Here’s another from our recent contest…
I can see his cooking fire. The light amber glow on the boughs of the trees perhaps an eighth of a mile ahead. He’s off the trail a couple yards. He’s getting careless. I’ve been trailing him for a week. My nerves want me to move tonight, but tonight I will mourn the loss of my family.
Edward quietly unpacks a meager bag. His bedroll is a simple cotton blanket. Barely thick enough to be considered warm. It’s littered with damage and quite moist. As he opens the bag he pulls out another felt cloth, unwrapping it to expose a few small statuettes about three inches tall. One resembles him, the other, a fair skinned and beautiful woman. The detail is remarkable. He pauses, remembering his last week of travel. How it all started.
He was sleeping next to his wife. She was tight to his body in the fetal position, warm and soft. Her smooth blonde hair pressed gently across his cheek. He had been having a dream. They were picnicking in a meadow. The wheat was flowering and blowing in the breeze. Her hair was vibrant in the late noon sun. She was smiling and laughing as she spun on her toes and her white dress fluttered and lifted in the wind. This beautiful dream was interrupted by the sound of broken glass.
Edward’s wife had always been a heavy sleeper. He silently eased out of bed and went to the closet for his robe. Donning the robe and slippers he quietly eased his bedroom door open.
In the center room of his cabin stood a tall and very skinny man. His long thin arms made him look sickly. He moved with uncanny grace from wall to wall looking up and down the shelves. When he found something that looked valuable he grabbed it and stuffed it in a sack in his left hand. The thief moved toward the altar. His marriage statuettes were grabbed immediately. Edward did not hesitate at this sight. He swung the door open catching the thief by surprise grabbing him around the waist. The statuettes went flying. The thief turned a sharp elbow into Edward’s right temple which dazed him and loosed the grip enough for the thief to plant a foot above Edwards knee and leap out of Edward’s arms. The man reached beneath his cloak and withdrew a small mirror, looked in it and whispered something Edward had never heard before. These forsaken words immediately set the kitchen table ablaze.
The man turned toward Edward and signed with his hands “You should have stayed asleep!” and pranced out the door. Edward quickly scrambled to grab the statuettes as the table found the oil lamp and it exploded. The door to his son’s room was engulfed in flames. Edward tried to kick it in but couldn’t. He ran to his wife’s side and tried to rouse her from sleep. She wouldn’t come to. He grabbed her and slung her over his shoulder. He quickly made his way into the central room when the thatching began to collapse. He opened the front door and threw his wife out into the snow. Running around the side of the house to his son’s window he punched the glass ripping his hand open. Blood was dripping from his knuckles. He clamored into the room and grabbed his son. Blood was everywhere. Coming back to his wife she had still not moved.
The blood was everywhere. His wife was not breathing. His son was bleeding. The thief must have killed him. His wife was suffocated by the smoke. His son had been stabbed by the thief. Edward was determined to track this man. His family, and his house was gone. He had only his revenge to keep him alive.
Forsaking the idea to wait, Edward put the statuettes back into his pocket and withdrew a knife from the side of his pack. He moved through the trees with a determined man’s hatred for motivation. The eighth mile closed quickly. There was the thief. Laying on a sack of his own. Seemingly asleep. Edward jumped on him without grace. Straddling the man’s midsection he dropped the knife and closed his hands around the thief’s neck. The man’s eyes opened immediately. As the vein in the Thief’s temple began to bulge a single tear formed in Edward’s eye.
Then the dream flashed before his eyes. But it was different this time. His wife was crying. Why was she crying? He had turned into a monster sworn to revenge. Then she spoke. It was the first time in twelve years he heard her voice. It said, “I loved how you were so gentle.” His grip loosened. It was just enough for the thief to twist and grab his knife. The thief slipped it between Edward’s ribs and into his lung. Edward would meet his wife again. The thief would steal again. And Edward would cry for the