The windshield wipers clicked in time, sweeping away the falling snow as the slow-moving pick-up truck navigated the wintery conditions. Regan stared out the window looking for the entrance to his hunting trail. After an hour of cursing and moaning he spotted the natural arch of two birch trees over the trail. He slowed and pulled the truck over on the side of the road.
Regan turned off the truck and pulled a small backpack and his rifle out of the back of the cab. He extracted the bullets from the pack and loaded the rifle. Satisfied he closed the backpack, got out of the truck and headed toward the entrance to the trail.
Regan knew the trail well. His grandfather had brought him here to the old hunting shack when he was eight years old. Old Man Morton taught him how to shoot, skin animals, and how to care for the land. He also gave Regan his first drink at the age of twelve, a shot of rum to keep warm while they waited for the deer.
Regan chuckled at the memory of spitting out the liquid. Morton had laughed so hard he fell off his chair. He loved his grandfather and Regan wondered if he would be here in spirit since his ashes were spread over the area. He put the thought away when he heard rustling in the bushes to his left. He turned and saw nothing. He paused for a few moments before carrying on.
Twenty minutes later the small shack came into view. Regan leaned his rifle against the wall and opened the backpack. He took out the package of deer food and put the pack down. He walked a few metres in front of the shack and opened the package. He emptied the box and walked back to the shack.
Glancing quickly around the woods, he caught something out of the corner of his eye. Regan grabbed his rifle and turned towards the movement. Branches were moving as if someone or something had disturbed them. Slowly he scanned the area and saw nothing. He figured it was the wind.
Regan picked up the pack and entered the shack. He saw immediately that the squirrels had made themselves comfortable. He cleaned off his chair and sat down. Once seated, Regan had a clear view of the kill zone, as Old Morton had called it. He made himself comfortable and hoped it wouldn’t be a long wait.
He took out a thermos of soup and a bottle of rum from the backpack. He took a generous swig of rum before pulling out his cell phone and Bluetooth. He put the earpiece in his right ear and turned on the phone. There were already three messages. He groaned and pushed the button for his voicemail.
“Regan, honey. Look I know you think you need to do this, but Alvin has been through the books, and he thinks there is nothing you can do. Just call me.”
“Fucking Alvin.” Regan thought. “Knows everything about everything.” He hated Wilhelmina’s brother. A university professor who made every effort to tell his sister what a loser she married. Regan’s mind pictured Alvin, a small man with a mousy mustache sitting out in the woods with antlers and Regan staring at him through the scope of his rifle. He smiled at the thought.
“Alvin says there is no way to kill it and you’re wasting your time. Please call me. I want, no I need you to be safe.” Regan sighed and pressed the button for the third message.
“It’s not going to bring Bobby back. You know that. Please come home.”
Regan shook his head and erased the messages. He put the phone back into his shirt pocket and leaned back in the chair.
“She never even said ‘I love you’,” Regan said to himself. He took another long swallow of rum and glanced at the thermos. He ignored it. The rum was plenty. He stared out at the kill zone and allowed his patience to take over.
Two hours and half a bottle of rum later, Regan noticed chickadees flying through the trees. Closing his eyes, he opened his ears and heard the forest come alive. He heard the soft crunching of snow from the rabbits. Birds chirping far off. The slight wind moving the branches and creating menacing shadows in the late afternoon.
He was taking in the moment when he heard a large crack. He stiffened and glanced to his right. He saw a set of antlers moving slowly through the trees. He grabbed the rifle, which was lying on his lap and brought it to his shoulder. He turned slightly and gazed through the scope.
It was about ten metres away. Regan adjusted himself and pulled the rifle in tight. He took a deep breath and pulled the slack off the trigger. The creature didn’t move. Regan stared at his prey through the scope. He took a long breath, let the rifle rise and fall onto the target and squeezed the trigger.
“Playing with the Queen of Hearts.” Juice Newton’s hit song blasted in Regan’s ear. The shock of the ringtone caused Regan to pull the trigger and fall off his chair. Cursing, he stood up and stared out at the area where the creature had been. It was gone.
He pulled out the phone and answered it. Wilhelmina’s face filled the cell phone screen.
“Hi sweetie. I wish you would come home,” she said, and Regan noticed she was wearing her parka and walking in a parking lot. “Sorry to interrupt you, but Juanita needed some help with her shopping. She said it would be good for me to get out instead of worrying about you at home.”
“You’re an idiot, Regan!” Juanita shouted as they walked.
