On the ridge
The murft’s tracks petered out at the top of a stony ridge. The trees were thinning out here, and I could see down into the valley beyond. A house squatted at the center of a clearing that sure looked man-made.
The house was occupied, too: a slender curl of grey smoke rose from its chimney.
I sat down on wide flat stone, heated by the sun, and let it bake my backside for a while as I loaded first my rifle’s clip, and then the one I’d scavenged from Dan’s rifle. He’d insisted on using identical weapons. I’d thought he was a bit touched, but now it made so much sense.
I pocketed his clip, slammed mine home, and chambered a single shell. Safety on, I walked down the hill, following a trail of bent grasses, cracked branches, and the occasional splayed, three-toed footprint in soft patches of clay or at the edges of puddles where the ground momentarily flattened out.