Outside the Cabin

     The sun had hardly been down for two hours when Andrew stood from his game of gin and opened the refrigerator door. He bent down, stuck his right hand into a torn open thirty-pack, and asked, “Need another beer?”

     John raised his open can of beer and shook it a few times, hearing the last few swallows of it slosh against the sides of the can, feeling the little bit of weight shift at the small container’s bottom. “Yeah,” he said, “might as well bring out two each, so we don’t have to get up again.”

     “Good call.” Andrew pulled beer cans from the blue cardboard cube.

     “Hey, you want to get a fire going outside?” John asked.

     “Let’s play a few more hands first,” Andrew said.

     “Yeah,” John reached over on turned the volume on the CD player up. On it AC/DC blared and Brian Johnson sang about how there are no stop signs or speed limits on the highway to Hell.

     The cabin was a haven, a womb, where they felt safe and escaped the pressures of normal life. They could trace the progression of their lives by what they ran to the cabin to escape: coming up with father’s and uncles when very young to escape the boredom of suburbia; a bit older and they ran from homework and rooms that should have been cleaned and eventually from girlfriends who could never understand the base, animalistic joy of crouching around a fire, surrounded by miles of nothing but trees and darkness; recently they had gotten old enough to look back on their past anxieties with nostalgia as they ran back to the safety of the cabin seeking protection from the shapeless horror that was the future. It seemed to loom in the shadows ahead of them, just visible enough to be terrifying without showing enough of itself to be understood.

     In the cabin, time stopped. Even the big bad future couldn’t touch them in their little patch of heaven on the side of a mountain in the middle of nowhere. That beast that waited for them on the far side of rapidly approaching graduation seemed infinitely far away from this place of cold beers and burning shots, campfires and late night conversations, quiet hours spent on the porch watching unchanging forest spread out beneath them.

Andrew stood, holding a pyramid of three beers in his left hand and a lone beer in his right. He pushed the refrigerator door closed with his knee and covered the distance back to his seat at the table in a single step.

     John shuffled the red deck of Bicycle playing cards as Andrew unloaded the cans onto the table. John’s gaze shifted aimlessly around the cabin as his hands worked.

     His focus stopped on the window. He yelled, a quick, jagged sound, obviously unintentional, but also obviously cut short. His eyes remained wide even after his brief outburst.

     Andrew followed John’s gaze to the window and saw nothing but the small empty clearing that was always there, the ring of sooty stones surrounding a mound of cool, black ash in the moonlight.