Running Out Of Time
Running Out Of Time7 mins 442 7 mins 442
The pale moon crept out from behind the dark, ominous clouds. The night was harsh and cold, the merciless tundra blizzard buffeted me with snow. However, until just a few hours ago, it was anything but cold; a raging wildfire had swept over my camp. It had claimed everything, saved me, and only a few smoldering and charred pieces of wood remained to tell the tale. I was only half concerned when it ensued, for I did not possess much of value, but then reality struck me; I was several miles away from civilisation in the middle of the tundra with no means of travel. Earlier I had used sledge dogs and a craftily made sledge to traverse these lands, but the fire seemed to have driven them away beyond both my sight and comprehension. I was trapped.
At day-break, I scavenged the camp for any supplies I could find. I found food enough to last me a couple of days, but also an axe and a small box of match sticks. I by no means had the resources required for the arduous journey that was to ensue, and I knew this fact well. I wouldn’t last long in the harsh climate at all, and I had no means of communication with the outside world either. I had time, though little, to save myself. I gave one more glance behind me at the ashes of the camp and then began marching forward.
I walked all day that day, but I couldn’t tell of how much progress I had truly made, for the maze-like forest often forced me to change my course to go around obstacles, and through steep slopes, both uphill and down, where I had to find safe routes through. As I walked through these lands, I noted how barren it was. The numerous trees that frowned over me had had their leaves stripped away from them by the biting winds. Nothing moved around me, as if the land were itself dead from within; perhaps it was a famine, for no nuts, berries, rabbits or anything that signified life was in sight. I knew it wasn’t the nature of the tundra to approve of life. In fact, Nature seemed to do all in its will to extinguish the flame of life and to retain the cold, dead face of the land. The trees struggled with the wind till their old trunks were bent down and their branches bore no fruits nor leaves. The cold snow blanketed the ground, and dark clouds blotted out the sun, only letting a few unlucky rays of the light to filter into those forsaken lands. Nature had killed all that represented the futile struggle of life to persist there. And yet there I was, trudging along through those lands, alive, and with a goal to remain that way.
The sun slowly set, and the moon climbed up the sky once more. I set up camp, if one could call it that, for all it was was a log for a seat and a small flame in the middle for warmth. I had my bag next to me, then indeed for it carried very little. The flame offered me some comfort, and I slowly slipped into sleep. It had perhaps been a few hours later, or perhaps sooner. I awoke with a start; something had woken me up, something I couldn’t put my finger on. I slowly opened my eyes and stared blankly into what looked like dim, glowing orbs. I still stared blankly, but dread began to gradually tighten its grip around my heart. I quickly sat upright, simultaneously more of those “orbs” began to appear in pairs. I pulled out a firebrand from the bonfire that still burned in the middle. I took aim as one of the pairs began approaching me and hurled it at it. A shrill howl pierced the night’s silence and the creature made haste to retreat. I stared on in dread and disbelief; in the moment of me hurling the firebrand, I caught a glimpse of a snow-wolf. I did not know a lot about them, but enough to know that they were among some of the most skilled hunters of the region. I watched as all around me the ‘orbs’, which I now knew were their eyes, retreated, a result of the cry of their brethren. I slept no more that night.
I stayed awake till day-break and the wolves gradually retreated to a significant distance, wary of my doings. I had to get away. “Fear lends man wings”. Oh, how very true. Fear was my motivator that day, and with having been reminded of my mortality I made great haste, covering large distances, and occasionally looking back, only to find the wolves still there. I scaled slopes, went through steep gorges and snow-filled plains, but the distance between me and the wolves was only closing. As night approached, I used my axe and chopped down a small, dry tree for firewood. The happenings of the previous nights re-ensued, like a horrendous nightmare that returned to haunt me, except this was real. I decided to stay awake that night too. This continued, day after day, night after night, and the tundra seemed endless. The wolves grew bolder, and as each night approached, they came closer to my camp, forming a circle around it. I could not afford to sleep and food too was beginning to run short. However, the horror kept me awake. I knew it was only a matter of time until I reached the town, but that was what I was running out of; time.
Another day passed by, but this time I found hope: at the very end of my trek, in the distance, I saw a spire of smoke! “I did it, I have reached safety!” I thought, but then the sky turned gray once more, and I was forced to set up my temporary camp once again. I had no food that night, but the fact that the very next day I would be safe made hunger but a minor nuisance. I was also in the safety of fire, which kept the wolves at bay. The wolves were still patient though, and I tried to keep awake for as long as I could. However, my journey so far had exhausted me. My eyelids slowly drooped down to shut my eyes, and I could blink the sleep away no longer. Weariness got the better of me, and slowly I drifted away into sleep…
I awoke with a start, pain splinting through my limbs. I looked around frantically to see two young snow wolves upon me, biting into my leg and arm. Instinctively I grabbed the firebrand near me and struck them on the head. They quickly retreated, but now the whole pack was upon its feet, preparing to pounce on me. Seeing no other option left, I jumped amidst the fire itself, my thick clothing protecting me, and began hurling the firebrands outwards. The wolves were chaos-stricken and retreated to a distance. I now stood in the middle of the fire, which had now formed a ring around me due to my throwing it outwards. I sat down in a heap, the fire where I stood stamped out in the confusion. Still, the wolves were unrelenting. Perhaps they knew that the fire would die out eventually. They just had to wait.
Weariness was catching up to me once more, coupled with the want of sleep and food. I looked pleadingly at the pack around me as the ring of fire slowly started burning away. I knew that in some time, only embers would remain and the wolves would get me, but I could fight no longer, and thinking so, I let myself sleep.
I awoke again but this time in a warm bed, my arms and leg bandaged. Puzzled, I looked around and saw a doctor sitting some way off. He noticed me and walked over saying, “Lucky indeed you are that we found you, or the wolves would have made mince-meat out of you”. “B-b-but” I stammered disbelievingly, “how!?”. The man looked at me and said “the whole state has been looking for a missing man by your description, and when we saw the spires of smoke from the forest, we immediately sent a search party to investigate it; and there, in the middle of a ring of ashes we found you, and several wolves who seemed about ready to pounce at you. Strange that you chose to sleep just there, huh?”. I smiled and said, “If only you knew”. I was safe at last. The terror was over.