Visions of a previously life brought warning.
Winter is coming. The harsh bitter winds of frost urged me to caution. "Prepare for the cold," I told the proverbial no one. Wood stocked full to last the entirety of my seclusion, I knew that heat alone would not sustain me.
I would hunt. Fresh rabbit, left live to keep from spoiling. I would gather. Berry bushes uprooted to make for sustained nutrition. I would build. Tools necessary to ensure my survival sprouted up around my enclosure.
Uncertain of what was to come. I knew only that Winter was upon me. My berries, roasted into a pulp on my ever lit fire warmed my bones from the inside and nourished me. I was a fool to think it would last. Upon the 5th day of my isolation I surrendered to the notion that there would be no more berries sprouting this winter.
I turned instead to the ration of rabbits, freshly killed. One by one. Two a day. Yet even they were too few and their meager scraps did little to hold hunger at bay. Out of desperation I began to venture out from my encampment. Little by little I scouted for Winter sustenance.
I observed the mannerisms and rituals of Penguins upon the shores. They were too quick to snatch their eggs, and previous encounters with the Tall Birds suggest that creatures of the avian persuasion hunt egg burglars with extreme prejudice. No, it was the realization that the Penguins had a skittish nature that led to their initial downfall. I learned to isolate them. Herd them away from their crowd.
For the first few kills this came easy. And as the old saying goes: "It works until it doesn't." My ravenous hunger made me impatient. I resolved to slaughter the flightless pigeons ever closer to their flock. Needless to say their brethren did not take kindly to wholesale slaughter. They turned on me.
Outnumbered I retreated into the confines of my fortress. Their squawks howled all around me as they pecked away at the walls protecting me. I feared for my life. I feared that they would come and peck the eyes from my head, and the flesh from my bones. I feared that my own stomach would wretch out of my body and consume me to satisfy its selfish clamoring. I feared the night as it rolled over me. And I feared the dawn, for it meant yet another day of Winter.
And so I fled. With what tools I could gather, and bundles of wood to last. It wasn't until I was surrounded by wilderness that I understood the folly of my decision. I lacked the necessary foliage to strike a flame. Scrambling, I managed to piece together a makeshift torch, and as the cold of winter set in, I burned the trees as the stood.
Disoriented, I wandered for two full days, surviving off of what fall leftovers I could pick over. Slowly making my way to what my memory assured me was safe food to last for days. Along the way I gathered enough to sustain real fires through the night. Certainty that I would survive the Winter began to fill me. I found the last berries of Fall sitting plump on their bushes in the wild where I had left them. I willed myself not to pick them before Winter. Not to take more than I needed. Now I needed them all.
As I made a living the next few days moving from bush to bush, eating berries and flower petals alike I felt my confidence return. Surely Winter would end soon and I could return to my home with a renewed appreciation for the severity of what I faced. I was awoken that night, just before dawn. "Did you hear that?" I asked the proverbial on one.
It took me little time to realize that the Hounds of Hell would soon be chasing me across this frozen Tundra. I readied myself, spear in hand, to meet both my deliverer and my maker. "For Science!" I yelled as the beast drew near. Stabbing at it with my spear only served to aggravate it more as several of its kin appeared in tow. I chose then at that moment to run. I knew that so long as my scent would smear across the land they would chase me to the ends of the world. So I did what any sane man would do.
I ran to the fleshy worm hole, and without stopping dove head first into it's gaping maw. To escape the snapping teeth of one beast I had but one choice. Give myself to the welcoming esophagus of another, more gruesome and mysterious one. As the last of my body was consumed by the moist innards of this curious creature, the Hell Hounds snapped one last time at my heels. They would await my return.
I awoke in a strange land. Cautious of my new surroundings I made certain to side step the jarring features, flora, and fauna strewn about. But as night began to surround me I knew that I was far from escaping this landscape. And so I built a fire with what remained of my provisions. The few berries I escaped with roasted, I calculated out rations for the next day. Surely, Winter must end soon.
Finally, a break. The next day brought greener lands, familiar scenery. Great forests full of trees. Flowers to heal my wounds. Berries to roast. And even carrots left in a frozen state of deliciousness! Roasted, these would fill my belly for the first time in days! But most surprising, and welcome, was the discovery of a furry companion. I named him Chester. I haven't spoken to the proverbial no one since this little rascal joined my side.
Chester's eternal optimism resonated to my very core. I became certain that I was on the tail end of Winter, and with a new day came an abundance of frosted foods. And although the Snowbirds continued to mock me from afar, the cold bit at my face with a frequency to suggest that warmer days were coming. In celebration of my keen forecasting ability I crafted a garland to ease my mind and soul from the weariness of Winter.
With full belly and reserves I ventured out into the unknown with Chester. A restless curiosity urged me forward, even with the dangers of Winter still fresh in mind. And a curious land this was. My path gave way to the terrible reminder of how fragile life is. I stopped to pay respects to the graves of those that came before me. I knew that one day I too would litter these grounds with my remains. All that would be left to remember me by would be a name, hurriedly etched into the face of a rock. But not this day. I continued my journey.
