Cold Voice

On the banks of the Yukon River, around one hundred-fifty miles Northeast of Fairbanks, a man claws his way from the water onto dry land. Tired, he slowly pulls himself and a backpack onto shore one arm at a time. Finally getting out of the water, he turns, lays with his back on the gravel, and does his best to catch his breath.

After resting, he sits up and surveys his surroundings. The river, water low, is mostly flowing but partially iced over in spots. The gravel bed he is on is just a small patch clear of snow. All around him was more snow, trees, hills, mountains, and the cold river.

Minutes earlier, he was paddling downstream in his canoe heading home. The old, patched-up wooden canoe held his backpack, rifle, and a prize moose, shot and prepared that morning. Because of its size, the moose weighed down the canoe. He was coming back from one of many hunting trips in order to stock up protein for the winter. The moose was indeed a prize as it had enough meat to last through spring.

While paddling, he noticed the water moving faster, being choked by ice on both left and right bank. Then there were rapids up ahead – not so bad – but worrisome enough given his heavy cargo. He navigated through the rapids, and dodged rocks and ice. Then up ahead was a choice – small rocks on the left with relatively smooth, shallow water, or on the right, a large boulder with fast rapids. He thought that the boulder route, though seemingly more rough, would be passable because the water was deep. That’s the route he should take.

Then, a quiet, gravelly-sounding voice inside persuaded him to go the other way – that it would be safer, and that he would navigate the obstacles safely. The water, after all, was smoother on the left. He listened to that voice and headed toward the small rocks and smooth water.

In seconds he reached the small group of rocks. The canoe hull scraped hard against the shallow bottom making it lurch forward and up. The bow fell back and dipped well below the water line, and quickly filled up. He could not recover; The canoe kept dragging then crashed into a submerged rock smashing it in two. Everything in the boat was under water, except for his backpack which floated. He grabbed and held on to the backpack to keep his head above the water.

Now on the gravel bed, he stood and looked in the water for any part of the canoe or its cargo. He saw nothing. It was all lost. He started to shiver. He opened the backpack and pulled out a set of dry clothes, and changed. Warming up and no longer shivering, he was ready to go home. Once there, he can rest then go back out again for another hunting trip.

He got his bearings and started the hike back home. He glanced toward the river one last time, hoping to see something from the canoe. But as expected, saw nothing. “I better get going,” he thought. “It’s gonna take me about two hours to trek home. And it’s getting late – a few hours before the sun sets. I can’t believe everything got lost. Why didn’t I go for the boulder? Why did I not trust myself? Why did I listen to that voice?”

The sky was bright and clear, but he knew that would change. The sun was already low in the sky, but will not remain there long. It would be a long trek through hills, dense trees, and cold weather. The snow will definitely slow him down.

Well into the hike, he thought about home. It was a small, timber cabin he built by hand. It wasn’t much, but it was his. The property included a food storage shed and an outhouse. He was ready to get home and light a fire in the stove to warm up. Altogether, his homestead was fairly comfortable. But now he has to focus on the hike through the rugged path blanketed by snow – just hiking.

After an hour, he sees a campfire up ahead. It was close to his home, now nearby and just on the other side of the hill. Nearing the camp, he saw a man – heavy beard, worn outdoor winter clothing, sitting by the fire, and cooking! The man was wearing a red cap, a dull yellow coat, and dark pants. With him is a sled filled with supplies, a rifle, and a Husky. Hardly startled, the bearded man says hi and gestures for the hiker to join him.

“My name is Rex,” said the bearded man in a low raspy voice. “I have more than enough food and coffee for us both. And, I’m looking forward to your company.”

The hiker sat next to Rex, and felt skeptical: “I’m Barry. It’ll be good to take a breather.”

“Glad you came by, Barry,” said Rex. “I cooked enough meat for us both, and glad I can share. I had a feeling that I’d meet you or someone out here in the wild.”

“Really?” questioned Barry. Something about Rex’s voice sounded familiar. Surprised by the visitor, he continued: “I never see anyone around this area – not since I built my home. How is it that you’re here?”

