Jakob was too afraid to light a fire even though his fingers felt so stiff that he wondered if they might fall off.
Earlier he had tried to dig small ditches in the ground, later mashing his hands in as deep as they would go and covering them back up again as best he could, thinking that underground might help him from being so exposed to the elements. He was thinking about Eskimos building igloos, and wandering if it worked the same way with dirt as it did with snow. Eventually though, the ground began to freeze over. Bark and mud crystallizing thinly before him, and in the visibility afforded by the moonlight he thought that they looked like tiny baby hairs sprouting from the earth. Eventually the pain gave way to numbness; then even the numbness left, until there was nothing at all.
Time mingled in such a way that all at once his mind was filled with thoughts, while other times (sometimes within the same second, he supposed) he thought of nothing at all. His mind was blank to all things, then buzzing with contemplation. He noticed the dark noises of the woods at night.
Religious noises, he had said to Lolly once, while they walked together through a patch of woods not far from here on such a winter night long ago. Noises that seemed cathartic, all the more holy then any church choir he had heard, or seen. The chill in the air so deep that at times it cut through him. The way faces and images and feelings burned within him though he still felt nothing but the cold.
How closing his eyes briefly, thinking to sleep he would later shutter awake curled in the same small position with his legs tucked into his chest. His muscles aching from the strain of remaining so still and so clenched within himself. Thinking at one point that he was staring into the sun and slowly he had become blind to not only sight but all other sensations akin to the body.
After what seemed like countless sessions of bodily hibernation followed by strange hyperawareness he finally curled his eyelids back to reveal the daylight. True daylight, not a figment of his weary hallucinations or his waking dreams, but the milky horizon pale and diaphanous above the tree-line. He rolled onto his back, mesmerized by the gentle swaying of the bare branches as they curled around the sphere of sky that was visible to him.
Jakob couldn't feel his hands, but his stomach rumbled with fatigue and need so strongly that it made him nauseas and desperate all at once.
He wondered where exactly he was – how far he had made it last night, and how much farther he would have to go before he was safe, and while dwelling on that thought wondering if he ever would be safe again. Thinking about Lolly, and where she was now, and if she had heard about his escape? If the whole world had heard about it? If at this very moment he was being pursued? He strained his ears to listen for any hint of dogs barking toward his direction or sirens somewhere ominous in the distance, though he heard nothing. He wondered if anyone even knew yet, or if they had meant to let him go all along.
In much the same fashion has he had the night before Jakob stumbled through the woods. Pushing and clawing his way through the brush and bracken. Moving as quickly and as quietly as he could, still straining for any sound or sign of civilization around him.
Sometime during midday he stopped at the edge of a stream, dropping to his knees and holding his face as close to the water as possible to slurp it into his mouth. He had looked at his hands only once in the daylight, and all they revealed to him were swollen, nearly disjointed knobs where the skin underneath the nail had started to turn black, and it hurt too much to move them more than necessary. Once he drank as much as possible he continued onward, calculating in his mind how far he might have gone, verses where he needed to be.
Not long before dusk he finally saw the end in sight. While coming out of a clearing he stumbled onto a small dirt path that he knew; the same path he had walked as a kid, and later walked with Lolly. It was out of the way enough to be safe for him to wait at, yet used enough that it would come to his advantage if he could just wait. Crouching behind a section of bush he prepared himself for what he was about to do, both the mental and physical act of it. First he found a rock large enough to cup in his fist and do damage, but not too heavy that he wouldn't be able to yield it the way he needed to. Next, he told himself that he needed to wait, that this was the only logical way he would get out of these woods alive, and that it might take days for someone to walk buy, let along someone that he would be able to overpower. Someone that he could easily assume the identity of.
Night had fallen by the time someone came along, and to Jakob's great relief he fit the part needed. The man came from the woods out on the path toward him, probably headed to his car, Jakob hoped.
It couldn't be more perfect; the man was smartly dressed in a cheap, but nice suite jacket, and he wore an overcoat and hat. Jakob waited until the man had passed him just enough before he jumped up from his hiding place, smashing the rock into the back of the man's skull as quickly and quietly as possible. The stranger went down methodically, stretching his hand up to the back of his neck on reflex before falling to the ground in a cold coma-like sleep. Jakob knew he wasn't dead, and glad of it, all he needed was the man's clothes, identity, and hopefully car keys.
Jakob discarded his dirt smeared smock and pants once striped in a crisp white and black pattern, now wet and smeared with the woods and discarded them on the ground long enough to disrobe the stranger and don his clothes and jacket. There was a wallet in one of the pockets and a set of keys, as well as a small pocket notebook filled with notes in the man's scrawling cursive. Jakob left that with the stranger after having written a quick apology on the last page with a pencil. He didn't stop to worry about the man, now nude on the forest floor exposed to the elements, he couldn't, he had to be on his way, in his mind he chocked it up to the guy simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time – in much the same way he had been five years ago. And wandered down the path alone again, only this time in plain sight, visible to the world.
The name in the wallet read: Isaac Donaldson , and for now that was who he was, at least for tonight. Isaac Donaldson who drove a dark colored Ford parked out on the road not far from where the stranger now lay in the woods under the cover of darkness. Though the car was beat up a bit at the fender it started up smoothly with a quick crank and Jakob was on his way. Speeding into the night with the windows up, his breath fogging up the dirty glass. His eyelids heaver then boulders. Following the road signs: Tacoma, Seattle, then on to Burnaby, then onto home.