Hey. Rune stopped, looked around him quickly. Dark woods to his right, snow-covered shoreline in front of him, a large sheet of frozen lake water to his left. No sign of intelligent life around him, save for the vapor of his breath rising in front of him.
But for the first time since walking away from the front door of his house that evening, he was certain that he wasn’t alone.
When he was stumbling through the woods towards this lake, there’d been a few times he thought he’d heard or seen someone, but each time he’d quickly dismissed the idea. Yet the voice he heard, this time it was accompanied by a presence, a tangible force he could reach for and grasp, if only he knew where it was. Perhaps this presence had been following him all through the woods; perhaps it had just arrived, announced its presence monosyllably.
Options. He could call out, something brilliant like who’s there? If he was right, they’d probably answer. But what if he were wrong, there wasn’t anybody there, he’d look like a fool — but to nobody. Unless there was somebody there, but they hadn’t said anything. Say nothing, then. But if someone was there, was trying to get his attention, that person, that presence, would see that he’d stopped, had heard something — another possibility of looking like a fool.
Compromise. “Must have been a fox.” Worst case scenario (presence was there but choosing to remain silent) was that he looked a little odd, talking to himself out loud. But he wouldn’t look foolish.