The fuel needle danced dangerously low. He parked his motorbike near a clump of sage, his weary bones groaning in the increasing chill.
The detour to avoid the police check-post had cost him.
But his treasure was safe. He felt the rucksack for the spoils of the hunt; two freshly skinned pelts of the snow leopard. He had stalked them patiently. Once trapped, he had bashed their skulls in, careful to leave the beautiful skin intact. They would fetch good money. But right now he needed to find shelter. The vast emptiness of the blue and purple mountains mingled with `arid plains stretched far into the evening sky.
Half a kilometre away, a lone cottage stood on the top of a small hill, its whitewashed walls gleaming against the orange sky. As he climbed the trail to the house, he saw two bikes parked behind a huge rock, their bodies embalmed in mountain dust. Maybe it was a resthouse.
He knocked. The door slid open. The air inside was thick with the aroma of spiced apples. A lone kettle stood on a table, the steam quietly curling out of its spout. Tempted, he pulled a mug hanging on a hook behind the door and poured himself a cup.
A bed piled with blankets lay in the other corner. The wall behind it was lined with paintings of Tibetan mythology, in beautiful browns, reds and burgundy.
Settling on the bed, he sipped the tea, the hot sweet liquid infusing him with a delicious languor. As he lay there admiring the intricate paintings, he grew aware of another smell, a cold metallic smell, oddly familiar. It grew stronger as he leaned towards the foot of the bed. There in the lengthening shadows, there was another door.
Curious, he kicked the door and entered a room, it’s walls filled with paintings, the same odor now sharper. He yawned. A mug of paint and some brushes lay next to the only bare canvas in the room. He swirled a brush in thick paint, and took a swipe, drawing a swathe of color on the canvas. That was odd. The painter had only one color. Red.
As he struggled to keep his eyes open, he suddenly knew what the room smelled of ….it smelled of the hunt.