* * *
Peter awoke before he usually did. He was still covered by layers of furs and blankets, but the sun wasn’t in the right spot. Peter dressed quickly while eating a slab of wolf meat. He would need his strength for the task ahead. He piled more logs into his fireplace than he normally would and nodded to himself that his task was completed.
Peter walked onto the porch, finished eating a King Solomon Apple and grabbed a bundle of pine tree branches. He slung his shovel over his shoulder and dragged the branches behind him. He paused at the bottom of the steps and gave a silent prayer where he should’ve died six days ago. Satisfied he had properly thanked the wolf, he walked slowly towards the tree line in a zig-zag pattern doubling over his trail several times.
When he finally found his way to the tree line, he heaped snow onto the branches to disguise them from prying eyes from airplane or satellite surveillance. He climbed a tree with easy sight lines to the five hidden pit traps. The tree also gave him a good view of the canopy of the many trees that made up the forest he called home for the last thirty years.
Peter had just gotten himself into position when he saw trees rustle. I should’ve brought binoculars, he thought, cursing himself. He held his breath and stared in the direction of the rustling trees and saw them – two figures threading between the trees heading straight towards his cabin.
* * *
“Jarret, we’re not far from the smoke. What’re we doing here?”
Jarret paused and skirted around a large tree before responding. “How many times do I need to tell you, Malinda? We’re investigating a man who freaked out a week or two ago.”
“But why here? In the Yukon? Does anyone even live here?”
“He fits the description of someone we’ve been looking for.”
“I hope we find out quickly, this place…” Malinda didn’t finish her sentence. She fell through a faux-floor and into a pit lined with sharpened sticks. She cried out as a stick pushed out of her leg, spurting blood.
“Malinda!” Jarret yelled.
“Stay back, the ground is unstable.”
Jarret crawled to the edge of the pit. “I’ll find something to get you out.”
“Jarret, Behind you!”
Jarret tried to roll over, but a mass fell from somewhere above in the center of his back. The wind was knocked from him and before he could react, someone grabbed him by the waist and pushed him into the pit. He landed across Malinda’s legs and the stick protruding from her leg impaled his chest.
Jarret gasped, each breath a labor. “Why?” He called out, unable to vocalize more than the single word query.
Peter appeared at the lip of the pit, shovel in hand. He stared into Malinda’s pleading eyes for the briefest of moments before his shovel bit into the frozen packed earth. He straddled the shovel collar and put his entire body weight onto the stop, flinging dirt and other debris onto the two at the bottom of the pit.
“Stop! Help us!” Malinda cried out, tears rolling down her cheeks and dripping from her chapped lips. She cried out again and again. Her fifth attempt at reasoning with Peter resulted in a face-full of dirt. Each time she tried to free herself, her leg screamed out – pain causing her vision to blur on the edges. Jarret’s jacket stopped its ragged rise and fall. As more and more dirt piled up on them, Malinda made a final effort to free herself from Peter’s trap. She cried out and the last thing she saw before losing consciousness was Peter shovelIng another pile of dirt on her. The taste of earth was her final meal.
* * *
It took Peter only ten hours to fill the hole that had taken him two days to dig. He ignored the cries for help. His resolve almost broke when the man – she called him Jarret, like the apple variety, – stopped breathing. He quickened his pace, not wanting to see the unmoving Jarret.
The next test of his mettle was when the woman, Malinda, lost consciousness. Another Apple variety, he remembered thinking. Who names their operatives after apple varieties?
When he saw only Malinda’s nose and closed eyes sticking out of the dirt he questioned himself for the third time that day. He paused and watched the dirt roll away from her nose as she exhaled. He remembered watching his own wife sleep next to him in the bed they shared almost a lifetime ago.
They killed her… He hadn’t thought about his wife in years. They killed her and framed me for murder. His jaw set, his brow furrowed, Peter dug into the disturbed earth and aimed the shovelful at Malinda’s head. Five times was all it took to cover his hesitation. Each pile of dirt falling into the pit was justification. He wasn’t burying bodies, he was burying years of fear. Each foot of the earthen tomb solidified his resolve.
Peter stood studying the barely discernible circle of disturbed earth. By morning, the snow would completely obscure it. He slung the shovel over his shoulder and walked back to his cabin, dragging the pine branches behind him.
Chuck has a list of apples from what I assume is a local orchard or grower. Growing up, I spent my school-months in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I remember the dizzying variety of apples we had access to. Then, I didn’t care as long as they were red. Now that I’m more than 2000 miles and the better part of two decades away, I wish I had access to 41 different varieties. The prompt was to pick three apple variety names from his list and use them in a story. I’ve been trying to write more for 16Sunsets, but I couldn’t seem to make it happen. I’m not 100% happy with these 1002 words, but I know I’ll get a text and/or comment from B.J. saying how much he likes it. This brings the word count up to 16,024. I’ve had a lot of new followers on twitter and the blog recently, so be sure to click on the 16Sunsets tag to read the story from the beginning. Note that chapters 13 & 14 haven’t been written, so don’t freak out if you can’t find them.