The cabin was cold when they arrived and the first thing he did was go looking for a heater of some kind. He headed through the back and she heard rummaging, the sound of things being moved. Small things first, then bigger. He had left his bags in the middle of the room and it was amazing that despite being full of so many ‘essentials’ they hadn’t thought to bring something to keep warm. He had assumed there would be a heater or a fireplace. She had assumed he was right. She was still, stood by the door, looking around the place. There were deer antlers mounted to the wall by the skull. A stag’s in the middle, pride of place. She got a chill. Dead things gave her the creeps. The porcelain bone scalps, the hollows where the eyes should be. The antlers were impressive, sure, but she would bet any money they were more impressive out in the wild. She took a step closer to the wall, slowly held her hand up towards the smallest mount. A doe, maybe, or is it hind? A girl deer, at any rate. Her breathing was fast and she got another chill at being so close to the bones, but there was something drawing her to them. Perhaps it was the desire to conquer her fear, or maybe just that she wanted to feel a connection with the animal. She couldn’t say, but the smooth, grooved bone felt good against her fingers.

He came out with a sorry look on his face. "Nothing," he said.

She didn’t say anything, just stood with her fingertips running back and forth across the antler.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

She shrugged and brought her hand back. "Just feeling."

"Nice to get back to nature, huh?" he said. "I like getting away from the city. Shame about the cold. We’ll just have to cuddle up close."

She smiled and walked across to the window, crossing her arms in front of her chest as a third chill tingled up her spine. She felt the cold more sharply then, as she looked out at the forest. The bite in the air. He put his arm around her and she exhaled a long, drawn out breath. She wanted so badly to see a deer outside, alive and real; its hide dew-sodden, its eyes reflecting the towering trees. But the forest was still and she got the feeling they were completely alone, the only beating hearts around for miles.


About the Author: Samuel Best is a Glasgow-based writer and also runs Octavius, a literary magazine for students studying in Scotland. Samuel's début novel will be published by Fledgling Press in 2014 and is about Scottish national identity, violence and running away. He tweets at @spbbest and has more stories available here:

Story Song: "Small Black Flowers That Grow in the Sky" by the Manic Street Preachers.