He was alone out here about two miles from his cabin, his Dad’s cabin, when the thought first hit him; that he hadn’t locked the door. He patted his cargo pants and felt the key on his left side but didn’t remember actually doing it.  He stood on the front step to examine the window before his hike. The hole was covered with duct tape that he had criss crossed into a new flimsy pane.
“This will have to last until Monday, “ he said aloud to himself
Standing on the front porch, he could see the holes where he didn’t affix the pieces together correctly; pin-sized and almost tiny but not, and enough for air to freely flow back and forth. Every time a breeze blew he felt it. It was Saturday afternoon. He had two more days before he was leaving.
“This can wait until Monday.”
Looking at it only a few seconds longer, he nodded to himself to affirm and began walking west towards the boulder with the blue paint mark. It was warm enough. There may be another sudden gust this weekend. There may be more windows to patch depending on the direction of the storm. For now, all was still. He heard a couple crow calls earlier, around eight am, and then nothing. There was no wind or sound or movement in the woods.The cabin stood at the edge of the lake in the middle of a trail, not the mouth of the hike. Because he only hiked when he visited the cabin, Milo was always forced to start with The Blue Trail. If he was feeling up to it, he would cut north and wander the three miles through the Red Trail and decide later if he was game for the Black Trail. He was tired and hadn’t slept well because of the shattered window at 1:00 am so he doubted he would make it there. He never ruled it out though. The Black Trail was a beautiful hike through the middle of the forest. In the summer, it was lush and colored by unidentified evergreens, pines, full blue spruces, oaks, and fir. In summer, it was littered with people and birds: sparrows, blue jays, cardinals, finches, hawks, owls, the occasional eagle,  and tons and tons of goldfinches. Milo loved birds. He loved listening to them during his days at the cabin with his dad.
“Look!” He would nudge his father every time they saw a cardinal. “Look!”
Cardinal,” his father said.
Milo would nod. His father would walk in front of him.
“And what’s the black and white bird and the long tail that sang to us this morning?”
            Milo would look sheepishly at his shoes.
“Magpie.”
“Good son,” he would say without turning around.
There were other animals; deer, beavers, frogs at the edge of the lake, turtles on the logs. Sometimes he would feed the squirrels old popcorn. He would pass chipmunks, the occasional fox, and even the occasional coyote. He heard that wolves sometimes roamed the perimeter but he never saw any. In winter, that’s when he usually took the time to visit, everyone abandoned the area and all animals moved south to eat or north to hibernate. In fall, they began the migration. It was lonely and Milo decided to catch the last of them this year. He had reserved the cabin every January since his dad died five years ago. Usually holing up with Bourbon and weed or, on his wilder years, acid or shrooms or even cocaine, he would begin to go through old letters slowly developing a manic need to fly through the forest at night.  Watching himself tread the snow-covered floor, he wanted the sound of the morning birds: the magpies and the sparrows, the coffee maker, his father’s cough from the living room, the shower starting. Last year, he sobbed on the frozen lake willing it to crack. He cherished the couple of spiders nesting in the corners of his bedroom. He was completely alone again and spent hours rehearsing one of his father’s old plays with them, pretending they were an audience. Pretending he wasn’t alone.
This year he came in fall, tried to grieve in sunlight. Find all the magpies. Find the last herd of deer. Feed any animal, even raccoon, that would pass him. This weekend was remarkably warm but caught in the center of a wild storm. The wind had shattered one of his windows the night before. Today, sparkly and sunny. Last night, heavy gusts kept him up all night. He had paid attention to the weather reports and knew the storm was coming back: heavy rain, wind, lightning but this was the only weekend free.
“I should have fucking patched the window.’
He took a sip of water from the bottle in his right pocket and then paused. About two miles in and past the tree he always noticed; the one with the X carved neatly into it from some bored kid or illegal hunter’s buck knife, he  paused. Suddenly not remembering if he locked the front door, he was overcome with a sensation; something unfamiliar, the sensation, and a thought pattern he had never had to soothe before. It started at the bottom of his spine and traveled upwards through his shoulders. A sharp squall hit his back and he turned around but all he could see were trees. When he turned around, he felt no breeze and saw only brown trunks and white ground. The cabin was out of sight and it would him take him too long to circle back, yet he stood there, frozen, waiting for the door to answer. He thought to himself: I didn’t lock the door and the thought reverberated.  It seemed strange to even question it but he was used to coming in winter when no one else was here. He hadn’t hear or seen anyone else was here.  I own nothing of value. The cabin had a typewriter, a flashlight, some snacks. The thought lingered.No, it wasn’t that passive. It wasn’t lightly on his mind; it was gripping his mind. He felt anxious. He patted his pocket to feel for his key.  I must have, he thought. He turned back around to face the X.
“I must have.”
Yet, he couldn’t remember doing it; actually taking the key out of his pocket and turning the lock, checking to make sure that the door was locked. Milo stood silently on the trail and thought about it. He remembered standing on the front porch to examine his window. He remembered taking the bottle of water out of his pocket to drink. He remembered walking towards the boulder. He did not remember locking his door.  Milo waited another few seconds for something to interrupt: a rogue squirrel or light breeze or late morning dew drop from a branch. Nothing shook him. He held the key in his pocket and stared at the X. Let it go.  A crow called in the distance.  It must be noon, he thought. Let it go.
It was October thirtieth, 12:02 pm, and seventy-seven degrees outside when he heard the first cry.

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