Saturday, 5 October 2019

Chapter Nine: Sam: Day 43

Dear Chloe,
Okay, decision time. The kind of moccasins I need will have to be solid enough to stand up to the wear of walking. They’ll have to be warm and waterproof enough to handle snow. And most of all; they’ll have to fit. I can’t just wrap hides around my feet and tie them in a knot.
I’ve got two full sized beaver pelts, and a few rabbit skins. Beavers are swimmers; so I can assume their hides will be waterproof enough to do the job. I took as large a piece of bark as I could and traced my feet. I need to cut a piece of fur that is essentially two footprints, side by side; so that I can fold it over and sew it shut.
I have laces, on my now-discarded shoes. But I don’t know if I should use them for laces on my moccasins, or if I should use them to sew the things together. It’s a very underrated piece of civilization; the shoelace. It’s a tightly woven cord; with secured hardened tips on each end. More useful than I can say; given that I’m either going to have to use that, or invent a sewing needle out of fish bones.
I’ve been trying to work the hide for a few minutes; and it’s gone stiff and tough. I’ve used some water to try and soften it again. I’ll give it a few more moments. The hard part is the rest of my legs. I’ve traced my pants, getting an idea of how much ‘material’ will be needed. A pair of fur-lined slippers isn’t going to do it. The moccasin has to extend at least part way up my leg. I might just have enough beaver hide to do the job, but not much more. If I mess this up in some disastrous way, I won’t be able to try again.
I’ve seen the wolves once or twice; and a deer that took off before I could get a good look at it; but my arrows would never have been able to take either of them down.
On that subject: I’ve upgraded my arrows somewhat. The blackened tips worked, but without any weight on the front of the arrow; the effective range wasn’t that good. Fortunately, since then; I’ve figured out something that makes a passable arrowhead. Beaver teeth. The animated animals with the oversized front teeth aren’t that far off. And it’s far easier to file down a tooth than a stone. My ‘magic bullets’ are increasing in number.
Okay, it’s time to try my hand at being a cobbler. Wish me luck, Chloe.
Dear Chloe,
Three days left until my Big Walk. And my shoes are still the biggest question mark. I did the best I could with limited I have no idea how to do any of this. The things will say on my feet; but not enough to be waterproof. I’ve had to take out my stitches and try again three times. On my fourth attempt, I decided to give up before I ruin these hides completely. I have to change my strategy a bit. The shoes I have still work, they’re just not sealed up any more. But they’ll stay on my feet. So I’ve decided to make some socks instead. If I can make some waterproof socks, and put my shoes on over them; it might be enough. Socks don’t have to be waterproof; and with both of them laced onto my feet; it should be enough to hold the snow out.
It’s frustrating though. I used up the last of my meat yesterday. The fish are still coming; not every day, but regular enough. The snares have caught things once or twice. Enough that hunger is not a source of terror; though I don’t have much to fall back on. Truth be told, I’ve almost gotten used to staying one meal ahead of disaster.
I wonder if I should just start my hike across the lake now. I gave myself an extra week to be safe; and because I didn’t think I’d survive the hike around the edge of it. It might have been frozen solid for days. I’m not nearly as heavy as I used to be. Of course, playing it safe was a life choice for me. This would be a particularly stupid way to die, if I’m wrong.
It’s funny, Chloe; but I almost forgot that Winter is a season and not a fact of existence. I’ve been up here for more than a month. Winter lasts three months. Longer, in this part of the country; according to you. Part of me wonders if I can last the whole winter. Part of me knows I’m not that lucky. And I have been lucky. Probably luckier than I know.
But I don’t know what’s going to happen when I get to the other side. How much of this do I take with me? If I can find your cabin in a day; I don’t need to take any of my food or firewood. If I can find it in two days, I don’t need my snares or weapons. If I can’t find it, I need all of these things. But if I build a sledge of some kind, I’ll be moving slower, hauling it all behind me; and risking the ice.
