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Thought I try and get out of my rut of sitting around playing computer games instead of doing anything useful or creative like writing, by doing some writing about computer games...

It's been interesting to play 'in character' and try to make decisions accordingly. Here goes...

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Morning, Day 2

I assume this is October 4th.  The flight left on Oct 2nd.  Chartered passenger flight back down the coast.  I'd spent the last two weeks with an old school friend, Greg, and his family for half term- my last chance to get away before my final exams.  They'd moved up North a few years back when his dad got a job on an air force base.  We'd had a pretty cool time catching up and shooting pool at the local tavern. I even tried my hand at a spot of fishing and shooting, much to Greg's dad's amusement.  The only thing I managed to hurt was my own shoulder with the shotgun recoil...

Anyway, the flight was delayed by about an hour but otherwise nothing out of the ordinary.  We must've been up for an hour or so, I can't be sure as the old girl next to me began snoring as soon as the seatbelt light went out.  I ended up grabbing my sleeping bag from my pack and forming a pillow/ ear defender out of it, think I must've nodded off myself, pressed up against the window.  

I was woken up by the steward spilling hot broccoli and mash all over me- we'd hit a bit of turbulence or something and he'd gone flying holding several in flight meals.  He looked a little too worried for my liking though.  As I came to I noticed that, over the gasps and odd half screams, there was no engine noise, just a strange rush of air.  Lights flickered in from outside, but the cabin lights had all gone out.  Then the rushing of air seemed to increase from somewhere behind and above.  All I remember after that is a huge thud and the grating of metal on metal, then falling, holding onto my bag and trying to curl up...

I awoke to a chill breeze and a bright light in my eyes.  The sun was directly overhead, so I must've been out for 8-10 hours.  I couldn't see anything or anyone, except a solitary backpack.  It wasn't mine.  It had a stale packet of crackers inside, and was too ripped and beaten up to be worth taking.  I managed to drag myself up off the cold, damp floor.  I was in a small ravine with a frozen stream running through it.  I quickly checked what I had with me.  Somehow the bedroll had stayed with me- i wonder if I had held onto it through panic and it somehow helped to cushion my fall?  How high had I fallen?!  I also had my camping backpack (I'd taken it out of my luggage as it had the bedroll inside, and then wrapped the nearly empty rucksack into the bedroll as the seat was so cramped).  There was an old can inside that Greg and I had used as an ashtray whilst fishing, a couple of empty plastic drinks bottles, and a tatty first aid bandage of dubious sterility in the side pocket.  In my jeans pocket I had a cheap packet of complementary matches from the tavern, and some lighter fluid.  No lighter, and no smokes either, god damn it.  Other than that it was the clothes I was standing in- thermals, jeans, shirt, running socks and shoes, all worse for wear after the fall.  I also had a light cotton beanie hat but this was in a state, probably something to do with my splitting headache.

I considered staying where I was and waiting for rescue, but quickly realised it was far too cold and exposed.  There was a slope up from the ravine on my left, but I decided to follow the stream for now and stayed low, if nothing else to try and stay out of the biting wind.  I also hoped it might lead somewhere, maybe a bridge where i could get my bearings.  Instead it opened out into a small frozen basin, littered with tree limbs and bulrushes.  Greg's dad called these cattails, and said they could be of use as either food or to light fires.  I wasn't sure from looking at them how exactly, but I picked a few, along with some of the deader looking twigs (the branches were too big to handle), and a smooth stone to throw or hammer at something.  Even this brief pause had taken its toll- I was freezing despite the midday sun.  The stream didn't appear to lead out of this basin, indeed it appeared to be fed by a small but noisy waterfall.  I spotted another slope on the opposite side to which I had entered, and this time decided to climb up.  

After a couple of false starts I finally reached the top, and was immediately heartened to see a line of cables, and then as I ascended further a clear set of train tracks!  I was back in business.  I looked both ways- a series of fallen trees blocked the view to the left, but to the right the tracks were abruptly ended by a large landslide.  Unsure of whether I could climb over this, and with thinking time at a premium, I headed off left.  I was soon rewarded by the sight of a tunnel entrance ahead.  My exertions so far had reassured me that I had emerged from the night's events physically unscathed, so I decided to keep the college athletics coach happy and got in a bit of close season practise by sprinting off towards the entrance.

