It had been a long time since her stomach was filled. She sniffed the air, hoping perhaps another animal had a fresh kill and she could steal a portion of it. She smelled nothing. She was getting weak. She felt it. Not well enough to hunt; yet she could not get well without food. A vicious circle. She moved on. She had known better than to approach the hunters’ campsite. Stealing food that way is unsafe. But the summer heat kept many animals under shelter during the day, and she was not nocturnal. It was a risk she took, coming away with a hip full of buckshot for that risk. She had been able to pick most of the balls of steel out of her hip, and placed a soothing poultice she had made from chamomile leaves. But she still moved slowly. She needed two good legs to catch her food.
The scent of fresh blood caught her attention. A deer. Her seasoned nose recognized the musky smell. She followed it. A few yards away she picked up another scent. This one she knew far too well. Man. But this was only one man. She crept up on him. Hunger gnawed at her stomach from the smell of the fresh blood. She positioned herself behind a bush and waited. She hoped that he might walk off for a moment. Long enough for her to steal a portion of meat. But he did not. She crept around to a better vantage point. Then, seeing a tree close to him, she silently slipped up onto a low-lying branch. Crouching there, she studied him. She noticed something different about this man. He didn’t look like a hunter. But rather a survivor in the wild, like herself. She leaned forward for a better look. The branch cracked. The man spun around and shot a cross pistol in her direction. The small arrow tore through the upper portion of her left arm. She screamed in pain. He lunged at her, but stopped short. For a moment they stared at each other. She licked once at the blood running down her arm, never taking her eyes off the man. She then leapt to the ground and ran deep into the woods. The draining blood from the wound made her weak. She looked for shelter. Finding a cave, she crawled inside and curled up tight. She felt the need to sleep and she obeyed.
The smell of new surroundings woke her from her subconscious. She felt crisp cloth surrounding her. Confusion ran through her mind. Then, remembering her wound, she turned to tend to it. It was neatly wrapped in a bandage. She looked at her surroundings. This place was dark yet friendly. A fire, burning at one end of the room, cast a warm glow over the leather chair that stood in front of it. A coat and bag hung on a large door adjacent to the fireplace. Another bed stood in the far corner. A small stove, counter, and sink were along the wall to the right of where she lay. A long window above the sink provided a view of the trees outside. In the center of it all stood a small table with two chairs. “Where am I?” she thought to herself. The door opened and Man came through carrying an armload of wood. She recognized him. She got to her feet, but her whirling head sent her back down. She lay there, afraid to move. He looked at her. Not saying a word he collected a bowl from the cupboard and filled it from a blacken pot on the stove. He came over to her and sat down. He dipped a spoon into the bowl and brought it up filled with stew. He held the spoon out to her. She hesitated. But her hunger overcame her fear and she took the mouthful offered to her. This continued until the bowl was empty. She poked a finger at the bowl. But he only shook his head. She lay back down, trembling as he drew the covers up on her. He rose and went about his chores. This action confused her. Had he not tried to kill her? And how did he find her? She must run. But she was too weak to run. She rolled onto her right side. A pain shot through her hip. She had forgotten about the buckshot wound. She reached down to feel it and found it had been bandaged as well. She rolled onto her left side, leaving her arm out from under her. The stew found her stomach. She felt a warmth come over her. She slept.
The smell of blood wakened her. It came from her arm. Her bandage had become soiled. The man noticed it too. He prepared to change it. He reached for her arm. She pulled it back and growled at him. He grabbed her by the wrist, gently, but firmly. Again, never saying a word. She fought a little, but he did not let go. She let him proceed. Confusion filled her mind. “Why is he caring for me?” she thought to herself. She studied him as he worked. His face seemed hardened yet his eyes, the color of the sky, were kind. His hair, the color of the soil, looked as though brushed by the wind. He was not a big man, but he looked strong. She sensed him to be one that could have just as easily broken her in two as to care for her in the gentle way that he was. The ointment stung as he spread it on the wound. She winced and cried out slightly. He put his finger to her lips, but drew back quickly as she snapped at him. He smiled slightly. She saw a sparkle of laughter in his eyes. She questioned him with hers. He continued on. She watched him intently as he rose and retrieved another bowl of stew from the blacken pot. This time she took the spoonfuls without hesitation. When the last spoonful left the bowl, again she pointed for more. This time he retrieved a partial bowl for her, which she gladly accepted. She felt it wise not to ask for another. She settled back down on the bed, again he covered her. Soon sleep came.
