Personal log of Kowalski, Roger
We broke up our camp in the early morning light. Snow still falling and sight was limited. But the longer we have waited, the deeper would have become the snow. So Richard whipped us out. The white shroud of snow was covering the landscape with at least a meter of new cover of that white death. So we had to work up from our hole and stood hip deep into it.
“It would be essential to have snow shoes with us”, Richard said, but no-one had some and it was unlikely we would have to time to make some on our way. Without a tent for three of us and with the fallen temperatures we could survive for a day, maybe two. “So it’s important to move on. As fast as we can”, Richard didn’t say much more, he just started to plow throw the snow, downhill towards the creek.
We followed behind him in our usual marching column. Most of the morning went in wordless silence, where every sound around had been sucked away by the snow. We even didn’t try to recover the lost backpack of Skylar. It was just lost in a sea of snow and not the faintest trace was left of the fact that maybe somewhere was the essential stuff she needed for survival.
The breaks we took were short and never were longer than to catch breath. Nobody sat down in the cold. “Sit and you are dead”, Richard said. Dan just said, he was so tired. Mark was complaining about his foot and Skylar seemed to be absent in a way.
Their physical condition was decaying rapidly. At least Skylar had not to carry anything and so was in better condition than her comrades. Babsie was happy as can be expected in a situation like this. But she enjoyed to see the three suffering.
Finally we reached the woods which didn’t make the march any easier. Sometimes it was so steep, we had to climb carefully trying to use low hanging tree branches against slipping or falling. We didn’t see any animals, but there was one time a long howling which, Richard said, would be a wolf. But it was a mild winter and he suspected that they were no threat and that we shouldn’t panic anyway, because it was uncertain how far away this howling was coming from anyway.
“That was a lone one, was it? Wolves don’t hunt in packs? Not here?” “I won’t bet on that”, Richard said. “There are people out here who can tell you which wolf it is that is howling. But I’m not one of them. I know there are some lone ones out here, but mostly they run in packs. So…” “Thank you very much.” Skylar said it as if she didn’t mean to thank him for the nightmares that will now haunt her sleep.
“They possibly don’t attack a group as large as ours”, Mark turned to her. “If they are not very hungry.” Dan asked nervously, “What do they eat in winter times? Fruits? Could be a bit low now.” “No”, Richard explained, “they hunt. They eat almost everything they can, but their main feet is meat.” “How do they hunt in snow like this? And when most of the animals are in hibernation and that? Not that we’ve seen anything since days.” Richard explained, “I guess they eat carrion in winter. Of animals that didn’t make it.” “Then, wouldn’t be a mild winter bad for them”, Mark asked sharp minded. “Hm, yes. That would make them very hungry. But it’s not what I have read.” “What did you read?” Richard shrugged. “Net. Could be wrong.” “Just great”, Mark said. “Hungry wolves.” “Don’t panic. They don’t attack humans. Normally.” “Normally.”
We were going on after the break and we found a second wolf howling. And it sounded a lot nearer than before. Or we all imagined it was nearer and that we could see them just behind the next tree. “That’s just a horror trick, is it?”, Babsie asked a bit later. “This wolf story? He doesn’t think we all get eaten by wolves, does he?” “Don’t worry, Bunny”, I said and tapped on my rifle. “We have weapons. But maybe if we shoot one of them we have some provision for ourself.” “I like your way to see it.” She smiled. But then there wasn’t much talking anymore. Just fighting against the snow. It wasn’t as cold as I had expected but that might be because we were all fighting so hard. She had offered me one of her Pemmican sticks, but I said, I have one left for myself. She chewed on it as if she wasn’t sure if they will remain hers when the things would turn.
It was afternoon when Dan collapsed. He just fell down and didn’t move anymore. Richard turned around and tried to get him on his feet again. But he wasn’t responsive any more. “Shit”, he said. “I just had hoped we would reach at least the creek today. Okay. We set up a camp under one of those low hanging branches of that fir over there. Below it there should be a cavern where we can sleep. But I don’t know how Skylar will get over the night. In the snow cave it was warm enough, but this is not like the snow cave. It will be a lot colder. And I would prefer not to play too much with fire under those with resin sucked branches. And with all those plastic shit the three of you have chosen for gear.”
Babsie just stood there and said no word. Maybe she had an idea, but she kept it for herself, because it would just help ‘The Womb’. So we started to build up a camp. Babsie was ordered to try to get some firewood and Richard showed her how to improvise snow shoes out of fir branches. “If we can’t get any further we can use the time to improvise some things we don’t have. Mark, Skylar, you help me to improvise a sleeping bag for Skylar out of your old tent stuff and fir branches. Dirk, you try to clean out the space under and build the cavern, okay?”
“Can I have your gun?”, Babsie whispered. “My pistol? Why?” “Because I’m out there and there are wolves.” “Don’t worry about wolves. You have no training with the pistol, it would not help you anyway. Just try to climb on a tree if something bad happens, okay?” She didn’t look happy about that. “You’re such a charmer.” After she made tried herself to make the shoes out of some of the tent gear the three couldn’t use anymore and some duct tape. She bowed the fibre tentsticks on the front and taped them together with duct tape on the rear side. Then she pulled the duct tape as a kind of tarp from left to right, until it was resembling a snow shoe.
We all went to work, she went off. Not looking happy about it. “I really need a weapon”, she said. “Don’t think pepper punch or the taser would help much against wolves.” “You don’t have a weapons permit. If this is over, we’ll try to find something for you that’s legal. A projectile weapon maybe.” “Like a bow? I’m no fucking native american. And elves with bows suck big balls. I’m no fucking stereotype, am I?” “I think about that. But I must say, I have no idea what to do. Without proper training it’s better to be without any weapon. Or else you will just provide your enemies. That’s even worse.”
At the end of the day we had a small fire burning. Babsie said, she had seen a few small animals, but without a gun she couldn’t shoot it. So we stayed on rations. I corrected her that it’s not a gun, it’s a rifle, but she ignored me.
Marks toe didn’t look good anymore. Richard tried to help with rubbing it with snow, but he just started to scream. Carefully he put it in a blanket and tried warm it up by the fire. But Mark just pulled it away for the pain was really too much for him. The arm of Dans jacket had opened at the shoulder and the stuffing was coming out. And with the stuffing some of the wires and circuitry inside. No way to repair it under the conditions and without tools. So the next day would be cold for him, for the insulation wasn’t that good, it was relying on the self-heating cloth.
Skylar was in the best condition of the three, but she was exhausted almost like Dan.