There was nothing of note at the tunnel, and it was too small to effectively block the wind, so I had no choice but to keep going.  My hands were really aching by now- I thought of my ski jacket and warm mittens in my main luggage.  The tunnel exit opened up on a flat, marshy area, with a derailed train up ahead.  As I approached it became clear it had been there for some time and left to rust and sink into the swamp.  I managed to pick up a few pieces of scrap wood and metal, plus a rusty saw.  Handling these cold pieces of steel finally did for my hands though, and they were now totally numb.  I knew I had to get warm fast or risk frostbite.  This of course was the moment that the weather turned, and a snow blizzard swept in.  There was no shelter beside the train wreck, and visibility was down to a few yards, so at least I wasn't tempted to stand around pondering my next move.  Head down, hands tucked into my arm pits, onwards up the train tracks.  I don't know how far I walked or for how long, I just remember the howling of the wind and the icy aches on every part of exposed flesh.  There didn't seem to be any hope, but then suddenly I was right on top of another train wreck, this one with carriages.  On a clear day I could probably have seen it from the last one, but the storm was so bad I nearly ran into it.  I went all the way around the train before finding an open doorway into a carriage, but did manage to scavenge a can of soup and another bandage as I did so.  

The carriage had an old sweater and dry sneakers which I quickly put on (or as quickly as I could with my frozen hands- I could tie the laces later), as well as some coal and broken wood, another sleeping bag and an old newspaper.  I also found a particularly unappetising yet apparently still in date packet of beef jerky.  Good to know I could resole my shoes if needed.  Despite being out of the wind and putting on the extra layer, I was shivering uncontrollably and my hands showed no sign of improvement. Using my teeth and the palms of my hand to grip, I managed to rip the newspaper into a couple of tinder strips.  There was an upturned barrel and grill set up inside the door.  I dropped a tinder bundle inside, managed to squeeze most of the lighter fluid over it, then again using teeth and palms lit a match, miraculously first time.  It fell through the grill onto the tinder and small stick, and I painfully added some of the larger pieces of wood and a lump of coal.  At least I began to warm up and dry out.  As life came back to my hands I scooped up some snow from outside and melted a couple of litres of water into the plastic bottles.  My pack was starting to feel reassuringly weighty.

TBC

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Day 2 (cont)

Thawing in front of the flickering flames, I now had some thinking time, and a tough call.  I might be able to stoke the fire through the evening until first light, but even with two sleeping bags there was no guarantee that I would stay warm enough, or when the storm would lift.  I decided to press on up the tracks, leaving the fire burning so I could always turn around if I reached an impasse.  Before I left I pulled a couple of rudimentary torches out of the fire, extinguished them and placed them in my backpack for future use.  They may not burn for long but they could be handy.  I also decided to give myself a little central heating by cracking open the tin of soup with the stone and the edge of the fire barrel.  I eventually pierced one of the many dents I made.  i lost a bit of soup and the tin was useless, but soon I had heated the rest in my good tin and slurped down the hot sweet broth.  Tomato, sadly.

Leaving that roaring fire and heading out into the blizzard was not a pleasant experience.  My hands quickly relapsed, although the soup (and new sweater) did seem to be helping a little.  It must have been close to sunset although it was hard to tell in that weather.  After another desperate jog down the tracks, I came to another tunnel entrance.  For a minute I was terrified I'd retraced my steps by mistake, until I remembered I hadn't passed the first train wreck.

As before, it was a small, empty tunnel, and as before there was a derailment on the other side.  What had happened to this train line?  This time I salvaged a crowbar and a sewing kit- both could prove to be useful tomorrow if I had hands left to use them with.  I sent off again down the tracks, passing along the row of poles running next to it.  By now the effects of the soup had long passed, and my sweater was as wet as the rest of my wardrobe.  Then i noticed I was no longer feeling cold.  This wasn't good.  I could still see no more than a few feet ahead, seemingly on a conveyor belt of sleepers and overhead cables.  All I could do was run, then walk, then crawl until I dropped.  I remember being annoyed that the snow was covering my footprints, so no one would know how far I'd come, how hard i'd fought.  I imagined Greg's dad scoffing over my corpse, asking how useful my booksmarts or athletics trophies were now.

