The Long Dark: So cold and tired
The blizzard continued throughout the night. Sometimes the wind howled so loud that it woke me up and I could only listen to it in the pitch black lookout before drifting off to sleep again. I wish it had been a warmer sleep but I had already piled every blanket I could find on me. Overall, it’s a fitful rest.
Finally, I realize that I can see something during one of the wake ups. Dawn has come, even though I can barely see through the snow-plastered windows.
My breakfast is the leftover candy bar and some ice-cold water. It’s no hot waffles and maple syrup but it wakes me up a little bit. In the growing light, I pack away everything I found of use in this room, plus a small copper pot, a tin cup and a musty bedroll. I hope that I’ll find civilization, or any other human being really, before I have to use them. But if yesterday has taught me anything, I need to be prepared.
Snow drifts have formed on the platform and stairs of the lookout, so by the time I’ve reached the bottom, my shoes and the calves of my jeans are already covered in snow. Shoes and jeans…they seemed like such a good idea back down south. What I wouldn’t give for something insulated and waterproof.
Before I make my descent back down the hill, I take in the view for just a moment. Even at its harshest, nature can be breathtakingly beautiful. Maybe even because it’s so harsh.
I think it’s colder than it was yesterday. But I have no food and I haven’t found any way to contact someone yet, so I have to keep moving.
At the bottom of the hill, a distinctive shape catches my eye at the far end of the little valley. As I draw closer to it, my spirits rise a little.
It’s no sign for a four-star hotel, but a road means vehicles, which hopefully means people.
It’s a longer trek than I hoped it would be but I see more piles of stacked logs as I go. I’m shivering but I continue to determinedly push my way through the drifts.
It’s starting to snow. The wind picks up and the temperature drops even more. The ski jacket I found isn’t meant for this kind of cold and the rest of my clothing might as well be made of paper. I’m shivering pretty badly now and I accidentally bite my lip with my chattering teeth. The chapped skin breaks and now I have a bloody lip. The bitter gusts sting it something fierce. I stick my hands in my armpits to try and warm them up since they feel a little numb.
I don’t know how long I’m wandering before I see it through the falling snowflakes. It appears before me in an almost dream-like manner. Three housing trailers and a decrepit shack.
I don’t knock on the doors first. No, something more important catches my eye. A wild rose bush with some red fruit still on it. I pull the fruit off one by one, which takes a while because my limbs aren’t quite cooperating. Maybe I’m make rose hip tea out of them, I’ve never had that before. Or what about rose hip jam? Is that a thing? It sounds like it might taste good though.
There’s an old wood stove inside the shack. What a silly place for one. I move onto the trailers next, not bothering to knock before entering. No one’s home of course. No one is ever home these days.
There’s food and drinks though. Soft drinks, candy bars, and cans of peaches, soup, and dog food. I grin at the thought of a puppy wandering around camp. My bottom lip hurts for some reason. I jam as many cans and bars as I can inside my jacket and jean pockets.
Soon I find a thin wool sweater and a pair of mittens lying around. I don’t know if I want to wear them though. I’m not shivering as much. Actually, I feel on the warm side. I should take this jacket off–
The thought stops me in my tracks. I seem to recall that taking off the jacket is a bad idea. I try to remember why but my brain seems sluggish. Something feel very wrong here. Something about getting warmer quickly.
It’s a struggle to put on the sweater and the mittens but I finally do. I convince myself that putting the jacket back on is a good idea. I think I should light a fire for some reason, which is how I vaguely remember that there’s a stove in the shack. I head back out there and go through a lot of matches trying to get a fire going with numb hands. Miraculously I do and I proceed to shove as much wood as will fit in there. It gets hot quite quickly and I’m even more tempted to remove layers of clothes but I manage to stop myself from doing so and curl up in front of the stove.
I wake with a jerk when a falling cedar branch smacks against the remaining shack roof. I look around to see a darkening sky and a weakening fire. With a clearer mind, I realize that hours must have passed and though stiff, my limbs appear to be more cooperative. I’m shivering again, which only gets worse as it dawns on me just how much danger I was really in. If my hypothermia-addled mind had convinced me to take off my clothes or not start a fire, I likely would be close to death if not already there. And as exhausted as I was feeling, I was still in trouble so I couldn’t go back to sleep yet.
It’s an effort to get myself to put more wood in the fire and get a can of soup and a tin of water on the stove. I almost drop off again while waiting for them to heat up so I busy myself with digging out a hollow in the snow in front of the stove and unrolling my bedroll in it. The water is warm first and upon taking a sip, I realize that I’m both thirsty and starving. I quickly down the first cup and put a second on before practically inhaling the hot soup. The second cup of water gets some squashed rose hips added to it. I realize they should probably be dried rather than fresh but I’m not in a situation where I can be picky. At least it’s not snowing anymore.
With my stomach now full of warm liquids, I fill the stove up to the brim with the last of my wood and settle before it inside my bedroll. My eyelids are already drooping as I try to think of anything else I can do to warm myself. Coming up with nothing, I curl up facing the fire and fall asleep hoping that I’ll see the morning.