I retreated to the comparative warmth and safety of the truck. I started the engine and blasted some heat into the already cooling interior. Hey- now what! The engine appeared to be rapidly overheating, the temperature dial edging toward the danger zone. At this rate, I would soon burn out the engine. I watched in horror as the dial advanced. When it touched red, I killed the engine. When I looked up, I saw that the creature had vanished. Two straight birch among many stood nearby. I was reminded of a trek years earlier through the rain forest in Kalimantan. Our local guide, while leading me and a friend to orangutan habitat, pointed out 'trees that walk' along the way. The stationary trees looked unremarkable. Our guide assured us they could ambulate.
I grabbed my backpack and ventured outside again. I needed to gain the cabin or freeze. I changed from my snow boots to snowshoes, already set up with heavy boots attached. That eliminated having to fiddle with straps and buckles in the cold. I extracted a kitchen torch from the backpack and tucked it down my coat collar. I headed down the driveway towards the invisible cabin, still buried in ice fog. I encountered nothing unusual along the way.
Once inside, I quickly set about firing up the propane space heater I had left in the cabin. The propane pilot resisted ignition at -48F, so I extracted the kitchen torch from my coat, still relatively warm from my body heat, (rapidly decreasing now), and warmed the propane heater with blasts from the torch. I was reminded that a nice creme brulee would have been welcome. Once the heater caught, I crawled into the huge down filled sleeping bag that I had stowed in a corner, and assessed my situation.
The cabin had become the site of Wiccan exorcisms that I performed whenever a violent crime occurred in the North Star Borough. As a photographer for the local branch of the State Medical Examiner, I was familiar with the pathetic aftermath of those crimes in stark detail. The latest victim of a grudge, a drug deal gone wrong, or perhaps just a sleep deprived meth-head, had been left to bleed out from a stab wound to the groin in Fairbanks' South Cushman neighborhood. One other stab wound penetrated the decedent's bicep, straight through his bulky jacket sleeve, out the other side, and from there through his chest wall. I photographed the placement of a long metal rod that was poked through the upper arm and into the chest cavity. I also photographed the bloody holes in the jacket sleeve. No one was yet in custody in connection with the crime.
As a sole practitioner of the Old Religion, I made up my ritual as I went along. Some elements of my practice were borrowed from the Wiccan revival, as described in the works of Gerald Gardner, among others. Some of the hocus pocus was straight from my own dream world, aided and abetted by Alaska's finest home grown and Georgia's magic shrooms. Tonight, I felt sleep overtaking me before I even attempted to cast a circle and call down a peace deity to neutralize the vibrations released by the stabbing. As I dropped off to sleep, I ran through the ritual visually. Then I imagined that Missy's hefty fourteen pounds had settled on my chest, her big front paws tucked under my chin.
Missy is one of my three rescue cats. All three are my friends, but Missy is my soul mate. As a shape shifter, she could join me on my forays to the Salcha cabin while simultaneously napping in my home in Fairbanks. Missy and I fell into a peaceful slumber, while the propane heater hissed softly in the background.
To be continued
© 2017 Moe Dey - 2/19/17