I found my cabin abandoned. It was empty except for a few pieces of overturned furniture, some broken dishes, and the bent silverware. I made myself a broom a out of a tree branch and some twigs that I split. I’ve always been okay at woodworking. Nothing great, but better than I am with a bow. I guess I felt good enough at making things to come out this way on my own. But back to the cabin.
I swept out the leaves and other debris that had Come in through the broken window, and started collecting broken bits in a wooden crate that I found outside. It was dry-rotted and barely holding together, so it want good for much else, but at least I wasn’t putting the glass in the dirt for me to step on later.
The bed frame was weak, and probably close to dry-rotting itself, so I decided to sleep on the floor with my blankets until it could get a mattress. Then I would see if I could get the frame into a better condition.
The hearth was a lot of work to get clean. I wasn’t used to chimneys, so I had to trade work in the village to get help with it. Then I was able to boil water and mop the floor. The former residents had left behind a hefty cauldron, though whether it was because it was so ungainly or because of its filth, I have no idea. I cleaned it myself, and then cleaned everything else with the water that it boiled.
By the time I was done getting g rid of all the dust and broken bits in the cabin, it was shaping up to be a cozy place indeed. Nobody in the village minded that I had taken over the old place, and I had enough to get by and stay safe.
After living there for a few months, I have really gotten settled in, and I don’t want to leave. Even with all of the work that the cabin still needs, I can’t imagine going back to where I used to live, or even moving on and starting over. I couldn’t do any better without money, and I still don’t have more than a few bits and pieces of that.
So it check my traps every day, in between working small jobs in the village, and try not to get too close to anyone. Close means questions, and I don’t want to answer any. Nobody needs to know that I’m not really called Claire.
Checking traps was how I found him. He was pretty far out, at the furthest trap that I had set. I was hoping to find that had trapped a rabbit beneath an especially old and gnarled oak tree, but as I walked towards it, I could hear a certain groan that my hope turned to worry. I slowed down my approach, and hid behind the trees to try to send what it was without being seen. I knew that it wasn’t an animal.
Once I could see his outline between the branches, I was grateful that I did not use the harsh metal traps that some hunters preferred. They caused more suffering than was necessary, and this man certainly looked like he didn’t need any more suffering than he’d already been through. His beard was filthy– and probably stank of sweat, though I wasn’t yet close enough to tell for sure– and I guessed that he had come a long way.
“I know you’re there,” I was surprised to hear him call out.
I did not think to call his bluff. I stepped out from behind the younger oak tree that I’d been peering around and stepped over to the man.
“What are you doing way out here?” I asked him.
“I should be asking you the same thing,” he replied, as though trying to stay in good humor. “But never mind that for now. Can you get these ropes off of me?”
I stared at him for a long time, curious about what he was wearing, why he had let his beard grow so long. I forgot to even respond, until he spoke again.
“I presume, young lady, that you are the one who set this trap.”
‘Y- yes,” I said at last, shaking my head out of its daze.
I walked over and knelt beside him. I noticed then the knotted staff that had fallen on the ground beside him. It was hardly visible in between all of the fallen leaves and decorative, but there it laid. I immediately started to wonder whether it was just an old mans walking stick, or if it was something more. I almost didn’t want to know. I was so settled in and use to living in that cabin and working in the village that I was hardly interested in anything else, and if that staff was more than just a walking stick, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to get involved with this person still, I had set the trap, I owed it to him to at least let him out. Really, it should have not have entangled him so, but he seemed so frazzled by some other event– or events– that perhaps he could not have helped himself.