“Sorry about that. You need anything?”
Regan stared at the phone. He slowly shook his head.
“Okay. Please come home soon.” Wilhelmina’s face disappeared as she broke the connection.
Regan calmly put the phone back in his pocket. He grabbed the rum bottle and took a long pull from it. He sat down and shook is head.
Juanita, his sister-in-law, like Alvin, was a treat to be around. Burning through her third marriage and five packs of smokes a day, Juanita was a high school drop out who professed to know more than Alvin and gave her opinion on everything from politics to the way you lived your life. If you disagreed with her, sure as shit she would lay into like a tornado on steroids.
Regan took several deep breaths and closed his eyes. What the hell was he doing with this family? Their son Bobby, born just seven months after Regan and Wilhelmina’s wedding, was an absolute blessing. He slept through the night, was well-behaved and grew into a strong, good looking young man. Regan made sure the outdoors was part of his life and the young man took to it like a duck to water.
“Morton would be proud,” Regan said as he took another swig. He took out his phone and scrolled through the pictures of Bobby. He had Wilhelmina’s blond hair and her blue eyes. The rest was all Regan. Brown hair, strong jaw and body, and tall. Just under six feet like Regan.
The final picture on the phone was of the last day he saw Bobby. Heading into the woods on his quad runner with his friends. Bobby was smiling and waving. A tear flowed down Regan’s cheek. Two days after the picture was taken, they found the bodies of his three friends. Bobby was never found.
“They were torn apart," the coroner had said. They searched the woods and found Bobby’s clothes, ripped apart. “It looks like he Hulked out," the police officer had told him.
He put the phone away and sat back in the chair. He stared out at the kill zone. Something didn’t look right. It was as if another tree had sprouted up. Regan shut his eyes and refocused. He chuckled and thought of the rum.
“Playing tricks on me.”
He opened his eyes and stared at the scene again. He shook his head and reached for the thermos. He filled the cup with tomato soup and took a sip. The liquid warmed his insides. He finished the cup and refilled it. He didn’t realize how famished he was and soon the thermos was half empty.
Along with the rum, the soup had another side effect. Regan stretched and stood up. He walked out of the shack and found the nearest tree. As he relived himself, Regan turned back to the kill zone. He was shocked to see a deer walk up to the food he had laid out. He cursed.
“Hands on the wrong gun," he whispered.
As the deer sniffed at the food, Regan finished and zipped up his fly. He slowly turned and quietly walked back to the shack. As he was about to step inside to grab his rifle, a large snap echoed through the woods. The deer raised its head. Regan stared at the deer, frozen in place.
Suddenly the deer dashed from the kill zone. Regan cursed his luck but as he turned away, the tree next to the deer came to life. It chased after the deer and caught it. The deer squealed as the monster bit into its neck. Regan shook himself, walked into the shack and grabbed his rifle. He ran out of the shack and ran towards the scene but stopped short.
The creature was tall and skinny. The antlers on its head were twisted and the body was white with a yellow tinge. Its mutated face was shaped like a wolf. Regan stared in horror as it tore meat away from the dead deer. A predator enjoying its kill.
Regan stepped forward and raised his rifle. The creature looked up, blood dripping from its jaws. Regan lowered his rifle as he recognized the eyes that bore through him. He took a step forward and raised his arms.
The creature cocked its head and continued to stare. Regan took another step forward and nodded. The creature stood up and Regan estimated it was almost ten feet tall. It stepped over the deer and walked toward Regan, stopping six feet from him. Regan pushed away the fear.
“Bobby, I don’t know how this happened, but I am so sorry.”
Bobby looked back at Regan. He grunted out something that sounded like ‘Dad’ and hung his head.
“I can’t help you, but I can visit you. I tried to kill the deer for you, to draw you out, but you were always a good hunter.”
Bobby turned back to the deer. Instinct took over and he went back to the animal. Regan stared at his son for a moment longer then returned to the shack. He retrieved his things, filled the backpack and without looking back, left his son.
In the truck, Regan put the pack and rifle behind him in the cab and started the engine. As he drove back into town, the paper on the passenger seat unfolded to the story about Bobby.
“Mythology expert Professor Alvin Dunn, stated, “There are a lot of stories and myths in the woods where my nephew went missing. The local indigenous peoples talk about the spirit of the Windigo living amongst the trees, waiting for a host to inhabit. In the end, they’re just stories. I hope, however, for my sister’s sake, we see Bobby again some day.”