It took me a day's trip to uncover the location of a village! Rows of wooden houses lined a cobbled street. Their lights flickered off and on as I approached and departed each. None would answer my calls. So I set up camp across from the warmth and safety of their homes. I began the next day by sharing some of what I had with these new found allies before setting out to seek out new rations.
"Fool!" That is the truth that will be etched into my gravestone! Seeking a more permanent fixture for sustaining a fire amongst the Pig Men, I struck out pieces of rocks to build a pit. One stubborn vein of gold lay far out of reach of my fire, and in a hurried attempt to seek out warmth I put flame to tree.
Enraged, the forest sought to burn me with it as tree after tree became engulfed. As I fled, I saw an army of spiders coming to enact vengeance for my transgressions against nature. The fire outran them, and I outran the fire. But it chased me, that Wall of Fire, back to where I huddled against my own camp along the shoreline. But still I survived.
The fool that I am, I found myself once more low on food, low on supplies, and low on company. Chester had been left behind the line of fire. Surrounded by the desolate silhouettes of charred trees, I built a fire with what remained of my materials. Ate the last scraps of food in my possession, and said my goodbye's to the proverbial no one.
Dawn crept upon me, and I was left wondering what the point of survival was when I had been met at every success with the threat of failure. I ventured back to familiar ground, seeking the Pig Men. Along the way I came across the charred remains of many eight-legged corpses. None were Chester. He only had four. Some had fleshy bits still in tact. Those I took for food.
Just outside the village I fell to my knees sobbing. These were not the salty tears of defeat, no! They were sweet, and joyous tears, for Chester came bouncing out from the echoes of the now dead forest, full of furry aloofness, that goofy optimism ironically frozen on his face. Quickly I called him to my side, promising never to leave him alone again.
We raced through the village, not even to stop and pay homage to the Pig King. We flew past the Graveyard. “I will not be joining you for tea this day,” I shouted to the gravestones. They stared back at me in somber silence until the next group of trees obscured their vision. And finally, as the day began to draw long, Chester and I once again came upon the fields where we first met. These fields held an abundance of matter just waiting to be fashioned into a campfire. I took my fill of it all just as the cold welcomed me as an old friend.
As I spent my last few moments before night fall scavenging for scraps of food, I noticed a wetness to the air I had not felt since the first snow falls. I saw moisture dripping from the ends of evergreens. I felt the soft mashing of snow beneath my feet where there was once the crispy crunch of hardened snow. I knew these to be signs that warmth was returning to the land. I had made it! But my trials had shown me that celebration is served best with a side of caution. I resolved to forage for as long as the light of day would allow.
Where Chester's optimism gave me hope for tomorrow. My pessimism prepared me for the night. The cold may be coming to an end, but the night brought on yet more snow. A last push to lay claim to my spirit, perhaps. But I have been beaten many times already, and I have yet to break. Nature teases me, but I will not give in to her this day. Not this day, for the forever loyal Chester held a surprise to raise my spirits. He presented to me berries that he had gathered in our travels.
Again, the promise of warmer days welcomed me with the dawn. And again, I met it with reserved hope. Certain that these fields had been picked clean of any morsels, Chester and I set out to seek new lands. Even should spring find me this day, we would still need to consume our share of the ecosystem. Not long after leaving the fields, we came upon an altar of sorts. Being a creature of scientific curiosity, I knew it to be an Altar of Ressurection. A great scientist once said, “Phoenixes burst into flame when it is time for them to die and are reborn from the ashes.”
There was little to show for our adventure into the unknown. I gathered what few things I could. Enough to build a sustainable pit, should I need it. The sun began to set on yet another day, and the frost returned. I built a fire. This we abandoned after seeking warmth for food was becoming an issue once again. Ahead of us there were two choices. We could head South, and return to the land we came from in hopes that there was more for us there to scavenge. Doing so would run the risk of attracting the Hounds once more. Our other option was to trust in the gullet of yet another worm hole we uncovered while exploring these strange lands. The uncertainty is surely unnerving, however my curious nature assures me that Chester and I will find salvation from the cold in the unknown. I chose door number two.
To my surprise, I had been excreted into the familiar lands just South of a known Beefalo herd. I was concerned about my ability to harvest food from this location. I decided against the chance of food here and set off South towards my home. Without much food to take with me, I am uncertain of what will become of me and Chester. Nearly home, I was reminded of why I chose to leave this locale. The Hounds had found me. Using my superior intellect, I herded them into my home. It belongs to the dogs now. I continued South. Chester was left behind, but I held on to the hope that he would survive. The reality of the world is that promises are always broken. Night came quickly, and I huddled against the flames of my camp. I shushed my belly as it rumbled in protest.
With all odds against me, I survived yet another night. Starving, I discovered the irony of my camp site. I chose to reside next door to a solitary Pig Man. It would be his undoing. In the quest for survival, we must do what is necessary to continue living. Even if it means others must die. There would be no Phoenix-esque rise from any ashes for this swine. I would feast on his flesh.
With this day came another surprise. Rain. The truest sign yet that the snow would not be returning. It did me little good, however. My run in with the Hounds left me tired and wounded, and the Pig Man's juicy meat helped to hold me over, but I would need more to recover yet. So I left my camp, like I had the countless before it, to hunt, to gather, to build, and to prepare because Winter is coming.