The fullness of her bladder wakened her. The room was dark. Only the glowing embers of the fireplace told her where the door should be. She was afraid to leave the security of her bed. Yet she knew that if she did not heed the call of her bladder she would be sleeping in dampness. The word “toilet” entered her mind. It sounded foreign to her after all these years. She knew the man must have one. She searched the air for the scent of one. Nothing. Moonlight filtered through the window above the sink. Her eyes adjusted to the light it provided. She slowly headed for the door only to find it locked. She panicked. She turned the doorknob back and forth then shook the door. Nothing. She began pacing back and forth. The man rose and grabbed a flashlight from a small table by his bed. He took her by the wrist and pulled her to a door at the opposite end of the room. He opened it and shined the light on a large can with a seat on it. He hung the flashlight on the wall, guided her in, and then stepped out shutting the door behind her. She left the small room a few minutes later. Flashlight in hand she walked over to the man’s bed. Turning the flashlight off, she laid it back on the small table beside him. Back in her own bed she felt sleep come again. She welcomed it.
The smell of cooking woke her the next morning. She rose and sat on the edge of the bed. She watched the man cooking. She looked at the door that led to freedom. She walked to it and tried the doorknob. It opened. Just then a large hand pushed the door shut. She looked to her right and the man’s face met hers. His eyes flashed in anger. She turned and retreated to her bed. He placed a plate of food on the table, sat down and motioned her to the other chair. She sat. He took a bite of his own food then pointed to hers. She reached onto the plate and scooped up the food with her fingers. He smacked the table with his hand. Startled, she dropped the food. He picked up a fork and put it in her hand. She stared at the fork for a while trying to remember, it seemed so long ago. After failed attempts, she soon found the use for it again and ate hungrily. The man smiled. His eyes showed that he was pleased.
It was mid-afternoon when he again approached her bed. He pulled a chair up next to her, and changed her bandage on her arm. He removed the bandage from her hip and, checking the wound carefully, chose not to apply a new bandage. He leaned back in the chair and studied this green eyed, ginger haired skeleton of a human being. . After a few moments he spoke. “I believe I know who you are”. She blinked in suprise. “Ah!” he continued, “You thought I did not speak. Much as you don’t it would seem. I felt it was only right that I should speak with silence as it might make you more at ease” She looked at the door. “Locked” he replied, “And it shall stay that way until I feel that you are ready to leave here. You are wounded and weak. I did not cause the wound on your hip. But I did the wound on your arm. I am sorry for that. You surprised me. I reacted. It’s a pity it had to happen. What caused you to come to me? Was it the smell of fresh meat?” She stared at him. His voice felt like a flowing stream to her. It was pleasing. “Oh come, come now”, he said sharply “I know that you can understand me. Four days you talked in your sleep off and on prior to regaining full consciousness. You knew how to use a fork. And you knew how to use the toilet. Perhaps it has been a long time since you have lived in society. But it’s obvious that you have. Shall we start out with something simple? What is your name? Ian is mine”. Her eyebrows rose in question “Name? My name. I know what it is. It’s…Its…MacKenzie. Why won’t the words form? Why won’t speech come to me?” He saw the struggle inside of her. He saw the tears forming in her eyes. He smiled and placed a hand gently on her leg. “It has been a long time since spoken words have left your mouth. Don’t be discouraged. It will come again. We never lose the ability. We just get a little rusty” He then rose and took the coat and bag off the hooks. “ I have some things to tend to”, he said as he opened the door “ I shall leave you. But I will not be long. Rest yourself”. She listened closely as he pulled the door shut. She heard the click of the lock. Her heart sank. Cut off from freedom again. She settled back in her bed. But this time sleep would not come.
She grew restless. She tried the door in case her ears had deceived her. They had not. She then proceeded to explore the contents of the cabin. She found some books. It had been years since she had looked at a book. She opened one, but the words looked foreign to her. She then found one that had lots of pictures. These pictures were pasted onto pages. She took the book over to the table. The light from the window made the pictures easy to see. She recognized the man’s face in the first picture. She saw a large word above the picture. After several attempts she remembered the word, “Escaped”. She looked at the pictures. Slowly she began to form a story from them. This man Ian was hiding because he was in trouble. Something bad. “No”, she thought “Not this man. This man is too kind.” She struggled to read. She knew how to read once. She knew she could again. She remembered the words “murder” and “police” and “wanted”. But again she did not believe it was the man Ian. She heard the key in the door. Hurriedly she tried to put the book back, but it was too late.
