knew quite well.
He immediately pulled himself into a sitting position, a divine light flooding his vision. There; standing before him, was his wife.
“Let’s go home.” She smiled softly, and extended her hand to him.
At this, the hunter began to sob. He placed his hand upon hers, and muttered an inaudible, “Okay.”