“I’m afraid you’ve lost me,” I said.
Silence a minute.
“Did you bring food?” He asked.
“Throw them down. I’ll get them when you have gone. You’ll have to do some more work for me. The beef is almost finished. I’ll need more than three wolves.”
“How much more?”
“As much as you can bring me, Jacob.”
“I had better go hunting now while I’m a little fresh so that I can sleep later,” I said.
“Don’t give up on me, Jacob. Keep your faith a little longer. Not much longer. One more day, Jacob. Things are moving faster than I had expected. Faster and faster all the time.”
I got up and went out for the wolves. I threw them down the steps one at a time. Each landed with a sickening plop and bled on the floor. I closed the door and stood in the living room, listening. A few seconds passed, then I heard a heavy, rapid breathing sound, a wet slithering, and a short series of deep, guttural sounds of joy. Then silence. I got more shells from the gun cabinet, drank a cup of coffee, and went outside again, looking for something else to kill . . .
Dry, bullet-like flakes of snow blew in sheets across the wintry landscape. The wind had picked up a bit and was punctuated by stiff gusts that almost rocked me off my feet. The clouds were so low that they seemed to pick up the glitter of them and reflect it yet again.
I was feeling terribly alone, and the desolation of the blizzard did not help to relieve my spirits any. I have always been what some people call a loner, one of those types who seldom find a deep need for the companionship of other people. Oh, there is Harry, of course. It is hard to imagine what the world would be like without Harry and his pot gut, his rather rank little cigars, his bushy eyebrows raised in surprise or lowered in consternation when he had to re-explain something to me. Harry was a fixture of the reality of this world, a familiar rock formation that would always exist. There had been women, too. There had been many women, really, but only two that counted. Yes, Jake Kennelmen had been in love twice, the loner himself. The first time had been with Jenny, blonde and thin with breasts like apples stuffed beneath her blouse, all out-thrusting and ripe. Cool Jenny with all of her books, her Salinger and Heller books, everything else that was resurrected avant-garde. Why I loved her, I don’t know, though there was more to her than the hip, suave, cool, beautiful exterior. There was a basic tenderness to her, an animal warmth, a place to go and find sympathy and understanding after a journey on rough seas. And she had left me. Who wants a gangling, somewhat skinny, tousle-haired, long-faced physician when you can swing with any man you want? A good question. It must have occurred to Jenny. One night she was there, the next morning gone. And there had been Kim with dark brown hair, dark brown eyes, dark brown skin. There had also been the fire . . . The fire and the crisped corpse, the shriveled, charred limbs just two weeks before the wedding. Other than those three, I had no real friends. Now one was gone off with someone else. Another was dead. The third was a couple of thousand miles away in New York City. Right now, I wished I had all three of them with me, all three cuddled against me. I would even have appreciated Harry’s cigar smoke in my face.
The android was not really a friend.
He was less than a friend and, perversely, more than a friend. I could not understand Him or any relationship with Him. Our personalities crossed, webbed, and formed something, though what it was remained a mystery insoluble. I concentrated on hunting, trying to dispel some of the gloomy melancholy I was giving myself over to.
I got the magnetic sled from the shed and took it along the row of foothills upon which Harry’s cabin perched, drove two miles away. Touring the edge of the tree line, I eventually found a place where the snow was beaten down, and where the ground was blanketed by fresh deer tracks, still uncovered by new snow. Pulling the sled into a nook in the pines, I stopped it, checked my gun and the narcodart pistol, and waited.