Then suddenly a side cable ran off at right angles to the tracks.  Barely thinking, I followed it into the empty maelstrom.  Again, out of nowhere, the ghost of a building materialised, a steep roof with a tattered flagpole.  I nearly stumbled shins-first into a low wooden sign- 'Mystery Lake'.  The name was strangely familiar but that wasn't really on my mind.  I hauled myself up the couple of low steps, and prayed I could get in as I didn't have the strength to force the door, and smashing a window would let the blizzard in behind me.

It was unlocked.  As the door slammed shut I immediately began to feel warmer.  Crouching down in the dark, I shook one of the torches out of my pack, and after a few minutes of fumbling lit first a match, then the torch.  Cradling it between my forearms, I had a quick look around, then ascended the stairs, suddenly overcome with fatigue from my exertions.  At the top of the stairs was a corpse. A male, maybe early thirties.  He'd clearly been there a while but there was little sign of decay- maybe the ambient temperature was too low?  There was a single rifle round in front of him.  By this point I was too tired for qualms about sleeping with the dead, plus the aforementioned ambient temperature meant I was out of the wind but not out of the woods.  Too tired to start another fire, I blew out my torch and crawled fully clothed into the lower bed of a pair of bunks.

I woke an hour or two back in the gloaming, just light enough to start writing this down.  As you can see my fingers have recovered enough to allow me use of a pen.  I have a tough day ahead.  Decide what to do about my friend over there.  See what useful stuff is in the cabin.  Maybe try my hand at sewing if I can find some cloth, and patch what's left of my clothes.  Then I need to work out where I am, although I think I know where I have to go.  I can't have fallen so far and survived, that I'm not within a few miles of the plane.  Maybe part of the fuselage ripped open, sending me out, but the main aircraft managed to crash land?  Even if the worst happened, that's where the search and rescue people will be.  So, either find the site, or find people who will know what happened and can get me home.

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Before dawn, day 3

As mentioned, I woke up early to a rumbling belly and cold, but not frozen, although i quickly stuck my exposed face underneath the covers.  As the first light spilled through the window above, and my eyes adjusted to the gloom, I grabbed my pad and pen from my pack and began the diary.  By the time I'd finished it was almost fully light.  Reluctantly, I got up, stretched my still aching legs and did a tour/inventory of the building.  Some sort of wooden cabin or hostel, with a nice double stove by the bed.  Due to my paucity of matches I resisted the urge to light a fire there and then.  I'd forgotten about the corpse overnight, so startled myself once again.  No sign of trauma or foul play.  Too heavy to lift though, and besides I didn't have  a spade.  Oh well, surely won't take me long to find one if this weather is typical for the region, then I could give him a proper burial.  

I rooted around in various drawers and cupboards.  The highlights were a baseball cap and a very tattered thin parka- not a patch on my snow jacket but it would keep out the wind and the worst of the rain/snow.  Downstairs, it got even better.  A old style storm lantern and a jerry can of fuel, no more wasting matches on torches for a while.  I looked to see if I could rig the lamp ignitor to start a fire, but it all seemed to be housed internally.  The oil would make a good ignition fuel though.  I also found a few old tins and a couple of heavy and well used saucepans, some towels I could rip into cloth, some medicines and a cookbook.  I'd take a look at the medicine labels later, but I'm sure it would be useful whatever it was.  There was a radio but it didn't work, the power seemed to be out.  I didn't have a dollar even if i could find the meter.

Upstairs was a note, something about summers past in the cabins by the lake.  i remembered how the name 'Mystery Lake' had struck a chord when i saw the sign last night.  On the wall downstairs was a  map, and suddenly I fitted it all together.  Great Bear Island!  I'd come here on a vacation to stay with my grandpa when I was little.  He'd passed away a decade ago, and had been ill for a year or two prior to that, so I could only have been 8 or 9 years old.  I'd come to stay with him as he was working on a big project, helping clear away asbestos from an old abandoned dam or some such.  Grandma always thought that was where he got sick.  Because he only had a few days' leave, it was decided that I would go to stay with him, and we would go camping and fishing together for a few days.  It was arranged for me to fly in on the resupply seaplane, and I remember we landed on a big wide bay full of islands.  There was a fishing camp on the shoreline, and we alternated between there and a campsite inland for the first couple of days.  Grandpa used to scare the hell out of me around the campfire, telling me about the old bear that used to live there.  On the penultimate night Grandpa arranged for us to hitch a ride on the service train, past the dam and out to a lake with more fishing cabins.  Mystery Lake!  i think Grandpa went into this office to buy a permit or get a key or something, but I stayed outside with our gear.  Funny, that would've been half term too, but I remember it was just typical autumn weather, no ice or snow.  Must be having a hell of a cold snap around here.

