Ivan stood in the Bitterroot mountains, hoping to find himself in the solitude.
He felt like breaking his neck, he knew what he was lacking was latitude.
Were things so bad? No, probably not. But why did Ivan feel so sad?
This trip was sure to change his mood. Oh yes, it would change his mood. Better than good food. Better than a Quaalude. Oh yes, it was sure to change his mood.
It would make him. It would break him. He would emerge from his spiritual quest with a new lease on life; just him, his tent, and his knife.
His camp was set by nightfall, and the star-filled sky made his heart thump.
The wolves howled, the crickets chirped, the water trickled, and the deer lurked. They watched him from the cover of their thickets. This intruder was not welcome, he was a predator, oh yes, a predator. They would keep their distance.
But they would watch him, oh yes, they would watch him.
A thousand eyes on Ivan, but his own could capture none.
The darkness was immense. The solitude was intense. The hair stood on Ivan’s neck, he was scared of what might come for him in a world with no fence.
Ivan slid into his sleeping bag, wrapped in a velvety cocoon. So soft, so warm, so vulnerable, watching the silhouette of the moon.
The deer meant Ivan no harm in his tent, and neither did the wolves. Food was bountiful this summer, oh yes, they were quite content.
Curious, and content.
Ivan began to drift to sleep to the lullaby of the nearby stream, dreaming of a dream and a spiritual awakening.
Ivan’s senses stood at attention, he listened to the fall of the footsteps, coming closer.
Two sets of them.
Hell was unleashed upon Ivan’s tent.
Fists fell on Ivan through the canvas, four of them to be exact.
These were not woodland creatures.
These were men.
Men with no fear of Ivan.
Men with no respect for others.
Men with no respect for themselves.
Harry and Marv wailed on Ivan through the tent, laughing gleefully. Oh yes, they were having a ball.
Ivan cried, he cried like a young boy. He cried for his mother. He cried for his father. He cried for his brother. He cried for his sister.
A furry black bat, as black as a Halloween cat, flittered and fluttered overhead, nearly clipping Harry’s hat.
Yet, Ivan was alone.
Just him and his knife.
He clutched the blade and the tears stopped. Ivan vacated his own mind.
This was no place for Ivan.
He was much too soft.
He was much too kind.
He was much too warm.
Ivan became blind.
The fists stopped falling, and the men spoke in hushed tones.
“Is he dead?” Marv’s hair was wild and his eyes were wide.
“Probably not. But he’s scared. Oh yes, he’s scared.” Harry’s gold tooth twinkled with pride.
A nearby woodchuck shivered, chucked, and jived. Waiting to witness the looters’ demise.
The tent flap opened slowly, oh so slowly. Slower than the trickle of honey. Slower than the hare that raced the bunny.
When the tent flap was flung ajar, much to the looters’ dismay, Ivan was nowhere in sight.
Instinct crouched…not Ivan. Oh no, not Ivan.
Instinct looked up at the men, knife in hand, eyes wide with blood thirst, teeth wide with a grin.
Instinct lunged at Marv, knife leading the way, the blade hitting skin, and tearing it away. Blood flowed. So much blood, oh yes, Marv would die soon.
Harry yelped. He was not expecting Instinct…oh no. He was expecting Ivan.
Harry watched his partner in crime, blood running from his wound. He knew it. Marv would die soon, so very soon.
If Harry stayed, he would die too. Yes, he would die too. This, he already knew.
Instinct switched gears as the deer perked their ears. They were very silent, oh yes, very silent.
The deer watched Instinct lunge, and into Harry, his knife deftly plunged.
Oh yes, Harry would die soon.
When Instinct was finished, he walked to his tent.
He gathered his things and packed them away, not making a sound, no sense of dismay.
Instinct drove to the nearest town and searched for a house.
A high-perched owl, who’d witnessed the scene, watched the taillights disappear, and continued to preen.
Knock, knock, knock.
An old woman answered, clad in a nightgown.
“It’s quite late, sir. Quite late, nearly four! Why are you knocking at my door?”
It was not until now that she noticed the blood and the mud, and the grin on his face. A terrible grin. Ivan was gone, he was not in this place.
Ivan had been freed.
“There’s been a terrible accident, ma’am, three men are dead. Quite dead indeed.”