He saw the book in her hand. His face became angered, then, just as quickly, it returned to normal. “I see that you have been restless”, he said reaching for the book. She held it away from him and struggled to form words that finally broke free. “Tell me!” she said boldly. “That is not of your concern” he replied, again reaching for the book. She opened the book to his picture. Pointing to it she said, “TELL ME! Not you! Can’t be!” “I’m afraid it is MacKenzie” he replied. Her face lost color as he spoke her name. “Yes” he continued, ”I told you that I believed I knew who you were. I did some checking at the library. They have old news articles in the archives there. Quite an interesting story it seems. However with the media you never know what is fact and what is fiction. Perhaps you will tell me the real story someday” As she stood dumbfounded, he gently pulled the book out of her hand and proceeded to put it away. He stopped and turned back to her. “No,” he said, “You deserve to know the truth. I feel I have nothing for fear from you knowing who I am” He sat down, silent for a while, and then proceeded to tell the story.
“My sister had been raped, then brutally murdered, by three men. The police did an investigation but a very sloppy one. At the same time, I did my own. I came up with much more than they ever could. I found those who had committed this evil act and I told the police. They would not follow up on what I had discovered. Whether it was because I had done their work for them, or because they were hiding something, I don’t know. Either way, they refused to act on it. So I hunted the murderers down, and killed them one by one. I was caught, convicted, and sent to prison for those murders. Seven years I watched and learned the patterns and routines of the prison. I learned it well enough that I was able to escape. I have been hiding every since”
He then placed the book back on its shelf. “No more locked doors”, he said, turning to her “ If the articles are correct, you too are running for your freedom. You may leave at any time. However I enjoy your company” MacKenzie felt faint. She needed to lie down. She fell into a deep sleep, as her mind took her back to a time long ago.
Sitting in the back seat of a car with her older brother, she looked at her mother who smiled at them over her shoulder. Her father, driving, was humming a tune. The highlands of Scotland looked different than the landscape of America where she was born. It would take some getting used to, this new life. She missed her friends in the small town of Oregon where she came from. “It will be like an adventure!” her father said, “You will love your grandfather’s farm. There are sheep and horses there. And they are yours to play with all you want”. She remembered the day when they received the news that Grandfather MacNaughton had passed away. The only surviving relative was his grandson, MacKenzie’s father. The entire estate had been left to him. With thoughts of a better life Liam MacNaughton up rooted his entire family and headed for Scotland. She thought about what life would be like here. Would she have any friends? Would they laugh at her because she did not talk like them? Suddenly she heard her mother scream “Liam watch out!” She watched as a black truck sideswiped their car, driving it off the road. As the car rolled out into a field, MacKenzie was thrown clear. She rose and turned, shocked at the scene before her. Her brother's body was crushed by the car, the blood slowly pouring from his mouth. Her mother’s legs were pinned by the front wheel. Where was her father? A man came around the car, holding a knife. He reached for her mother’s long blond hair. Her father appeared from the front of the car. Bloodied, he lunged at the man and grabbed him by the throat. The man drove the knife deep into her father’s stomach. Then turned to her mother as her father fell forward. Her mother cried out, “Run Kenzie! Don’t let then catch you! Never let them catch you!” MacKenzie ran out through the field as the man grabbed her mother by the hair and slit her throat.