So, I have some options.  I don't think I'm too far from the dam, if there is still anyone there they should be able to tell me about the crash.  If not, there must be people by the coast.  It probably takes me away from the plane crash area to begin with, but i may pass somewhere with a good view and see some clues, or maybe commandeer a truck or something.  The area with the swamp i had trekked through in the blizzard was marked 'forlorn muskeg' on the office map, and seemed pretty empty.  I didn't want to go back that way unless I was fully prepared or had no other choice.

Talking of preparation, I had only found a bag of potato chips (tomato again, what gives?!), a nut bar and a couple of cans of soda.  These, along with my biscuits, about a litre of remaining water and the tough cattail stalks were my only provisions, unless you count the delicious pictures in the recipe book.  I'd munched on a couple of stalks through the night to keep the worst of the hunger pangs at bay.  If celery had a tough rind, that's what it would be like.  I was going to have to get more supplies.  There were fishing sites and huts marked on the map (I remembered seeing the huts stacked on the shore as a boy, Gramps had explained what they were), and I'd found a length of old line on a workbench in a small alcove.  After a bit of trial and error I managed to bend a scrap of the old train metal I'd pocketed yesterday into a sort of hook, and bound it to the line.  Hey ho, let's go!  before heading out though i decided to tidy up my clothing with the sewing kit.  I broke a couple of needles and ripped a few strips of cloth beyond use, but managed to patch most of my clothes and fashion some wraps for my hand, to try and prevent the worst of the frostbite if I had to be out for any length of time.  By now I was carrying a decent amount of gear, so I dumped some spare wood, the two worst bedrolls and one of the torches in an old filing cabinet.  After yesterday I wanted to keep most of my new belongings with me though, as I was still haunted by my lighter, smokes, jacket and mobile phone sat in my suitcase- or more likely smashed to smithereens and scattered to the four winds.

I stepped out of the door into a bright and cool afternoon.  I immediately noticed another corpse in the snow opposite, that I'd missed last night.  What on earth was going on?!  I went over, but they were frozen solid into the ground.  Crows circled overhead.  Even given the relative calm of the weather compared to the night before, I was already developing a chill, so had to press on.  I was delighted to see a couple of the fishing huts out on a majestic lake of ice, shimmering just down from the office.  I quickly trudged through the reeds, and after a few steps realised I didn't have to worry about the thickness of the ice.  I must've gone about a hundred yards when I was also frozen.  A pack of 4-5 wolves were sauntering towards the huts.  Now, I know that wolves do not typically attack people, but you don't typically find two dead bodies in 24 hours, and planes don';t typically fall out of the sky, so I decided to cut my losses and head back.  As I reached the safety of dry land, I munched on the nut bar and pondered my next move, as a piercing howl cut through the dry chill air.  if they were trying to reassure me, that was not the way to do it.  Daylight was fading- I pondered what to do now.

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day 3 (cont)

There was a sort of trail running behind the office.  it was hard to see too far ahead as it twisted behind an embankment, but it seemed to go parallel to the lake shore.  I'd seen a cluster of wooden huts on the opposite shore from my vantage point on the lake, could I use this as a way around the wolves?  I was thinking with my belly by now, so decided to chance it, pausing only to grab and pocket a few reddish berries (maybe rosehips?) off a bush near the office.  I'd investigate them properly later, but apart from the rushes they were the first flora I'd seen.  The trail was enclosed by the banks, and, out of the wind momentarily, I decided it was probably a good idea to mark a rough map out in my notepad.  I'd picked up a couple of bits of charcoal whilst rooting around in the old stove for any useful bits of unburnt wood (ok, ok, I was hoping someone had used it as an ashtray and I could find a used butt or 2 to make a roll up), and decided to use this to make a rough sketch and save my pen ink for the diary.  There was a detour to the right, but I decided to stay on the main trail.  Sure enough, it opened out on the opposite side of the lake right where I hoped, with a small herd of deer nearby.  Oh for a gun, and the ability to use it!  I considered throwing my solitary bullet at them, but decided to keep it for good luck.  At least they were between me and the wolf pack.

