This old face, it is devoid of love. No line drawn across its wrinkly skin speaks the merest whisper of affection. A pair of eyes burn through the young man, and he feels so alone. Alexandre is angry; the last of the venison is gone, and he, Anatoly, caught nothing when out hunting. A fire crackles softly on the stone hearth as the wind howls outside of their cabin. It will be a harsh night tonite, foolish for anyone to step outside.

“You little idiot!” A hiss that feels like a hot needle makes Anatoly flinch. Alexandre cracks his thick knuckles, he wants to break something, maybe he will break Anatoly. “Why do I let you stay? Tell me why!” A fist the size of a dog’s head slams over the table, sending two empty dishes crashing and breaking down on the floor.

Anatoly’s tongue feels thick, a dead lump that won’t move. It takes the better part of a minute for Anatoly to whimper out a few words. “I hunt…you cut wood.” A large stack of cut logs stands at Alexandre’s feet, his haul will provide warmth for the cold, and some may even be sold for a few coins down at the village, but not if the storm blocks the roads with snow.

His eyes narrow like a wolf’s before it’s about to jump down someone’s throat. “Precisely. I cut wood, you hunt. That’s the deal.” Picking up a particularly thick-looking log with one hand, Alexandre sizes it up, then looks back at Anatoly who has taken a step back as he takes one forward. “And you can’t even do that right!” With a roar like a black bear, Alexandre flings the log in Anatoly’s direction. The young man barely manages to sidestep the projectile as the log hits the wall with a loud thud and clatters on to the floor, rolling close to where he was standing a second ago.

“Alexandre, wait, please!” His voice is shrill, he needs more time, but the older man hits him with the back of his hand, Anatoly screams and topples over the floor. Reeling from pain, his head is spinning, he has to get up. Rough hands yank him to his feet from the scruff of his shirt. Something flashes and Alexandre howls in agony, stepping back from the young man. A dark spot begins to form on the left side of his brown coat.

“You…stabbed me!” Each word is filled with hatred, Alexandre’s eyes seem to have lost some of their focus, but now they appear to be of a wild animal.

Anatoly’s holding his hunting knife with both trembling hands, the tip dipped in blood. His mouth hangs open, he can barely believe what he did. “God forgive me…Alexandre, it was an accident, I didn’t mean…!”

Roaring in fury, Alexandre jumped at his throat, bloodlust filled his eyes. Before the young man could even react, he was pinned down to the ground by the neck with one hand, while another smacked the knife away from it. He could feel Alexandre’s vice-grip, like a snare from which he caught rabbits. Anatoly couldn’t breathe and though at first he was panicking, kicking and flailing trying to escape, he soon moved less, and less, until he did not move anymore.

Alexandre was in a daze, not really knowing how he was still standing, but soon he found himself eating meat again. Juicy and tender, and there was no more of Anatoly’s womanly mewling. He had to get rid of the corpse. Cutting up the meat that would keep him alive until the snow cleared for him to go down to the village, he took the bones outside. The wind howled everywhere like a wailing mother, darkness fell heavy around the cabin, Alexandre could not see more than a few feet ahead of him, but it didn’t matter. He’d survive harsh winters before, he would do it again. It was all the more surprising to him when he found himself falling to his knees, they simply stopped supporting him. The snow chilled him to the bone, but he was feeling rather sleepy now. Damned Anatoly, his cut had been deeper than he thought. A howl brought Alexandre back to the storm raging around him. Something was moving ahead, but he couldn’t quite make it out, his vision was getting darker by the second.

They swere already circling him, five of them, they’ve had no morsel to eat for a few days now and were ravenous. Now prey lay there weak, blood drew them to it. Their fangs were begging for tender flesh. Their pack leader cautiously paced close to the mound of furs lying still on the snow. It had moved a moment ago, they did not want to risk a fight. With a tentative nip at the furst, the leader saw the figure did not stir. It howled out long into the storm. Tonite, they would not starve.