MacKenzie sat straight up, a wild look in her eyes, her body covered in sweat. For a moment she forgot where she was. Then her eyes focused on her surroundings. She drew a long breath, letting it out slowly. Ian, sitting at the table, quietly said “Memories of your past?” She nodded her head. Her mouth was very dry. She got up and searched for water. Ian watched her then said, “What are you looking for?” She made a drinking motion. “Now we will have none of that”, he said, gently scolding her, “You can talk. Tell me what you want.” She struggled with forming a word. Finally she found it. “Waaater” she said slowly. “You will find some in the ice box behind you”, he replied. She drank greedily. “Come. Sit”, he motioned her to a chair “Let me see your arm” He pulled up the sleeve of the old scrub top he had clothed her with. While changing her bandage he spoke, “It’s a good thing that I had a couple of these old scrub sets here. The clothes you were wearing weren’t clothes by any definition. Soon I will go into town and buy you new clothes.” She looked at him in surprise and said firmly “They see you”. He gently rubbed her head and replied, “This town is so small they don’t know much of the outside world. The word about me has not gotten here yet. And, considering that what happened to me happened some 3000 miles away, I doubt it will for a long time” he smiled, then added “But thanks for your concern”. She smiled back. This pleased him. Suddenly she froze, her nostrils flared, she took in the air deeply. She walked to the door and opened it. She froze again and sniffed the air. She walked back to Ian, patted his shoulder saying “Stay”, and went out the door. He stood up and went to the door. Looking around, he saw no sign of her. Nor did he hear her. He walked a few yards. There was no sign of her. “MacKenzie?” he called. “Shhhhhhhh!” a voice said, “Go back. Someone near” He looked up and saw her in the tree above him. She waved him back. He stepped back into the brush. He looked up again. She was gone. He stayed in the brush, his eyes searching for a glimpse of her. After what seemed like an eternity she showed up next to him, startling him. Then she headed back to the cabin. He followed. Closing the door, he then turned to her and said, “You are going to take some getting used to. What was that all about?” “Hunters”, she replied. “Ah yes” he said looking at the calendar, “The season has started. Well then we must be careful now. I have always feared that perhaps one of them might be from the east and would recognize me” MacKenzie nodded her head in agreement.
The next morning Ian awoke to find MacKenzie gone. “Perhaps she’s gone for a walk”, he thought to himself. But when noon arrived, he began to worry. He knew she could fend for herself. But with hunters out there now it could be dangerous. He searched for her. Nothing. The sun was setting. He decided that he would never see her again. She was gone. Back to the woods she loved. He returned to the cabin. It seemed cold and empty now. Dinnertime came and went. But he was not hungry. He had carried the ache for his sister all these years. Telling him self that he could never again feel the love he had felt for her. That was all about to change because of MacKenzie. Now he mourned for MacKenzie in very much the same way as he did his sister. He stared into the flames of the fireplace. Images of his sister filled his mind. The turning of the knob caught his attention. It slowly opened and MacKenzie crept in. She looked at Ian sheepishly, like a child arriving past her curfew. He quickly got to his feet and took her in his arms, pulling her close as though to never let her go again. She froze, her mind fighting the natural instinct to flee when trapped. “I thought I had lost you”, he said with relief. She relaxed, and put her arms around him, then pushed her head deep into his chest. Then slowly she left him and headed for her bed. She lay down. He followed and sat down next to her on the bed. Smiling, he covered her and kissed her forehead. She smiled back. He stayed with her until she drifted off, and then went to his own bed. Soon sleep found him as well. He woke a little while later to find her curled up next to him on top of the blanket.“Is this her way of apologizing for being gone?”, he thought to himself. Quietly he pulled up a second blanket to cover her. Then he laid his arm across her stomach and drifted back to sleep.
The sound of birds awakened MacKenzie. She rose and stretched, turning to look at Ian sleeping peacefully. She silently slipped out the door. The morning air greeted her nose. She inhaled deeply. She felt well, refreshed, alive again. She looked at her surroundings. The cabin, it’s back up against a small valley, was secluded and secure. A covered porch surrounded three sides of the cabin. This provided a good view of the entire area. The trees, surrounding the cabin, provided camouflage. This was her new home. She would not leave it. She felt safe here.
The morning sun filtering in through the window awoke Ian. He looked around for MacKenzie, but she was gone again. Concerned, he dressed hastily and walked outside. He found her sitting on the porch enjoying the morning sun. Smiling with relief he sat down next to her, putting his arm around her. Sitting in silence for a while, he then spoke, “You frightened me yesterday. I thought I would never see you again”. “Sorry” she said. There was a moment of silence. She looked down. He could see her eyes searching for words. Ian placed his fingers below her chin. Tipping her head up he looked into her eyes, and said, “Tell me your thoughts” After several minutes she began speak. Slowly, hesitantly at first, but soon her mind and lips found each other. “I left to scout the area. But then I felt the woods calling me. So I let it take me in. I ran. Just ran. No direction. No reason. Just running for the shear enjoyment of it. That’s something you might not understand. But it has been a life for me off and on since I was a child. I became hungry, so I ate some berries. Then I laid down in a meadow and thought. Just thought, about all the things that have happened in the last two weeks. I fell asleep. When I woke it was getting dark. I headed for my cave. But when I got there it didn’t feel like home anymore. It felt cold, uninviting, and empty. So I came back here.”. He hugged her tight her tight to his side. “I’m so glad you did” he replied.
