Page Turner Challenge: Picks
A Man Falls, Burning by Susan Ellis
A man falls, burning. He falls lightly, carelessly, faster than the snowflakes falling with him, streaming smoke. No one sees him fall, with the exception of a dog sleeping curled up in the snow, covered in a dusting of new snowflakes, protected by his double pelt of stiff black fur and thick undercoat. He senses something, a smell, and cracks open his eyes.
The dog jerks his head up when the man crashes into the stand of naked red willow boughs growing at the edge of the lake. He leaps to his feet. Being young and curious, he trots over to investigate this interesting development, followed by an older and more cautious dog. He has discovered other carcasses near the cabin that is his home, namely a duck, baby grey jays, and once a pile of caribou guts that he rolled in ecstatically.
The dog runs up and back, smelling the cooked meat but also acrid burning hair. The body lies half in the lake, where it has shattered the new ice and the water hisses with steam. He sits, howls. The older dog approaches cautiously, sniffing one charred hand that lays palm up, the fingers seeming to beckon. The other hand grasps the base of a willow shoot, and the legs, impossibly twisted, lie in lake water. The face is blackened. What once were pupils stare flatly at the sky. The hair smolders.
The dogs lie down in the snow to wait. The snow falls harder.
Susan Ellis is from Marsh Lake, YT