The knock on his cabin door broke the mountain silence. He rose from his chair and answered. Four young women stood on the porch.
“Our truck broke down,” the tallest one said. “Do you have a phone we could use?”
He shook his head. “No phones up here.”
“Oh.” The woman frowned and shifted, looked at her friends. “Okay. Thanks anyway.” They turned to leave.
Years ago he never saw the humans this far out. Now they came in larger and louder groups invading from the lowlands. The cabin hardly felt remote anymore. It was harder to hide.
From what? He didn’t know.
He no longer hiked to town to re-supply because each time there were more humans and each time he returned to the mountain a little more depressed. Now he only lived off what he could grow, forage, or kill.
He watched the women walk away.
“Wait,” he called.
They stopped and glanced back.
“Where’s your truck?”
He fixed the truck in five minutes. The women thanked him profusely. He nodded and returned to his cabin.
The sun set over the ridgeline. He sat on his patio sipping pine-needle tea and watching twilight bleed over the mountains. Clouds thickened from the north. Some hard weather coming down. It grew crazier every year.
Things were changing. He’d lived here fifty years and could see it in the wildlife, forest, snow pack. He could smell it in the air blowing up the valley on warm summer afternoons. These changes would not benefit the humans. He was no genius but knew about exponential growth and knew it ended badly. He’d seen it happen to wildlife and sensed it happening to the humans the way he sensed changing weather in his knee.
This invoked neither joy nor sadness. Just the same grim acceptance he felt while killing a deer and cutting meat from the carcass. He considered the humans increasingly strange and with each passing day he grew less like them and more like the deer.
He felt a twinge of nostalgia. For the way things used to be. For the house he grew up in and the forests he’d roamed as a boy. When he was one of them.
But there was no going back. A threshold had been passed. He knew something with certainty. Things would end badly for the humans.
And nothing could stop it.
He sipped his tea and watched darkness overtake the mountains and clouds blot out the starlight and felt in his knee the first blast of weather coming down cold and hard from the north.