She then continued, “I slept next to you last night, to let you know that I would like to be part of your life. I had a father once. He was killed, as was the rest of the rest of my family. Someday I will tell you about it. A kind man took me in years later. He taught me how to read and write, and live among people. He told me to never let go the senses that I had developed from living as a wild thing. He said they were a gift given to me and I should use them to my advantage. My relatives found where I was living and demanded I come home. They petitioned the courts and, even though I was 24, won the right to fly me back to the states. They did not understand my primal actions. They put me away saying I was incompetent. So I escaped and retreated back to the woods. I have been here every since” She then looked at him out of the corner of her eye and added, “You remind me of both my father and the man who took me in. I want to be with you, providing that you accept me for what I am” “And that I will” he replied solemnly, “That I will”.
Ian felt whole again. There had been emptiness since his sister’s death. He felt that emptiness being filled by MacKenzie’s presence. He wanted to teach MacKenzie all the things he knew. At the same time he wanted to learn what she had to offer. Her abilities astounded him. He set to work to tidy up the cabin and make it fit for her. Occasionally he glanced out the window. She sat where he left her. He placed a tape in a cassette player. The voice of Pavarotti broke forth singing “Miserere”. It brought back memories to Ian. MacKenzie came through the door. Mesmerized by the music she sat down at the table and reached out to touch the speaker. He stood there watching her as she stroked the speaker. As the last words lingered from the speaker she turned to him and said simply, “More”. “You enjoy that I see,” he said with a smile. “I have never heard anything so beautiful” she replied, “Please. Make it play again” He quietly showed her how the buttons worked, surprised that she had never operated one before. She listened to the music over and over again showing great interest in “Miserere” and “Nessun dorma”. This pleased him.
That evening, after a dinner of deer steaks and wild potatoes, Ian took down the book about himself. He showed MacKenzie the pictures and let her try to read the captions underneath them, helping her as she went. He said to her that she was “just a little rusty” and would soon remember how to read again. She was pleased that she could remember as much as she did. He pointed out pictures of his sister. MacKenzie mentioned how pretty she was and that it was a shame what had happened to her. Ian eyes became moist. MacKenzie noticed this and snuggled next to him saying that she would be his sister if he wanted her to be. He told her that she felt more like his child. She then asked if he had ever had a child. He said he had not, but if he had he would want one just like her. She smiled and hugged him. He kissed her forehead and rubbed a finger down her nose. She playfully bit at it then laughed. He joined in.
He placed his finger below her chin and tipped her head up so their eyes met. His face changed to a serious one as he spoke. “I have to go into town tomorrow” he said. “Fine” MacKenzie replied happily, “I’ll go with you”. Ian looked off. He had been prepared for her to say that. “No MacKenzie” he said, “People will recognize you. It wouldn’t be safe. They would try to take you” “But I want to be with you!” she protested. He drew her close saying, "I know you do, but not now. I’m going to buy you some clothes. Then I will cut your hair and make you look…well…more civil. After that then you may come with me. We will tell them you are my niece and have come to live with me. How does that sound?” MacKenzie looked away. She went to her bed and lay down, turning her back to him. He followed. He covered her, and then continued, “I’m truly sorry MacKenzie. But it’s for the best” Without looking at him she replied, “What if you don’t ever come back? I’ll have to come look for you. I’ll have to find you and rescue you. People will get hurt” Hearing that statement he got very stern with her “You listen to me! If I don’t come back tomorrow, you don’t come looking for me. You stay free. You understand? You guard this cabin until I return. I will return. I always do. In the meantime you stay free. If perchance I do not return, promise me that you will not come looking for me. Promise!” She turned, looked deep into his eyes and replied “I can’t” He knew she meant what she said. He looked off, and said with a sigh, “Very well MacKenzie”. He rubbed her hip then went to his own bed.
He lay there in the darkness. He heard the rhythmic pattern of her sleeping breaths. He heard her words in his head “People will get hurt” He wondered if she was really capable of aggressive acts. He wondered if she knew that people would get hurt because she had been placed in a position where she had to hurt people. He hoped he never had to find out. Primal instincts. Basic means of survival. She had them. But how far had she had to use them in her lifetime? As though hearing his thoughts, she growled in her sleep.
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