There were three small cabins, with a bench and some other wooden contraptions half buried under the snow.  They were all unlocked, and they were all deserted.  I decided to loot all three then settle down for the night, as i was feeling pretty bushwhacked- I still wasn't fully recovered from the day before.  The first hut had two tins of coffee and an electric stove, though again no power so I was unable to brew up.  there were no fireplaces in any of the huts.  I remembered Grandpa roasting whitefish over an open fire by the shore- it was too cold to stand around doing that even if I had got a fish or two.

There wasn't much else of note in the other huts, I did get excited at finding a good condition, expensive looking sports vest but it wasn't very warm, definitely style over substance.  No smokes- maybe the two dudes at the office killed each other over their last cigarette?  I found one bit of food in all three huts combined.  if you could call it that.  Out of date dog food.  I'm sure the wolves would've loved it!  In a funny way this may be a bit of a turning point for me.  A day ago I'd have left it on the floor.  Instead, I realised it wasn't going to get any fresher, and remembered reading about the guy who was paid to taste this stuff for a living.  I checked the recipe book, but it didn't have any suggestions.  I smashed it open with my trusty stone (seriously, had they not heard of ring pulls on this island?), and scooped up slimy chunks with the potato chips.  May as well kill two birds with one, er, pebble.  I had to stuff some cloth up my nose to keep the smell out, and i gagged a couple of times, but I ate it all apart from a bit that went between the cracks in the floor when I smashed the can open.  The taster guy must've lost his sense of taste and smell in an accident- maybe he survived a plane crash?  Reading this back, I may have been going slightly hysterical by this point.  A couple of glugs of water and then I was done.  This time it was the toothbrush in my luggage I was missing desperately.  I spent the last bit of daylight ripping and rolling old newspaper into tinder bundles, and nodded off, trying not to think of the solitary cupful of water I had left for the morning, as the wind outside mimicked the wolves' howls.

 

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51 minutes ago, Screenshot Pilgrim said:

Enjoying it so far.    😑 Mmmmm,  smokes.

thanks for the feedback!  I'll think I'll inevitably flag as the working week takes its toll, but hopefully I can get another day or two typed up at the weekend.

As for the smokes, wait til this dude realises the entire island is dry 😬

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Day 4

I woke up suddenly from an anxiety dream- my boss (I worked part time at some crappy government helpline as part of a college work experience requirement) was threatening to set his dogs on me if I was late back from my lunch break, but every time I picked up a packet or a bottle in the canteen, it was empty.  I realised when I woke up that I was actually due into work that day.  I felt a lot better.  My time keeping wasn't exactly at Spinal Tap levels, and the thought of my boss either impotently apoplectic with rage as he repeatedly left voicemails on my phone, or better still feigning grief at the news of my untimely demise (whilst inwardly panicking at the thought of having to cover my shift himself) gave me a warm, comforting glow.

The fuzzy feeling faded as reality crept in through the gaps in the curtains, and I realised that the hunger at least was real.  I munched my last dry granola bar, and then slowly sipped the inadequate dregs of my water.  I couldn't quite bring myself to leave the warmth of the bed though, so angled the cookbook up to a shaft of sunlight and idly browsed.  Some of the cooking timetables could (hopefully) come in useful, if I ever find found any food again.

It was now time to move.  I poked my head out of the cabin- relatively calm.  There were more cabins around the edge of the lake, but in front of me, back towards the safety of the office, were a couple of fishing huts- apparently unmolested by wolves.  Given the paucity of supplies in the huts last night, I decided to try and get back to the office and the tracks, maybe picking up a fish or two on the way if I could break through the ice.  As I approached the 1st hut, I saw yet another corpse outside, face down.  Inside the hut I found an emergency flare and another packet of cheap matches.  I scrawled a few more notes on my map, but my joy was quickly tempered by a dark low shape in the distance.  Mutley was soon joined by a few howling buddies, 4 in all, probably the same pack as yesterday.  Same place too, between myself and the office.  It was too risky and too cold to fish, but I was down to a few cattails, the biscuits and no water, so going back was equally out of the question. 

