The Wind of Lonely Places
Kelly wandered through the ruined house, the dog shadowing his footsteps. He fixed his gaze on a beam that had been charred by fire, and after a while saw the faint image of the noose that had hung there, and the lifeless body that had twisted below it. The image faded as Kelly relaxed his concentration. "He wasn't even aware he was dead, so completely did his enemy control him," he remarked aloud, then glanced down at the dog. "Mean little thing that it was. Couldn't have been much of a meal for you." The dog belched. Kelly's shoes crunched broken glass and plaster as he passed through the doorless entry. In the weed-choked driveway, blocked up on its axles, sat the rusted-out hulk of an old Volkswagen. Away to the east, the sun was at last breaking free of the mountains, the snowclouds scattering to the south. He watched the sunrise, draining the remainder of his wine from the bota. "Now I'll have to vint some more," he muttered, his eyes filling with tears. "At least I know where to go for it." He raised the empty wineskin toward the mountains in a gesture of farewell. "Perhaps we'll meet again after all," he said, "should someone someday do for me, what I have done for you." A menacing growl rumbled through the animal beside him. Kelly smiled crookedly into the angrily glowing embers of its eyes. "I know, old enemy," he told it, "but such hopes are all that make our association tolerable for me. Do not begrudge them; you have lived now longer than any other of your kind." The dog growled again, but turned away its head. He watched the sunlight flare across the whitened peaks, the high winds blowing rippling plumes of snow from the summit. The low winds at his back whispered disjointed phrases. Kelly listened.