She shook in her cage when she saw him enter the kitchen accompanied by a flick of the light switch. She hid her eyes from the light--her pupils were unable to dilate closed.
"Hhnnnnnnngrrrrr," she growled, then slammed her back into the top of the cage.
Wynn dropped the plastic bag he was holding on the floor. He pulled out one of the wooden kitchen chairs from the table and sat down. He pulled off his muddy boots and sat for a moment listening to the chug-chug-chug of the generator outside. He thought about where he might acquire some solar panels.
"Rrrunnnnnnthh," she grunted.
He turned his attention back to her. She was the neighbor's teenage daughter. Her head was shaved. She was originally in jeans and a shirt but those were too difficult to get on and off when she soiled them, so he dressed her in his dead mother's old nightgowns. She was still clean tonight.
"Grrrrreunnnnn," she moaned. She sniffed at the air.
"Yes, I've brought you some dinner. It's dead though, I'm sorry."
He got up and went into the living room and found his slippers. He put them on. He went into the downstairs bathroom, turned on the light, and looked at an array of leather belts and straps hanging from the shower curtain rod. He checked to see which ones were dry. He pulled down three, and twisted and folded them back and forth to make them more pliable. He turned off the light and went back to the kitchen.
He laid the straps over the cage, and she shook it from side to side.
"Yes, I know you're hungry. Hold on."
He picked up the bag and opened it out onto the table. Out slide a dead badger, its foot a bloody mangled mess.
"Poor thing," he said. "I need to get more live traps. Those leg traps are a little inhumane."
He pulled out the chair closest to the badger, then crouched down to her cage and unlocked the door. She skidded to the back and bared her broken teeth. He took a leather strap in his hands then opened the door.
"Come on," he said. "You want to eat, don't you?"
She lowered her head and crawled towards him. He snatched her wrists and pulled her out. She pulled back but she was too small to resist, even with her strength. She tried to bite his arm but couldn't get through the two layers of leather coat he wore at all times. She leveraged herself off the cage, pushing him off balance. They fell squirming to the floor, but he managed to put his weight on her and quickly bound her arms behind her with the leather strap. She growled but lost her resistance and went limp. He took up a second strap and bound her feet.
He picked her up and maneuvered her into the chair. She immediately dove her face in the badger and chewed at the hair. He sat down heavily in the chair opposite her and held down the badger's head so she would have some purchase on the body. He watched her tear into the skin then start sucking out the organs.
"You know, you've turned me into a vegetarian," he said. He smiled weakly and let his thoughts roam for a few moments. "You know," he continued, "when I first met you, I didn't know what to do. You were practically frozen in the snow. Too small to survive among the others, but still a danger to me. But you were just a child..."
She started cracking apart the spinal column of the badger. The sounds reverberated throughout the kitchen. Wynn looked at the clock on the wall with its stopped hands, and then the wall phone he hadn't touched in half a year. he looked at the cans of food he'd stockpiled in one corner of the room, and which were also stacked up between the counter and the cupboards, in the cupboards, and out in the back of the garage.
"Maybe I could last a decade," he said. "I'm just not sure it's fair to keep you here, just so I can have someone to talk to. To talk at."
He sighed deeply and put his head down on the table. She stopped eating and looked at him, then stretched her head to his hands. She licked his fingers, then resumed chewing on a kidney. He looked up. Her eyes darted to him then back to the badger.
Soon she was done with the badger, only bits of hair and the teeth remained. She had no problems with the bones, but she was always picky about eating teeth. She sat slumped in the chair. Wynn cleared away the bits from the table, then he stood over her. She looked up briefly and furrowed her brow. He untied her arms and they fell loosely to her sides. Then he knelt down and untied her ankles. He brushed his hands over the sore spots. Then he stood again, and was a little surprised that she stayed so motionless.
He took her elbow and pulled her to her feet and made her stand. She was a little unsteady, she was not used to standing, but gained her footing after a few moments. She looked down at his hand that held her arm.
He pulled her towards the kitchen door. He opened it, then the screen door. It was already dark from the overcast and rain, but would be also be night soon. The dimness comforted her eyes. He let go, and she walked out. He closed the door behind her and watched her run for the tree-line at the back of the yard. She disappeared into the darkness.
Wynn didn't see her again until a few weeks later when he was collecting firewood in the forest. In the summer heat he was sweating profusely under his coats and he hypothesized that the smell must have attracted her. She stood next to a tree several meters away, now naked, just watching him. He smiled at her and just observed her for a minute. Then he resumed chopping at a small tree. He swung his axe once, then glanced up in her direction. And she was gone.