To my left was a 3rd way - a narrow shoreline that went in and out from behind rocks.  It wasn't completely covered but there was a chance I could rush around before the wolves spotted me.  I waited for them to start up one of their howling symphonies and then ran as hard as I could towards the first outcrop.  Regaining my breath, I crept further around.  They hadn't spotted me.  Now fancying my chances in a sprint to the line, I set off again.  I made it back undetected and setting a new PB.  

I decided to drop off any duplicate items such as medicine, some of the lamp fuel, and even one of the coffee tins and a  cattail for emergencies,- this would make a handy place to hole up if I could sort the food/ dog situation.  I lightened my load further by making a very welcome fire (1st time no less, although I suspect more down to luck than hidden voyaguer ancestry), and boiled up some fresh water and a couple of coffees.  I even managed to make some sort of sticky red concoction from the berries I'd picked up.  It smelt... healthy.  I bottled that away for an emergency.  I was going to try and find the dam and get through to the coast, or at the very least recee further along the tracks.  I decided I needed as much energy as possible to munched through the dry crackers, luckily able to wash them down with plenty of water, and allowed myself a light doze before setting off, probably just after noon.

The weather had turned, not as bad as on my first night but snowing hard with a brisk wind getting steadily stronger.  I was going away from the tunnel, and in the comparatively better visibility spotted yet another derailment ahead.  This had red carriages like my previous sanctuary.  I was more perplexed now than shocked by the discovery of 2 more corpses (and glad of my hand wraps, so I wasn't leaving a trail of fingerprints and risking inadvertently becoming Canada's most wanted mass homicide suspect).  One dude had a couple of gun books, a box of small gauge ammo and a gun cleaning kit, no weapon though.  God damn it, I'd feel a lot better about the wolf situation if I was packing heat.  Outside with stiff #2 was a tool box and another flare, plus a dead and ravaged deer.  It looked fresh, so I decided to use my saw and cut off a frozen steak from the intact front leg that had been protected by the snow.  I was getting a proper chill now so left the rest and headed on, but not before marking the map and spraying an 'x' on the carriage as a marker- all these corpses and carriages were beginning to get confusing.

After another short stroll i saw another train, this time an engine and still on the tracks.  Nothing inside but an energy bar, but that should get me through the night even if I couldn't cook the meat up.  I resisted the urge to chomp it down there and then, putting it deep in my pack for later on.  Onwards up the tracks, more corpses, both deers and men, no stopping now as I was numb and the light was fading.  Up ahead was a small bridge, and to the left... the dam!  great, although I didn't plan to go in unless I had no choice.  if it wasn't safe all those years ago it would be a death trap now.  There was a funny sort of truck just over the bridge, that ran on the rails.  As I got to the middle of the bridge I heard a loud yelp nearby.  Not 'walkies?' but 'this is a drug raid!' on the barkometer.  I couldn't even place the direction, but ran for the truck.  Again, if the doors were locked I was entering a world of pain.  I flung the passenger door open and slammed it immediately shut as a snarling snout snapped at my calves.

When i'd stopped hyperventilating, I realised that i was slowly warming up out of the wind.  I grabbed another pack of jerky out of the glove compartment (it was sealed so I did myself a favour and didn't check the expiry date), and had another flick through the cookbook as rude dog stalked outside, hoping the dweebs were not also in close proximity.  Having found that venison was interchangeable with a couple of beef cuts, and noting the appropriate grilling times, I glanced through the windows.  I couldn't see where the pawprints led to, but it seemed quiet.  There were a couple of old trailers on the opposite side of the tracks from the dam, I think actually where Gramps and his crew used to store their equipment.  Whilst I was still just above freezing, I didn't like the idea of spending the night here whilst a pack of hounds slowly accumulated.  feeling a newfound affinity with Robert Johnson, I took a deep breath and ran for the nearest cabin.  Sure enough, another loud woof, but I'd caught Fido cold.  You snooze, you loose, sucker!