Rex grabbed plates from his pack and filled them with grilled moose hot off the fire. He handed a plate to Barry then followed that with coffee. After a few bites, Rex began: “I’m just heading north – at least it seems like I’ve been doing that for ages. Isn’t that something?”

Barry was sure he heard that voice before. He started eating. “This is good,” said Barry. “Thanks again.”

Rex tossed some rare meat to his dog. The Husky sniffed the meat and hesitated, but eventually started to eat. “You have a really light pack for hiking around here,” said Rex. “Shouldn’t you have more gear, more stuff?”

“It’s a long story,” replied Barry, “but my home is just over that hill.” After a long pause, he continued: “I went hunting and caught game, but lost it in the river. It was enough food to last the winter. Now I have to try again. I’m not sure I can do it, that I have enough time.”

Rex nodded his head. “I think I can help at least to give you something to think about.” He rummaged through his pack and pulled out a deck of cards.

Barry recognized the cards and said: “I know about that – Tarot cards. They tell the future.” To himself, he though why would this man have Tarot cards?

“Not quite,” said Rex as he shuffled the cards. “They just help us understand what’s going on. Nothing more.” Rex spread the cards and had Barry choose one. Barry drew the Seven of Swords. Rex started to laugh in a low, gravelly tone. “Someone is lying to you,” was all he said. He laughed again. Barry tried to hand the card back but Rex said to keep it.

The sun dipped below the hills and mountain. The wind picked up and howled through the trees. Clouds started to gather as well. It’s going to snow. Rex continued to laugh. Barry again thought that he recognized Rex’s voice. Concerned and suspicious, he got up, dropped the card and unfinished meal, and said he needed to get going before the weather goes to shit.

As Barry started to head off, Rex continued to laugh and again repeat, “Someone is lying to you!” His laughter got louder.

Barry sped up and started to feel better now that he had a little distance from the campfire. Rex’s morbid laughter subsided as it was drowned out by the howling wind. The weather was worse and started to snow. He needed to get home fast. He heard a bark from the Husky, but did not turn around.

Barry crossed over the hill and headed down the small valley where his house is located. He sees it in the distance and expresses a sigh of relief. But it doesn’t look right.

He gets to the house. It looks abandoned. Dead trees litter the property, with some fallen timber laying directly onto the roof. The windows are busted out and the broken front door is laying on the ground about twenty feet away. He ran inside and found the same. Inside looked like it was abandoned years ago – with remnants of furniture, leaves and trash all over, dust everywhere, and walls and floor decayed. It looks like no one has been here for years. “What the hell,” Barry said, completely bewildered by what he saw.

He ran outside. It was his house alright. The shed and outhouse were also disheveled. He ran around the house trying to figure out what had happened. He tripped and fell face first in the snow. All around him, he again heard that low, raspy voice say, “Someone is lying to you.”

“It’s him, it’s him,” Barry realized. The voice he heard earlier today on the river was Rex’s. He remembered; The voice lied to him and told him to go left, causing the canoe to crash and sink in the water. “That bastard lied to me.”

Pissed, Barry gets up and heads back over the hill toward the camp site. It was a hard push given the blustering wind and heavy snow. He finally got back to the campsite. Rex and his Husky were gone. The campfire had just been put out and was still smoking. He looked around – cold, angry, and scared – and started to cry. He sat on the log next to the snuffed out fire, and saw several Tarot cards in the snow. They were all the same – the Seven of Swords – just like the one he dropped just a bit ago. He picked it up and looked.

The card had an image of a man with a sly look on his face. He looks to be stealing away, carrying seven swords. Like Rex, he wore a red cap and a dull yellow tunic.

It was now completely dark. The wind blew more snow onto Barry, who was sitting still and quiet. “I should have gone right,” he thought. “I should have gone right. I’ll go right next time.”


This is Dante P Ramon, your host and author of The Dark Reading, a collection of original scary stories inspired by Tarot cards. I invite you to follow my website as I present new stories on a weekly basis. I also record and distribute my stories via podcast. So, visit us on the web at, and feel free to share The Dark Reading with your friends.
I just drew the Death card, so good night for now.


Season 1 Episode 27.

©2021 The Dark Reading. All Rights Reserved.

This, and all stories on The Dark Reading are original and written by Dante P. Ramon.

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