"Go to Austria," my sister had said, "it'll be good for you to be by yourself, away from technology, people, and especially that ass, Rob." Now that I find myself in Austria, alone, with no means to contact the outside world, I fear I didn't think this through. My sister, Debs has four children under the age of four years old. Silence must be something she treasures. For me, however, I find the silence that surrounds me here to be crushing, like an invisible force that engulfs and consumes.
She was right, though. I needed to get away. Rob had turned my whole world upside-down and I never even saw it coming. What a cliché, with his secretary. Starting out the window as the snowflakes fall around the small wooden cabin so remote that there aren't any neighbors within walking distance, I feel that the Hyatt in my city would have been the kind of getaway that I would have appreciated more. Swearing at Rob and his young lover between SPA sessions and steam rooms would have been great, and snowless.
Anyway, I'm here now. It's done. I've arrived and I'm not leaving for another 12 days. Did you know that's 288 hours? I've had a lot of time here, although I arrived only this morning. Being without social media makes the days feel like they drag on endlessly.
What did people do before Facebook, Insta, and Twitter?
How long their days must have felt, so dull. The one positive about being here is the fact that I can't check my Facebook, which means I can't stalk Rob and the other woman. Since he dropped the bomb her face has become one that I hate passionately. I have spent much more time studying their photos than I would ever like to admit. I wonder how many new uploads there have been since I last checked. Geez. Debs would be so disgusted with me. I'm disgusted with me.
Looking around this small cabin, it surely feels homely. It's gorgeous, welcoming and offers a sense of warm that strongly contrasts the outside. The throw that is draped over the sofa is especially welcoming, seducing me with it's deep velvet tones and fluffy appearance. I run my hands over it and it's even softer than I imagined. The sofa is comfortable, too.
How long have I been asleep?
It's nearly dark, it seems. I must have been tired of the flight and the drive. I feel the familiar pang of hunger deep in my belly. A good diet hasn't been on mind much lately. I look through the pantry and I'm amazed. It's fully stocked with ingredients that would make world-renowned chefs feel very pleased indeed. My amazement is replaced by being overwhelmed. With ingredients stacked before me from artichokes to caviar, I really don't know where to begin.
I settle on an egg on sourdough bread, a classic, really. I browse over the wine selection that stands proudly to the side of the kitchen. I'm no connoisseur, but the deep red color of a locally produced bottle of Zweigelt wine captures my eye. I've never heard of it. The label describes it as being fruity, lively, and aromatic. I can do with all three those elements in my life. Just as I settle with my egg on toast dinner and my fat bottomed wine glass filled with fruity aroma, I hear a sound outside. It's hard to place at first. It's a rustling, something moving over the porch that hugs the front of the cabin. My heart leaps and my breath is shallow and ragged.
What if I got murdered in this little cabin tonight?
What if I came all this way to find solitude only to find my end?
What would my life have meant?
I take a big gulp of wine before getting up from the table. Liquid courage, my grandpa called it. I never knew the truth of that statement until this moment. With trembling hands, I close my robe, hoping for a false sense of safety. I walk over to the window as quietly as I can and realize I'm holding my breath. Crossing the beautiful wooden floor towards the window feels like the longest minute in my life. I pray silently deep within myself that the noise would disappear, but it overbears my prayers. Something is being dragged over the porch, slowly, torturing me. I curse my mind for immediately picturing a man with a machete dragging behind him over the wooden planks.
I take a deep breath to fill my lungs with air that never seem to reach them. I'm at the window. It's dark outside and mostly black, with shades of white where the day's snow fell. I try to summon some strength from deep within me, and I face the window. My own reflection unexpectedly throws me back for a second. A glassy ghost of myself staring into my own eyes. I look old for my time, worn, exhausted, and also terrified. I close my eyes for a brief breath and open them again, ready to face whatever fate awaits me.
Even though I had images of practically every horror movie I had ever seen running through my mind, I wasn't prepared for what I saw at the window that night. The dragging stopped as I put my head against the window, hoping and not hoping simultaneously to see what was happening out there. I didn't make sense of what I saw until the eyes staring back at me, blinked. I fell backwards in fright, landing on my butt on the floor. I screamed as I saw the eyes rise up higher in the window staring at me, still.
I'm not sure how long I sat on my butt screaming before I realized the eyes weren't human. The darkness and my fears had played tricks on me, making me a fearful fool. These were the eyes of an animal. I rose facing it again, and to my surprise it was an alpaca. My mind had so many questions.
Why is it here?
What does it want?
Are there any others?
Thoughts of an alpaca stampede ran through my mind. I was being stupid. I tried to look out further, to see more about my furry night visitor, but I couldn't.
Maybe I should go outside, I thought. I look a deep breath as I closed my robe that had become undone in my fall, and opened the door.
I can't believe it's been 12 days since I arrived in this wonderous place. I can't believe how much my feeling towards this small wooden cabin has changed. I can't believe how much I have changed in the last 288 hours. I just can't believe.
The night I walked out to the alpaca, I saw that it had injured its back leg. The dragging sounds were caused by the blackleg being pulled over the porch. I remember the mix of emotions that flooded me, relief that I was going to be OK, but more so a deep sadness for this animal.
A life here in the snow would be hard enough, I'd imagine.
That night I pulled my chair outside and my blanket and we starred at each other. The night after, it returned, and I sat with it in silence staring. As the nights flew past, it returned every night and by night 10, I was touching this gorgeous animal. I clung onto its soft fur as I wept for my losses, the loss of my marriage, the loss of my pride, but mostly the loss of my youth. I cried until I had no more tears left, and then I felt as if a weight had been lifted, as if the alpaca had somehow helped me remove that deep sadness.
I'm leaving today. I'll be returning to my home, my people, and life. A life forever changed. When my driver arrives, we'll arrange for help for the alpaca and I'll personally make sure it gets the care it needs. I owe it that much. It's a hero, my hero.
As I close the door of the cabin one last time, I know it won't be the final time, I'll return here and I'll see this kindhearted animal again.