If it takes me less than three hours to get across the lake; then I could go; scream your name for a while, leave a note if you don’t answer; and make it home before dark. Heh. It’s almost like being back in the city. Run an errand, be home in time to avoid rush hour.
Maybe I should just go now.
Dear Dad,
It’s economy of sound, not economy of thought.
I have to stay quiet. Quiet means I listen. Quiet means I am hard to hear. I remember writing before that all the trivia was beaten out of me. Little things that I know from TV Shows and books I read? Those are the throwaway thoughts that have kept me alive; given me inspiration. I can feel myself discarding all the unimportant things, so that I don’t carry an ounce of weight I don’t need. Not on my person, not in my head.
But my brain is still going just as strong, just as constant. It’s like I’m speaking another language in my head. A language made up of things I need, and nothing I don’t need.
You’re still here, dad. I remember everything you ever taught me, all the things I observed about your character. I haven’t thought about any of my friends from work, and as I was writing that, it suddenly occurred to me that I won’t miss them if I never see them again. But I’ll miss you, and I wasn’t going to see you again even before all this.
I’d moved out and made my life, long before you died, dad. I don’t think you ever saw the new apartment. And yet when I heard, it felt like something major was missing from the universe.
But I’ll take you with me, dad. I have no room in my head for a useless thought; and I’ll always have room for you and Liz.
I’ll talk about you tonight. Out loud, I mean. I have to ration the sound I make, and I’ve learned to keep the hundred-odd things that keep going through my mind safely hidden away from the cold. But I’ll share my thoughts of you with the woods, and the stars, and the sky.
Dear Chloe,
I’ve decided to start my walk tomorrow. Final checks on my gear, final choices about what to take; final lap with my snares. I can’t leave the fish traps up permanently; it’s dangerous to the wildlife, and just a little illegal. It’s funny, but neither of those things bothered me when I was hungry.
My mortal fear was that the snowstorms would move in today; screw with my travel plans. When I woke up this morning, I stuck my head outside; and I realized that I knew the weather would hold. I didn’t even look at the Barometer. I still don’t know what I reacted to. The clouds, the smell of the air; the temperature… I just knew.
In fact, I’ve been looking at my gear and something occurred to me. I’ve been able to improvise a lot of this. I had some matches from the Ranger Station; but I’d already learned how to make fire. I found a sharp knife, but I had learned how to improvise with the elk-bone. I’d kill for an axe, but I’ve improvised an adze. The tarp and the blanket make a huge difference in my shelter, but I’d been making shelters with branches and leaves before that, and didn’t freeze. The soup mix saved my life while I got better at hunting, but I haven’t had soup in weeks. The metal mug saved my life; but the clay pot I made has twice the capacity. If I’d made it forty days ago, I would have had it since before finding the mug.
Civilization has added convenience and resilience; but I somehow managed it. The original Cave-Man. The Natural Man. Like full-on Daniel Boone. Like Thoreau.
Like you, Chloe.
I’ve decided to leave most of it. I’m taking a meal’s worth of food. My tools and cordage, of course; and the journal. I can’t exactly dismantle the shelter; nor do I want to. Sticks and wood are on every side of everything in this Valley. I can see the trees on the far side of the lake from here; so I won’t haul firewood. I’ve improvised some loops with my cordage. The loops will carry my tools. It’ll be ungainly; but I’ll move faster than if I was hauling a sledge.
The weather is misty; but it’s the kind of fog that will fade when the sun gets higher. I’m planning to pile up the last of my firewood and make a bonfire on the edge of the lake. The fog means my visibility is only a few dozen feet; and a bonfire will give me a bearing. I’ve been looking across that lake for a week; and believe a straight line is my best bet. My weather-sense and the Barometer agree that the fog will be gone soon enough; but if I can keep a straight line, I can save a few hours.
With luck, Chloe? You and I will meet in time for supper.


A Note From The Author: I hope you're all enjoying 'Dear Chloe' in its serialised format. If you'd like to read the whole thing at once, and take it with you, you can buy the whole book here in eBook and Paperback Format.