Author: Rachel Sievers
The old man sat with the shotgun in his lap. He sat in the wooden rocker facing the door. He had survived on this earth for eighty-seven years and when death came he would face it as he had lived, eyes open and hands full.
The wooden cabin had been built by the man more than sixty years ago when he first homesteaded the place in Alaska. He had carved out a life here living off the land fighting beasts and the Alaska elements his whole life. He was not surprised to be fighting one more thing for his survival.
The old man had not heard about the attacks on humans throughout the world until over the Ham radio he heard distress calls being thrown out on the regular. The creatures, never described the same way, seemed to be targeting humans. The descriptions varied but claws, tall, and serrated teeth seemed to be the most consistent. The word alien had been thrown around a lot, but ancient and from the deep were equally broadcasted.
The creek from under the rocker broke the quiet of the cabin. The rocker was handmade, a project the man spent time on for several long winter nights. He had built the chair when he was younger and his hands were not gnarled and twisted with age and overuse. It was something he was proud of and something he was glad to die in.
The door rattled and shook in the dim light from the kerosene lamp light. The north winter wind made the door rattle and shake like that but in the middle of fall, the winter storms had yet to make an appearance. The old man had on occasion had a grizzly interested in his cabin. The smells of an easy meal too hard for the predator to pass up. The door had shaken similarly, but more animalistic than the shaking that was happening now.
The door beat rhythmically and in a steady motion, something intelligent was testing and prodding the door, looking for a weakness to exploit. The old man had bolted the door from the inside. The sound stopped and the movement started at the windows. A gentle shutter and then a breaking of glass as the window exploded in on itself.
The old man had packed the glass all the way from Anchorage at the request of his new bride. She had said the cabin was too claustrophobic and so in a failed attempt to get her to stay he had packed the window into the backcountry.
The glass on the roughly hued floor sparkled in the lamplight creating little glass diamonds. The man could appreciate beauty when he saw it and he had seen a lot of it. The rise of the sun over mountains that had not been touched by the pollution of man. Rainbow trout rising for the first hatch of the season on a long-forgotten lake. The old man had experienced beauty and never stopped enjoying the small and meaningful moments it created.
The creature outside gave up on the windows finding the boards the old man had nailed over them too tough to penetrate. The creature’s movements around the cabin no longer veiled by attempted stealth. It stalked the cabin scratching and clawing trying to find a way in.
Then there was a long silence. The old man refused to break the silence with the sound from the rocker and instead held the quiet in reverence. He sat still and unmoving, hand gripping the shotgun. He knew the two shots the twelve-gauge over and under carried would not be near enough for what stalked him but he didn’t mind. He knew he would die tonight and like the Vikings of old, he would die with a sword in his hand.
The door exploded in a rage of splintered wood. The shock of it hit the old man and froze his finger on the trigger. There before him was a strange and terrifying beauty and like all the beauty in his life, he appreciated it. It was the last beautiful thing the old man’s eyes ever saw before darkness engulfed them forever.