“Footsteps” is one of the outstanding stories of the second biannual International Short Story Contest 2017 written by Solomon Ambler-Danyluk, The North Halifax Grammar School, UK.
Adam fought the temptation of sleep, focusing on the fireplace that let out soothingly warm air. A small, grey dog stood at the bedside, sporting a gleaming, silver collar that read, ‘Jeb’ – it appeared to be sinking in the mass of silver fur. Jeb licked Adam’s hand that was hanging off the mahogany framework of the bed and then proceeded to whimper for its master’s attention. Using all his willpower, Adam manoeuvred himself so his back lent against the bed’s railing and reached for the ornately designed, China cup on the table neighbouring the bed. He drank the warm, dark substance – long black coffee. With each sip, energy trickled into Adam’s system to the point he could stand up and move around. Putting down the now empty cup, he went towards the window of his small, wooden cabin, followed by Jeb. Outside was a winter snowstorm – specs of white flurried the scenery, the once iridescent grass and vegetation was now under a thick blanket of snow while the past azure sky was hidden by all the white particles. Underneath the window ledge, scraped onto the sturdy, oak wall were a large clump of tallies; Adam scrapped one more using his bare nail. He sighed and sat down onto the crumpled bed sheet and looked at Jeb with his sapphire blue eyes imbued with sorrow and regret. He had remembered how he got here, in this cabin in the woods.
Adam and Jeb were taking a hiking trip up a small mountain, nothing to large. A straightforward, spiralling path was engraved into the colossal behemoth, while a myriad of trees dotted the landscape. The two had everything packed up – food, water, heat sources and a small tent in case the trip took longer than expected. Unware that anything would be trailing them, they set off for their adventure. Half way up the mountain, Adam and Jeb needed a rest; they sat down and refreshed themselves. While resting, delicate snowflakes lightly showered down onto them – the start of winter. Suddenly, Jeb let out a small growl and began to look uneasy at the surroundings – Adam ignored it, putting it off to the fact Jeb hated cold weather, and the two set off again.
After their break, sounds of crunching leaves and crumpling snow were heard behind the two – Jeb’s perking ears were signs that it wasn’t just Adam. The sounds were characterised by a slow tempo but they had a certain presence; that made them more definite – as if a wild animal was trying to stalk them, but how? This area of the mountain is supposed to be safe! The two had started to pick up pace, adrenaline had kicked, fearing what the beast behind them was going to do to them. With the increase in pace, the atmosphere had tensed up and the sounds increased in loudness. Adam had seen strange markings on some of the tree, claw marks? A sense of dominance by the animal or a vicious attack on previous victims? Fearing for their lives, the two decided against heading back down and headed further up, in camouflage of the trees until they came across an abandoned cabin in amazing condition. Inside, it was packed with firewood; knowing this, the two took refuge and had not come out since. It was very lucky as Adam had started to feel exhausted physically, and emotionally.
Adam was now staring at the doorway – backpack strapped up with Jeb at his side. The two were to set out when the storm had dissipated.