The next night, the shots came from the main room of the cabin, pointed, he knew somehow, towards his head.
A long time ago, when our ships still floated across the sea at the mercy of the wind, and our goods were still carried across the land in rattling carts pulled by stoic beasts, an old man lived in a cabin buried in a lonesome valley, far from any society. He kept chickens in a small coop outside, and foraged roots and herbs and wild vegetables from the wild mountain slopes that rose on either side of him. On occasion he would catch a pheasant and cook it over an open flame. It had been this way for many years. In his youth he had lived among others, and perhaps had even known them, but his youth was far behind him now, and so were those he had known. He could no longer remember when he had last found need to speak aloud. This forgetting gave him no trouble. It was as he had always wished.
The old man’s cabin had been there since before his time. He did not know who had built it, or when, only that it was sturdy, and would endure longer than he. There was an inscription carved into the wood above the door, but the old man had never learned to read, and it remained a mystery to him. It was a simple two-room structure, with a small dining table and space for cooking in the main room, and a simple cot on which he slept in the bedroom beyond. The roof sloped steeply and was covered in wooden shakes, which had swelled tightly together over the course of many rains. He shivered in the winters and sweated in the summers, but never doubted he would weather them. It was quiet in the valley, and mild. Birds called, wind rustled leaves, animals stalked through the grass. Most evenings he sat outside, watching the sun sink into the mouth of the valley. That was all.