Possibly some frightening scenes. Nothing too bad, though.
Anyway, I seem to be more comfortable with short one-shots than long chaptered stories so I'll stick to those for a while. This one isn't really like anything I've written before, so I just hope it turned out alright. It's a little darker than I'm used to. ._.;
The Cold Path to Popularity
Midnight had just passed and it was colder than ever.
A young man stared at his winter camp. A tree, plucked bare by the season, had fallen onto his black, insulated tent, ripping it down the middle and rendering it useless. He knew he should be grateful that he had been searching for dry firewood at the time – an endeavor that had been unsuccessful – but having to stand there in the snow while his lungs burned slightly more with each breath forced him to wonder what kind of luck was involved.
He took a moment to think about his options. He didn’t remember this ever happening to the men on television. As such, he didn’t know exactly what to do in a situation like this. The only possible solution seemed to be walking back home. It was only a few miles. He could just imagine his neighbors, the people who had doubted he could do it. They would be right and the looks on their faces would make it obvious.
Maybe he could make it. He only needed to survive three more days to fulfill the weeklong survival challenge he had declared he was embarking on four days ago. A different look now appeared on the people’s faces in his mind. When he dragged himself into town, clothes torn and face thoroughly tanned from the sunlight reflected off the snow, they would respect him. They’d have to.
Visions of dinner parties floated around him. His guests would beg for stories from the tundra and although he would insist that they were boring tales, he’d end up telling them anyway, much to the delight of those around him. When he returned, when people talked about him, it would only be in the most admirable and positive way. His stomach jumped when he thought about the girl who had just moved in next door. Perhaps, he considered, one of those rumors about the wilderness expert made its way to her. She would be flattered, not alarmed, the next time she caught him staring at her. And then, when he approached her, confident and rugged, she would be the one staring.
That was it. There was no way he was going back yet. He decided he must find a cave.
Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t find one. He spent a difficult and downright painful hour stomping through the woods, pushing through snowed down branches, and getting up from many slips. When he finally gave in, his clothes were soaked and he was shivering violently.
He leaned against a tree, hoping to gain a moment to rest, and screamed when snow fell upon him, knocked loose from his contact with the frozen bark. His shout was quiet, however, barely managing to escape his lips between gasps.
He stepped forward and started rubbing every inch of his body, futilely searching for a scrap of warmth within the dripping material. He told himself it wasn’t so bad. As soon as the sun came out, he would dry off and he would make sure to avoid anything like this happening for the remainder of his camping trip. He had learned to be careful and avoid getting wet, a lesson which seemed dreadfully obvious to him now. That was all this was, though, he promised himself. A wilderness survival tip learned the hard way.
No idea what to do now, he walked. His legs were heavy but he could barely feel it. There wasn’t much he could feel at this point. Even his emotions seemed to be frozen in a state of nonexistence. He was tired, too. It was a tired like he had never experienced before. This exhaustion was more inviting, more appealing than regular sleep had ever been. Suddenly the snow looked softer. Less crunchy and more like a blanket, the way it was described in poetry.
Breaking the trance – through which he had been standing perfectly still without realizing it – a howl rang through the clear night air, followed by several yelps of varying pitch.
Instantly, fear flared up within him. He stepped a little too quickly and fell face first. Shaking, he pushed the top half of his body off of the ground and coughed, sending fiery pain down his throat. He wanted to stop but the urge literally forced him to cough again and again and on the third time he saw several drops fly from his mouth and into the snow, leaving tiny red imprints in the once-immaculate white.
Wanting more than anything to give up but choosing to follow his instincts to survive, he finally climbed to his feet. The noises were closer than before. He walked, speeding up with each step until he was finally at what could only be described as a limping gallop.
It was more than fear now. It was panic.
The noises were to his left now and they sounded closer. His only thought was that they must be surrounding him. He looked all around him for any sign of the creatures and through the branches he spotted several moving flashes of lustrous black, weaving in and out of trees.
Sending a jolt coursing through his entire body, his foot exploded with an unbearable burning and his other soon followed, causing him to stop. He had run into the enormous lake and he was now standing ankle-deep in the water where his feet had broken through a layer of ice. Groaning, he jumped forward with all of his energy, landing on one of the giant chunks of ice which had gathered around the shores, pushing it forward but still managing to climb on. He awkwardly and painfully turned himself into a sitting position and peered back into the forest.
He looked past the frost gathered on his eyelashes and studied the gaps between the trees. He saw nothing but his own tracks leading into the water. They were getting farther away. He was drifting.
Of course, his first reaction was to paddle back but he ripped away his arm as soon as it touched the water, instantly regretting dipping his skin into what was essentially liquid ice. He then tried to scream to get the attention of anyone who might be within earshot but even he couldn’t hear his own voice. The only noise that came out of his mouth was the sound of air being roughly blown from the back of his throat.
Inch by inch, he spun himself around so he was facing the opposite direction. Perhaps if he floated long enough, he would reach the opposite side. That would put him less than a mile from town. Maybe by then the week would be up. He couldn’t remember how long he had been out there anymore but he was sure it had to have been at least six days. He assumed that his neighbors must have been driving themselves crazy with worry since around day four. When he got back, he would take nothing less than a full, original apology from each one for the way they had treated him. Suddenly, he couldn’t wait to reach the other shore.
However, although he knew he was still moving, the trees didn’t seem much closer. He couldn’t even tell how much farther he had to go. The water showed no depth or length, just a vague sheet reflecting the dark sky, moon, and stars above.
It was unchanging until the wet, scaly fins appeared to his left.
At first, he was sure he had imagined it and the ripples that followed. He was perfectly content to believe this until, several minutes later, they showed up again, this time in front of him and peaking farther into the air, showing the creature’s thick skin that folded into a new layer every few feet. It caused a small wave, hitting the chunk of ice with a force opposite the direction it had been moving. Now he was sitting still.
“I… I g-guess I... d-did it…” he stammered. It was nothing but a whisper. More and more of the fins appeared with every passing second and soon they were all around him. “S-s-seven days…” Waves were hitting him from all directions and he was sliding helplessly on the ice. “I’m the… s-surv… survival man…”
The ice cracked and he sank.