It was the children that love to look at him more than anyone else. Maybe it was because he was some kind of a novelty in their lives, having seen only their parents all their lives. The man in the bed just lay there, having been unconscious since the day he appeared in the front lawn of their cabin, far into the tundra. They had a decent life there, maybe not very exciting but they it was consistent and it was mostly safe to raise a family and to create values that in the rest of the world we in decline.
The man they had found had his nose broken and several bruises all over his body, as if someone or something had kicked him repeatedly. He had some older scars and he had a black eye that healed pretty quickly. Yet, he wouldn’t wake up. Mama would try different salts and medicines they had, she tried the fat of the animals they hunted and several leafs and fruits from the forest but he appeared to be oblivious to an of them. Father was a bit more violent and would yell in different volumes to try and wake him up. He would say different kinds of things including asking him if he was a soldier or a spy but it never worked.
After the first month, they got really worried. Even the children, who love to go into that room and play around the man, were now tired of him been asleep and wanted him to live, maybe even to tell them their story. The kids, boy and girls of around ten years old, jumped all around the poor man and screamed like crazy, hoping it would work but it didn’t. They pushed him hard and were even as violent or more than their father. They cried and screamed and the kicked him and screamed again but eventually they would just make their parents crazy so they stopped.
Outside, winter was finally over and the sun was beginning to be a little stronger. In this region of the world, winter never really ended and it was cold all year except for some days were things appeared to change. Anyway, the fact was that there was no more snow and the temperature was tolerable so Father took both kids hunting one day and retook the lessons he had been giving them before the winter. He had been teaching them about the bow and arrow and how to use them and how not to scare your prey.
As the kids and their father bonded, Mother stayed in and cooked some deer meat she had frozen a week before. Deer meat was the best kind of food one could find in the region as it was soft but also rich in nutrients and could pass for cow meat, which they never consumed. She chopped some of the vegetables they grew on the greenhouse and put them in the pot with the meat. She realized she had forgotten to chop the onion so proceeded to do it but them a muffled voice, more of a complaint, was heard all over the house. She turned and screamed her lungs out.
The youngest heard her and ran as fast as he could to the house, followed by his sister and Father. When they got there, the man that had been in bed for so many months was laying face down on the kitchen floor, now drooling and making a very strange sound. The Mother was livid, shaking like crazy. She was still holding the big knife she used to chop things and only let it go when her husband pulled it away from her. He then checked the pulse of the man on the floor and realized he was still alive and that his pulse was faster than before. He asked everyone to help him carry back to the room and there they tied one hand to the bed, preventing another scare.
At dinner, everyone ate their deer in silence. They didn’t talk, ever, during meals, but this time Mother started crying and told Father she couldn’t keep living like this, with that man being captive in and improvised room. It was like keeping a prisoner and that didn’t make senses. She proposed to take him to the authorities, even if it meant travelling a full day to reach the nearest settlement. The Father did not respond, not right then at least. He had never trusted the authorities, even if it had been the government itself the one that had gave them authorization to live there.
He finally said he would think about it. He wanted to know that man wasn’t going to die in the middle of the journey. And he really wanted to know who he was and why he was wandering so far into the tundra. Mother did not insist, changing the subject to the children not eating because of the earlier scare. She was right: they had always thought of the man in the bed as some sort of good elf but after hearing their mother’s tale of how he yelled something she couldn’t understand and then collapsed and drooled making sounds, it scared them.
The next day, the Father tried again to make the man talk. This time, he didn’t yell or pushed him. He just sat down by his side and started reading the man in the bed the contract the government had given him in order to be able to live there. He started reading from the very beginning, with a normal pace and changing pages with a gracious move of the hand. The document consisted of at least twelve pages, detailing every single aspect the family had to take into account while living there.
Back when he had signed the contract, it was only Father and Mother. But the contract specified how many children they could have living in that house, the dimensions of he house itself, which animals they could hunt and which ones they couldn’t, from where they could grab the water to survive and which trees they could use for heating and so on. Every single detail about living in that remote region of the world was in those pages and Father read every single one of them. But he didn’t need to as he knew them by heart.
When he finished, he raised his head and realized the man had his eyes open. Without changing his pace or volume of voice, he asked the man who he was and what he was doing in his land. The man open his mouth but the words appeared to be trying to get out of it all at the same time. He grunted and tried again but nothing came out. He seemed to wanting to say something and he wasn’t happy at all when he couldn’t. He was certainly not happy when he couldn’t move one of his hands in order to complain. He looked at Father with red eyes, grunting.
Kids and wife looked at Father, how he asked silence from the Man and slowly move his mouth, making soft sounds and then reciting all the letters of the alphabet. The Man stopped grunting and looked at Father. There was something dark, something mysterious in his voice. As he tried to recite the alphabet two, he started sweating and his eyes went very fast from Father to Mother and then to each of the kids. It was unsettling and combining it with the letters of the alphabet didn’t make it any better. Father continued, slowly, by spelling his name. He did it several times, pointing at himself with a finger.
Then, he pointed at the man and fell silent. The man looked more scared that ever before and tried, again, to talk. At first, the same type of grunts returned to his mouth but then he tried to clear his mouth and a letter came out in a very deep voice. Mother let out a squeal and the kids’ mouths were very open. The letter was “D”. Father asked Mother something to write on and a pencil and she looked for them after snapping out of it. He wrote a big D and showed it the man, who nodded.
The following letters where “A” and “N”, so they decided that his name was Dan. He started coughing like mad after he had said that last letter; coughing so hard blood came out of his mouth. Mother brought him something to clean himself with but he prevented her from coming neared. He saw the spots of blood in the covers with terror, his eyes also filled with blood. He looked at them, hopeless and guilty. Trying to calm him, the family came closer but he just said to more letters, which Father wrote.
Something happened then that no one would ever be able to explain mainly because no person alive can really say what happened. Some say the gran began to shake, others say it was the roof that suddenly came off. All agree, however, that sound appeared to disappear for a moment in the world. Many years later they would found that house destroyed and the notebook where Father had written the word “DANGER”. In smaller writing, below, he had also written “deaf”, and that was it. No one ever knew what happened but it was clear the Man had failed to deliver his message.