It had been a good call (although not one I'd have had the nerve to make a couple of days ago).  It was warmer, and amongst the overturned shelves and antique detritus I found water, more coffee, soda, tinned sardines and a full jar of peanut butter.  Thanks Gramps!  A veritable feast, which was good as i didn't think starting a fire in such a small place to cook the vension was a smart call.  I also picked up a bag of fertilizer, which i took out of curiosity as it didn't weigh much.  I gorged on the sardines, and peanut butter, raised a can of soda to the old boy and his untidy buddies, and in the end didn't even need the energy bar.  I read a little more, and tried not to dwell on how I was getting acclimatised to corpses and near death experiences.  If only I could get acclimatised to the weather on this damn island... it had ended up a good day on the food front, but I was still woefully underdressed for any length of time outdoors.  There was an old bedroll that i thought about cutting up for repairing my gear, but with just a saw I was worried I'd either blunt my one good tool, or slip and take off a fingertip.  What price a decent knife?! Although mentally not in too bad shape, I was now physically done in, so lay out my bag and imagined finding one of Grandma's red cross parcels that she used to send to Gramps in the other trailer tomorrow.  Chicken soup, cookies, canned chili, reasonably flavoured potato chips, cheese, maybe a bottle of decent scotch and a pouch of his pipe tobacco? Hope reignited, I nodded off as the last daylight faded against the far wall.

 

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Day 5

On reflection, not a terrible day yesterday, although I am writing this curled up in my bag in a dank cave.  Still ,there's a bit of heat still coming off the fire, and the sun is just starting to come up, so it could be worse.  Nearly was...

I woke up before dawn, and had allowed myself to believe that this could be my last day on the island.  A quick raid on the 2nd trailer, a hearty meal (possibly followed by a wee dram and a smoke), then a light jog down the tracks until I hit the stream down to the old picnic site, then straight on to the coast, fishing village, a steaming bowl of poutine from a friendly local family, and then I'd sling my pack into the back of the nearest seaplane and be up, up and away. 

It was too dark to set off yet.  I'd found a beat up old pack of cards in a drawer in the camp office- whilst it was not light enough to start a solitaire league, I spent the time folding out the bent corners and honing my shuffling skills.  I had enough water to quench my morning thirst, but I was now starting to tell the difference between hungry and starving, so resisted the temptations of the energy bar (and to a much lesser extent the jerky).

At last the first beams of day broke through the condensation on the grimy trailer windows.  I couldn't see anything outside, but I hadn't heard any howls during the night.  I fished out my crowbar.  I'd be no match for a determined pack, but I could certainly give a lone wolf a bloody snout if need be.  I checked I'd picked up all my gear,  clicked open the door, waited a moment to let my eyes adjust and to listen for any activity, and then sprinted the 20 or so yards to the opposite trailer.

Made it!  If only I'd been here last night- it had a couple of rows of cozy looking bunks, and a few lockers and drawers, much more hospitable than the dusty floor I'd made do with.  I didn't quite hit the (grand)mother lode of supplies I'd wistfully dreamt of, but there were some welcome additions, namely a rusty tin of pork 'n' beans, and at the bottom of a locker a still in date army ration!  it felt heavy and juicy.  Cannelloni, with fruit cocktail dessert. Oh Boy!  I also found another beat up old parka jacket.  which I patched up a little and switched out for the sports vest.  When I found another box of tools and a pair of tatty socks, I realised there was too much to carry, so a made another stash in one of the drawers.  

I headed back out.  It was a crisp clear morning, and there was still no sign of scooby doo.  I took a moment to spray a little box symbol to remind myself this was the trailer with the stash in (and the beds!) if I ended up coming back this way, then set off on up the tracks.  I passed through a narrowish gorge, and out into a wider area.  The track was getting more broken and uneven, it was clearly impassable for trains and it looked like there had been some sort of earthquake by the extent of the damage.  Could this be linked to the corpses?  They all seemed fresh (although that could be the cold), but snowfall around the landslides suggested they had occurred a long time ago.  I  snapped back to the job in hand- although I had the new coat and it was probably the best weather I'd experienced so far, I was still getting chilled.

