IN THE MIDDLE of somewhere disaster struck. Civilisation was hundreds of miles away. All alone, I had no choice but to walk.
Faced with snow-capped peaks, I persevered through bitter winds, battered by ice crystals until I thought the elements might claim me for their own, so eager were they to bury me in a blanket of white, to freeze me, to possess me as a relic of the mountainside. My will and courage pitted against near vertical ascents, I did not break, determination carrying me aloft while food ran scarcer than blood at the tips of my toes and fingers.
I beat the mountain only to be faced by a descent of nightmares, where one error would result in my body tumbling to the base. They were the most perfect hours of my life, as I channelled the spirit of a mountain goat, finding balance and agility in crucial moments until finally I was down, faced by the undulating shape of miles of thick forest.
My feet were blistered, caking socks to feet. My bones ached as if I had aged forty years in two days and the most persistent of growls emanated from my deprived stomach as I trudged onwards into the darkness, the scent of pine needles and golden sap satisfying my senses if nothing else. I fought bears in my mind, speared fish and roasted squirrels. But not a soul did I see. A tree fell in the woods, and I was there to hear it.
Spurred on by an insatiable desire I walked miles all alone, as the wind whispered through tree tops, that I was not welcome here.
Finally, after walking through the night, stumbling and bouncing from bark to bark, howling like a wolf to make the experience more authentic, hallucinating perhaps, the pain of walking dulled to a distant memory I once knew.
Descending a hill, I breached a clearing, and the relief I felt at what I saw made me crumple to my knees, to weep with the remaining fluids my body could spare; a half a tear struggled to fall as I kissed the earth.
Fueled by the sight of a solitary shack, I ran, gasping, desperation overwhelming all else as I scurried across grass, then a track, the small shack like a visible dream, one window lit up, suggesting a presence. Quickly it approached, tantalising, larger and larger, until I was on the path to the door.
Desperate, I thumped on the door. A short old man answered, addressing me with suspicion.
“Got any smokes?” I said, wheezing.