The Cold Cabin

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Review Chain

Enjoy my short story.

The lantern cast a soft glow in the one-room cabin. The plank walls, grey with the age of the generations that they had witnessed come and go, shuttered with winter’s chill sweeping through the woods.

Sitting on the bench in the small living space, and holding his callous hands toward the flickering little flame on the table, Tulbar waited for the barely perceptible heat to soak through his fingers and into his bones. It was a cold night.

The tiny gaps created by ceiling boards, warped by time, had been part of this cabin’s character for decades. When Tulbar’s son was little, the two of them would joke about the winter seeping through, laugh, and then wrap themselves in thicker blankets, woven by Tulbar’s wife when she was still alive, and light the fire in the stove at the corner of the room.

Tulbar pulled the ragged, tattered blanket close against his neck and gazed, hoping to find the fireplace lit. The black iron stove was still and cold, and ice was forming on the exhaust pipe near the roof. A sad stack of chopped oak sat beside it.

Not yet, Tulbar thought. It was only the start of winter and the season would get much colder. He would need to save the firewood for when he had no other choice.

Extending his hand toward the lantern once again, Tulbar waited for its warmth.

From the corner of the room, opposite the stove, a soft, familiar voice arose. “Father.”

Tulbar’s heart sank. He rotated his hand, letting the lantern’s light lick his knuckles.

“Father,” the voice said, louder. “I do not mean to startle you.” A young man of about twenty-four stepped out of the corner’s shadow and into the vague light. “Where is mother?”

“Dead,” Tulbar replied, his voice coming rough with old age.

A brief silence passed. “When?”

“Eight years ago. It was the lung-fire.” Tulbar looked up from the lantern and beheld his son. Tall and handsome, just as Tulbar had been in youth. And his son’s eyes were hard like his had been, but contained a foreign strength which Tulbar had never obtained, nor desired. His son’s brows seemed creased with concern, and he bore a subtle frown.

Tulbar’s anger bubbled like a cauldron, and his characteristic calm withered. He pressed his lips and narrowed his eyes with accusation. “You could have saved her, boy. Couldn’t you?”

With those same concerned eyes and frown, his son nodded.

“But instead,” Tulbar went on, fixating on the little flame rather than his son, “You’ve been chasing wild fantasies, and listless evils. I’ve heard stories.”

“They aren’t true.”

“No, reality is usually far worse. And while you use your powers to seat yourself on the thrones of far off lands, the things that really matter: family, and friends, and responsibilities, are discarded like old rags. I did not teach you this. You mother did not teach you this.”

His son came to the other side of the table, waited as though contemplating, and then carefully sat across from Tulbar. His son, at first folded his hands on the table, then, just as he once did long ago, he lay his chin on his arms. Lantern light danced in his dark eyes.

Tulbar, moved by this simple gesture, was awashed by memories of winters passed, and the hours he and his wife and his son sat at this table, just so, and spoke of their hopes for the spring. Shaken away from his anger, now Tulbar grieved.

“My boy,” he whispered, meeting his son’s gaze through hard watery eyes. “Come home. Life is so simple here. Think of the spring, and all its bounty and flowers: Archer’s Field with the lonely pine that you loved to climb. Do you remember Rayna? She loves you even now, even when you are a thousand leagues away, and even though she has not seen you for ten years. Every Athonasday, every single weekend without fail, she visits Bauthtown and listens to the stories that the travelers bring about you. Don’t you understand? There is a life waiting for you here.”

His son lay quiet, his thick brown hair falling over his cheeks. He may have been a man now, with sharp and handsome features, but Tulbar still saw the remnants of his little boy.

His son raised his head. “I know father. And I love you, and I love the spring here, and I grieve for mother. But I have a gift. Why shouldn’t I share it with the whole world?”

Heart aching, Tulbar responded, “Why won’t you share it with us?”

And that was the core of the pain. His son had gone away to cure diseases, bring justice to criminals, and give wisdom to kings and heirs. Yet his own mother died, and this cabin still had cracks in the walls. The oven hadn’t enough wood to last the winter.

His son swallowed, and there on his face was a battle between regret and conviction. “The world is bigger than one hut in the midst of the woods.”

“Not my world,” Tulbar replied.

Standing, his son turned and brushed his hand through his hair. “Come with me, father. There is a village not far away with prettier springs than here or Bauthtown. There is a lake with trout, and long docks. The water reflects orange sunsets and the hills are green. I want to take you there, where the winters are less harsh, and the summers are bountiful.”

Tulbar answered, “And what of Rayna?”

His son turned to him. “I will also find her a house. The townsmen know me and will give with both hands.”

“And what of her four sisters?”

His son did not answer.

Tulbar pried, “What of her father and mother? Will you also give them houses? What about Kordos, Belsh, Cherri? And their children? Where will they live, and what work will they do?”

In the silence, Tulbar adjusted the ragged blanket on his shoulders.

Finally, his son said, quietly,  “Will come with me or not, father?”

Still, his son did not understand. “This is my world, boy. Where would you have me go?”

With that, his son turned. His voice shuddered as he replied, “I have things to attend to.” He paused, as though uncertain. “Goodbye, papa.”

“Goodbye, Abrahm the Great.”

His son vanished like a ghost.

The wind whistled through the ceiling, and Tulbar gazed around the cold, empty room. A fire would be good.

He stiffly stood, and went to cast iron stove, piled up small sticks inside, and lit it with the lantern.

 


Submitted: November 06, 2020

© Copyright 2020 C. S. Spence. All rights reserved.

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Comments

LE. Berry

Nicely descriptive C.S.

Fri, November 6th, 2020 9:16pm

Author
Reply

Thanks so much for reading and commenting! You are very encouraging.

Fri, November 6th, 2020 2:17pm

Celtic-Scribe63

A great character-driven story, full of vivid images.
It also had a solemn vein running through it.
Tulbar, cold, old and tired, and stoic and stalwart in his Wisdom.

A very well-written and thought-out piece of writing.
I enjoyed it.

Sun, November 8th, 2020 9:34am

Author
Reply

Thanks for such great analysis and feedback! I hoped to present a solemn atmosphere, I'm glad it came through.

Sun, November 8th, 2020 1:14pm

KatV

The Cold Cabin

I really enjoyed your story C.S. I love so many of your phrases; for example, ..."lantern's light lick his fingers" wow! Powerful! I understand and feel the cold! Another example: "...anger bubbled like a cauldron" Double WOW! I "see" and feel his anger.
Your story is sooo very well written. You writing is very descriptive. I went with you to the cabin; I felt the cold and the anger. And I felt the sadness.
I have absolutely no suggestions at all. Write On!

Mon, November 9th, 2020 1:09am

Author
Reply

Your comment is so encouraging, Kat! Thank you. Having such positive people read and give their opinion is worth the world.

Sun, November 8th, 2020 10:33pm

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Short Story / Literary Fiction