A Quiet Night
May 29, 2018
Cold. So cold. I was proud of my home spun coat, stitched under a happy autumn sun. Its thinness and loose stitching unknown during happier days. My destination, a mountain lodge still 2 full days away, and that is without any more snow.
In these hills the wolves are often louder and more frequent. In the present twilight they are eerily silent. A fire will calm me down and warm me up. I set out to collect as much kindling as I can until the darkness is arm deep. It descends faster than anticipated. Most of the branches were snow packed and frozen. What I could gather was the insufferable middle. Too big to light the fire and too small to keep it going. I would have to help it along.
Sparks jumped from my fingers along with heat, building as I concentrate. Soon it pops to life and I add fuel to the flame. After it is up to heat I add my remaining wood and settle in for the night.
The fire is surprisingly warm and sleep is not long to take me. I dream of my old master. He was a bad teacher and I a poor student. The slow resentment of wind he preferred to the loud jealousy of fire. Action always spoke more deeply to me than inertia. His departure was sad but liberating. The descending winter was the first time I have missed him. I hope one day to dream of better things.
My consciousness returns, the sky still dark but embers losing heat. My reserved wood lacking, I rise looking for something to burn. My night vision is poor from facing the flame. It’s not long or far until I am on my quarry: fallen branches with limbs above the snow pack, small to snapping. As I set about collecting, I hear a growl.
My vision the vivid hallucination of darkness. I draw my knife as quick as I can. I will fight for my life. The bushes rustle as I spin. I cannot triangulate sound from a fixed point so I fall back towards my dead fire knife extended in hand.
I hear a twitch to the left. I drop and spin into the sound. My blade meets fur before claw meets my back. The wolf, now alive with sound, pushes away from this new reality. A more vigorous display rarely seen as it sprawls back and twists upright. Warm wetness covers me, heat this creature cannot afford to lose. It would be dead in minutes but I had to survive that long.
It then nipped at my exposed arm, landing across the elbow. As its grip tired from blood loss it is easy for me to wrap up and then fall on the creature with my forearm across its throat. Its last breaths halting. A dead wolf now under me, I have to start this fire before the next one challenges me. With a few branches in arms length I return to my embers.
I do not have the time to coax this fire back to life. I drop my limbs all askance into the pit. Heat of the high noon sun visits me. Dancing on the blood, the fire begins to roar. With my fire restarted I retake my bearings. Proving my safety, I collect what wood is nearby. I drag back the wolf’s corpse and set in for the coming dawn. It would be a shame to waste the fur and make for an easy breakfast.