For a moment, all I see is white. Strange, how such engulfing snow can fall so silently.
Before the avalanche, I had raised my gun, aiming at the white wolf mere feet from me. I pulled the trigger. She spurted red. Now the snow holds us prisoner, in a small pocket of cold and ice.
At first I don't notice her, my sole focus on escape, and hopefully survival. It is only when I collapse on my broken leg do I see her. My mind processes the long muzzle, sharp ears, and bright eyes. With a yelp I lurch back, bringing my hands up in defense of her expected attack. She would clamp her jaws down on my throat, and I would become the hunted. It is in the white beast's nature.
But the teeth never come. There is nothing but thick silence. The she-wolf watches me, as if she is waiting for something I cannot comprehend. When she makes no move to end my life, I regard her wearily. She rests on her side. Her thigh weeps blood, where my well-aimed bullet had pierced her. She endures her agony silently. I spare a glance for my own wound, swallowing back bile at the sight of jagged bone tearing the skin from my own thigh.
It is then that I understand the position I have caught myself in. I am in the heart of winter, deep within the wilderness, trapped in a precarious cavern of snow, with an injured wolf. I have lived in the area for years. I know when the sun sets and I understand the unforgiving cruelty of the landscape. If someone were to ask me before if there was a chance of surviving this, I would have laughed.
When faced with these very circumstances however, I am considerably more optimistic. I stand, hunched over in the small space. I skim my hands over the walls on my side of the pocket. I only succeed in starting more avalanches, making the cavern smaller. The she-wolf growls at that, but still makes no move. She looks like a mother chiding her cub with endless patience. To say who the child is in this analogy isn't necessary.
The sun is setting. I can sense this because my body has grown with the climate, and I know it like a sister. That is when I begin to panic. I shout, cry, scream to the heavens and above for help. The she-wolf by comparison makes no sound. Ignoring my higher reasoning, I dig upwards, telling myself that only one more inch separates me from freedom.
The she-wolf then speaks to me for a second time, her soft whine echoing in our chamber. I focus on her, though I admit I have been focused on little else. Ignoring both myself and her wound, she nuzzles the teats rising from her belly. She is a parent, as I am.
With that realization comes dread. I begin to feel that we will never get out of this alive. Two separate parents, of two separate species, buried together in an icy tomb.
Death laughs in anticipation, and I wail my defiance to him. This is not acceptable. I will not die. I kick at the walls, using my torso as support. Tears of despair cloud my vision. I then see my family, waiting eagerly for food…love…warmth…
But my vision then shows me a den, with a litter of small cubs, pink mouths open and demanding for the same thing.
With a well placed kick, my side of the cavern collapses. Panting, I burrow out...to stop eye to eye with my fellow lost one. Her eyes are sad, but resigned. She has learned to accept her death in a way I cannot. Yet like myself, she will fade from this world in snowy darkness. Smoke billows from our shared breath, and my numb body has forgotten to shiver.
And then, looking into the eyes of an angel, I accept my fate.
I raise my frostbitten hands. She watches me.
I slowly move closer to that thick white pelt. She closes her eyes
I rest my hands and body against her soft fur. She leans on me.
At this moment, we are no longer hunter and prey. We are not even hunter and hunter. We are one.
In the last moment, all I see is white.