The Long Cold Walk
I have been trudging through this waist deep snow now for the past couple of hours. In spots the snow is so deep that I almost sink to my chest. Every step is arduous and my steps are more like shuffling then walking as I push one leg in front of the other moving the snow ahead of me. The one saving grace is that the atmosphere is so dry that the snow is loose and doesn’t pack that easily.
My legs are burning, my breathing laboured as I push forward. My breathing continuously fogs up my visor.
When I left the ice hill I chose a direction that I hoped would lead me closer to the New Capital. In all honesty I have no idea if I really am heading on the right path. All around me I see nothing but endless miles of snow broken only by the rise of the odd ice hill but nothing to indicate a specific direction. The sky is permanently blurred by volcanic ash so there is no way to know what direction I am going in, no landmarks to guide me. For all I know I could be walking in a large circle.
I am pretty sure that I am not going in circles. Being the pilot of a snow sled a person develops a sixth sense in regards to directions, I’m certain that I am heading the right way.
Reality set in the moment I was blown off the deck of my ice sled. I was lost and will more than likely perish in this desolate endless white landscape only to be buried in the never ending blowing and shifting snow. If I were smart I would sit down and save my energy as I wait for my last breath to leave me. I guess I’m not that smart.
To become the pilot of an ice sled a person had to have a very strong sense of survival and an undaunted willingness to persevere. I was at the top of the class when those attributes were needed. Again, maybe I am not all that smart.
Very few of the people at the New Capital are suited or volunteer for being a crewmember on an ice sled. It is the one job that is a near perfect guarantee to get you killed. Very few members of our society have ever ventured up and walked or even seen the earth’s surface. People never leave the confines of our ice domed city for one reason, the environment on the surface is a harsh bitter place to venture.
As a teenager I volunteered to work on the sleds. I figured it couldn’t be any worst than staying below the surface. I felt trapped, I needed to escape. Life in our community was hard. Every day was a struggle. A struggle to keep from freezing, a struggle for food and a struggle to just make it another day. We do the best we can but we are a civilization trying to rebuild after the great climate wars almost decimated all life on earth. Now we are fighting against a world that was turned hostile as we arduously work to prolong life.
The main reason we even have sled teams risking their necks every time they go out onto the frozen plains is for energy. We have precious little and what we do have has to be guarded and rationed among the several thousand occupants that call the New Capital home. This is where I come in.
Several generations ago explorers from the Capital stumbled across a cache of oil and gas reserves and since then the main job of the ice racers was to travel between the fuel stash and the New Capital transporting the valuable cargo. We only have a few ice sleds and the sleds can only carry a small amount at a time.
The trips average almost two months, so by the time we return with our cargo we have to head back again. We would build bigger sleds but materials of any sort are very hard to come by. If we are lucky we’ll find some of the monstrous metal giants that our ancestors erected hundreds of years ago to take advantage of the winds but even these huge metal windmills are hidden by the snow.
Sometimes when we are on our supply runs we may accidently discover some of these metal towers because the constant, shifting wind blows the snow away. When one is discovered we try to mark it so a crew of inventors have a chance to cannibalize it for its metals and wires.
Most times though by the time anyone has a chance to return, the drifting snow has once again reclaimed it. Such is life. But it is our life and we keep going.
Speaking of keeping going, my legs are burning from forcing my way through the snow although the exertion has meant that I don’t need to drain the batteries in my thermal suit as quickly to run the heater.
Dark is turning to darker and I would prefer not to have to sit down and wait out the night as the snow envelops me. In the growing blackness I see a slight rise in the snow a head of me. With luck it’ll be an ice hill and I can burrow into it to escape the winds and spend the night.
Forcing my legs to move one shuffling step at a time I head for the rise, hoping it is not my eyes playing tricks on me. I never take my eyes off of it so I don’t loose sight of it. My legs are burning and quivering from the walk, my breathing coming in gasping breaths. My body is protesting so much that I briefly forget how cold I am.
One step followed by another. My next step is into a deeper bowl of fresh snow. I sink. Swimming back to the surface I rise in with a slight panic turning my head frantically for the sight of the ice hill. The dark is even darker now. With blind determination I forge forward.
Finally I step forward and my foot slips. I slide briefly on the ice on the side of the hill. Too tired to even think I sit to catch my break and give my burning muscles a reprieve. Very shortly the numbing cold cuts through my thermal suit reminding me to move and seek shelter from the winds and cold.
Grasping my thermal shovel I start tunnelling up into the solid ice hill. I tunnel up for several feet and then start digging downward. The purpose of the change in direction is to keep the wind from entering. I pause to rest. The strain on my body helps ward off the bone chilling cold then resume. I want to dig in deep enough that the wind and cold are left behind.
I stop tunnelling. I must be at least twenty feet down. The wind no longer pulls at my suit. I use the shovel to melt and move the ice as I make my hole big enough to comfortably turn around but not to big so that the heat pod can’t warm the space. Setting my shovel down and activating a heat pod I sit down with my back against the wall, all my muscles are screaming from over exertion.
It a good thing that I talk to myself otherwise I would go crazy from being deserted. Letting my mind dwell on the situation I’m in is too dangerous so I hook a food ration capsule to my helmet, the capsules consist of a synthetic food that comes as a powder and is drawn in through a tube in my helmet. When the powder comes in contact with liquid it expands to a solid substance that you chew. I don’t know if it is good or bad because it’s the only thing I’ve ever eaten, I have nothing to compare it to but I do remember my grandfather complaining about the bland nature of it. I then dig into a pocket in my suit and pull out a reading page.
The power for the reading page is low. I’m not sure if I should hook the page to my suit to recharge it and drain my battery supply further or face a night alone with the thoughts of my deadly predicament wearing on my mind.
After a brief tussle between the two I decide to charge the reading page. It’s funny because reading pages are very scarce and if anyone back at our colony knew I had one it would have be taken away and yet, stranded as I am, at least I have something to do besides fret over my bad luck.
This reading page has been passed down in my family from my great grandfather to his son, my grandfather and then to my father and now it’s in my possession. I keep the page on me at all times and have never told or shown anyone about it for fear of loosing it.
My great grand father started dictating to it back in the middle of the twenty first century. He was a general in the people’s army against the armies of the climate prophets.
I turn the page on and go to the first entry.
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A new Canadian Author with too many ideas in his head. Surprising even himself with where his stories go.