The island was new.
It is not unusual for islands to appear at the northern edges of Blood Lake. Or on the western edges, either, for that matter.
Normally, they were small bits of land. Perhaps an acre or two in size.
This one, which appeared in the early hours of the day, was huge.
All of Blood Lake had expanded with the island, and from where I sat in the boat, the lake stretched farther than I had ever seen it.
The ravens had returned with a report of the island. They didn’t see anyone, nor did they happen to notice any birds or wildlife. The island, Edgard told me, smelled wrong.
I left the dogs at home, howling on the shore as I paddled away. If the island were as bad as the ravens had hinted at, it was best that I go alone. I could survive. The dogs might not.
I’d buried enough dogs in the past few days. I had no desire to bury anymore.
When I reached the island and dragged the canoe up onto the shore, I was struck by the silence of the place.
I was, I realized a heartbeat later, the only living creature upon it.
Of that, I had no doubt.
But just because there wasn’t anything living didn’t mean there wasn’t any danger.
I drew both Colts, double-checked the loads, and then stepped out along a well-worn path.
As I went, I passed discarded equipment. Bits of harness, canteens, tools to clean rifles. A few rounds of a make I’d not seen before, and kit much the same. I came across a few pieces of paper, but it was printed in a language so strange it hurt my eyes to read them.
I soon came upon spots of desolation. Burned grass and shattered trees, iron shrapnel and broken rifles. Charred flesh and blackened bones soon greeted me as well.
Soon, the desolation became wider, oases of unblemished grass becoming rarer.
Finally, I came upon a town.
Little was left of it, and those few buildings that still stood were mocking obscenities of what they had once been.
I didn’t need to see my mother’s name scrawled across a door to know I was looking at her handiwork.
I stood in silence for a short time and then turned and retraced my steps to the shore.
There was nothing I could do.