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The Winter Human

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Humans were strange, particularly the one that moved in after the others went away.

He didn’t miss the humans from before. They were loud, mean, and didn’t appreciate his gifts, so if anything it was a relief when they left one day and never came back. Being locked out of his own house wasn’t a problem until winter, when prey was scarce and there was no escaping the cold. Luckily, that was when the new human showed up. How a human could spot his white fur curled up the snow, he had no idea, but it saved his life that night.

It wasn’t just the weird metal arm that made the winter human different from the others, or the weird smell. Somehow he was much scarier than the others, and also much more gentle. This made him interesting, and interesting was allowed to share his space.

The winter human called him Alpine, or Al for short. He liked the name better than You, which was what the others called him. It was short for many things—You Stop That, for example, or Damn You Go Away—and the way they said it, always yelling, made him dislike it and them. 

The winter human never yelled. He barely made any noise at all, except to greet Al by his new name. He was a good housemate, much better than the others, so Al thought he would appreciate it when presented with a rare and elusive inside mouse.

The reaction wasn’t quite what Al expected. The winter human looked at the fresh kill, then Al, then back again. 

“You’re a real cold blooded killer, aren’tcha Al?”

It was in an affectionate tone. That was good. He scratched Al behind the ears as he said it. That was even better. Al meowed.

“Yeah, me too.”

The sadness coming off the winter human was palpable. Maybe it was because one mouse wasn’t enough to feed him. He did seem to eat a lot more than the others, so that made sense for once.  He slept less, could surprise even Al when he crept around the house, but this much he could handle. Scary as the winter human was, he was still only human. Somebody had to watch out for him.

Al searched all through the house for more prey, but could only find a shed snake skin under the bed. The winter human was stretched out on the couch by then, eyes open but staring at nothing, so Al dropped the new gift right on his face.

That snapped him out of it. The winter human even made that weird chuffing sound humans made when they were happy.

“I was wondering where that sock went,” he said. “Thanks, buddy.” 

Al purred even louder than before and rubbed against the winter human’s chin. The rough texture there was nice. Al laid on top of his chest, paws just shy of his chin, and slow blinked as the winter human stared at him. 

This was nice.