cold

Cold

There's a pale wind that blows us south along Winter Ridge and Daddy says we won't make it back in time for Christmas. I'm not so sure, and anyway it wouldn't be so bad, spending our last night out here. It's as perfect as the day God made it, and the wilderness it as pure a spot as you could ever hope to find.

Daddy he says that's nonsense but I don't believe it.

The wolves have followed us for a month now, and it scares me enough to disturb my sleep, that is when we are able to stop long enough to pitch camp. The snow has carried on for three weeks straight, and there's not much sun left in the sky. The huskies have stopped crying for food: Daddy just lets them loose every now and then in the hope that they can find a snow rabbit or two. I think they've been luckier than we have – none of them have died of hunger, anyways. Why haven't the snow rabbits gone to ground yet?

Daddy says he remembers an old trapper's hut out here on the plains and that's what he's making for. To tell the truth I doubt we are travellin' in the right direction – everywhere is so white it's hard to know which way is up, let alone which way the compass is heading us. The cold cracked the glass last night. I don't dare to look at my hands in case the black has got them. Daddy says that if that had happened I wouldn't have to look – I'd just know. Still I haven't looked, just in case.

I can just imagine what my Mom would be up to right now. I expect she's given up hope of finding us two, so she'll be salting the last meat ready for the freeze-in. Every year it's the same, the lake outside our cabin just gets colder and colder and more and more solid until you could walk on it if it weren't so damn devious. That's the first memory I have – don't walk on the ice, son, it lies and it'll swallow you whole and freeze your bones just when you think you're safe.

*

Safe. Two days ago I would have said that Safe was a word I didn't know the meaning of any more. I feel different now, though. Maybe I'm used to the cold, or maybe I'm just so numb it don't hurt me no more. Either way, being out here makes me feel safer than I've ever felt before. I feel like an Eskimo in an igloo, sheltered from the ice and snow and wind – except that the sky is my roof and it snows on the inside, but at least the flakes are large and soft like the flowers that used to bloom on our porch every summertime. I guess I won't see that porch again and eat pancakes with maple syrup in the mornings when it's still dark and Daddy's telling me to hurry up because we need to get trapping before the sun is fully up.

I keep thinking that way up here at the top of the world I can see the whole edge of the earth curving away in both directions. Maybe it's just that my eyes have frozen from the cold. Out here I can believe that all the world has been hidden under snow and we are the only two people left. Two people and six huskies (and the wolves that are stalking us, hopeful) crawling our way up this great curving ball, all white in the black universe and only the stars are as white as our world.

Daddy just laughs when I tell him what I think. He's gone very quiet in the last day or so - I think he's more scared than he'd like to admit. He doesn't sleep because he's so cold and I imagine that's what's bothering. Whatever it is, he doesn't help me with the sled now; he just sits still as stone and lets the huskies pull.

*

Most people don't know what it's like to die slow but I do and I'm happy. It's not ugly at all and I hope mine takes a long time to fade because I just want to keep looking at the snow until it takes over my eyes and all I can see is white. Maybe I'm already there and I just don't know it yet.

*

Daddy I found the hut you were right it is out here and maybe I should leave the door open in case you decide to come and join us but the wolves might come in as well and so I think I will shut the door after all I hope that's okay Daddy.

*

It's dry and the snow has stopped. That might be because there's a roof on this igloo and maybe I was just imagining that the snow could get inside after all, because right now I'm dry and the huskies are too. We all curl up together and I'm not so cold, but we are all still hungry.

*

For some reason I woke up sane this morning. There are no more echoes in my head and I don't keep thinking about snow all the time. Still, the first thought I had was about Daddy and I had to stop myself from answering my own question just in case the snow got me mad again. I think what made the difference was that in the night when I was sleeping someone fed the huskies and left some meat for me too, a big lump of it covered with cloth on the sledge. I don't know who it was but it sure did taste good and I realised how hungry I had been, even thought the meat was cold and I don't think it had been drained or cooked too good.

Guess God he heard my prayer because when I opened the door this morning there was no more snow falling and I couldn't hear the wolves any more. They haven't got my bones or my Daddy's either because when I looked they were still under the step where I put them. I was real careful about that.

I sat on that step for quite a while looking out over the plains. There's still snow on the ground but I think I can manage it and there are still four huskies. I found an old camping stove in the hut with a half full gas canister, so we can melt snow for water and have it warm on the way back. There was a compass too and I can see Daddy was going in the right direction but there's no hurry 'cause were safe out here under the endless sky and we can be back before next Christmas.

And I don't think we'll go hungry because Mom she taught me good and I know how to make a soup out of nothing but bones and water.

She'll be proud when I tell her about that.

End.

©Sharon Gosling 2002