I crossed another small bridge over a little brook, and my eye was caught by a spinning murder of crows off to the left.  Whatever they were circling over wasn't far, so I allowed myself the detour into a small clearing.  Sure enough, another John Doe, who gifted me a free flare.  I grabbed some more of these berries (were they maybe rosehips?  gardening was never my scene), and paused to drink a can of grape soda.  As I got my breath and pondered if the 'real grape juice' contained any vitamin C, i spotted a brace of chubby rabbits bonding along the edge of the glade, seemingly oblivious to me.  Whilst I was never quarterback material, I had thrown a mean javelin before deciding to focus on the running, so i crushed the empty can down into my pack, fished out my trusty pebble, and flung at the nearest bunny.  

The crowd went wild!  Direct hit!  I ran up to the little dude, as his pal scarpered, and held him up in triumph.  Then i realised he was still breathing.  Jeeeeeeeeeeeeeez... Another milestone, and not a proud one.  With some difficulty I managed to twist and crush the little fella until I was sure he was done for.  Just hope he was still out cold.  I needed the meat, and maybe even the fur could come in useful.  I tied the carcass to my pack by the hind legs, and set off, anything but triumphant.  Did I need to do that?  I had food in my pack.  No, I had to.  All this thought of getting out today was optimistic at best, I need to plan ahead as far as possible from now on.  Save the rations until I have no choice, learn to live off the land.  There are plenty of rabbits.

I replaced my pebble down by the stream, and grabbed a couple more cattails.  Up ahead was another derailment, however this was different.  It had hit a landslide and gone right down into some sort of gully far below- this was the end of the line.  I found some medical supplies and a half empty jerry can of gasoline.  By now my teeth were chattering, so I found a sheltered spot in the lee of a carriage and, using a splash of gas as an accelerant, started a fire.  I firstly melted some snow and cooked up the deer steak (trying to gauge temperature and time as much as possible according to what I had read in the cookbook), and used the time to skin and gut the rabbit.  It was fiddly, and my gloves looked like something out of a horror movie by the end, but I was able to quickly roast two bunny cutlets before the fire went out.

 

TBC

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Day 5 (cont)

I crossed over the brook, and wandered through a small wooded area, picking up some dead sticks and also lots of pieces of bark.  I knew it was good for fire lighting (at some stage in the process), and one of my old school teachers had ostentatiously drank birch leaf tea rather than coffee- maybe I could brew something up with the bark too?  I'd decided by now to forage anything I could, so harvested a couple of mushrooms and some strange spongy lichen from a low hanging bough.  We'd done a class on fungi and their medicinal properties (as well as the more dangerous and recreational types), and whilst I was loathe to start experimenting and accidentally poison myself, if I found myself in a bind it might be worth a roll of the dice.  

I came back around towards the direction of the tracks, and found another dead deer.  This one had not fallen to wolves, but to a hunter, as I managed to salvage an intact wooden arrow.  Just a simple wooden one, not one of the fibreglass sports ones.  I studied how it was made- feathers, steel head, a crudely carved shaft.  Yet clearly effective.  I lashed it to the side of my pack, but declined to harvest anything from the deer as time was moving on.

In a little dell to my left was corpse #372, with a tin of sardines in a backpack on the ridger above a deep gorge.  I mean really deep.  More crows circled over something below- I wondered if my friend had crawled up from the wreck of the train?  Although there were a couple of large outcrops that would probably take a rope, there was no way down.  There was, however, a way across.  A fallen tree spanned the gap to the remainder of the train carriages, overturned on the opposite side of the landslide.  I paused to gulp down the sardines (savouring the refreshing brine), then decided to give it a go.

I was never good with heights, even before the plane crash.  I jumped on the bit of the log resting on my side a couple of times, it seemed sturdy enough.  It was wide enough that I could walk in my normal stance, so I went for it.  Arms outstretched, I made it halfway across before succumbing to the urge to look down.  It must've been a couple of hundred feet, and I could see the train engine on the ravine floor, the brook noisily cascading down in a waterfall on my left.  I managed to look back up and control the growing dizziness and sense of panic, and made it safely over.  Nothing in the carriages, so I scrambled up the bank and back onto the line.  haha, back on track!  

I passed some sort of siding area with a logging carriage, but this time ploughed straight on ahead, to a bridge over another large gorge that preceded a tunnel entrance.  I scouted the area below the bridge- to the right was a tumbledown area of fallen trees below a gigantic waterfall, which led down to a frozen river falling away to my left.  I could just make out a deer carcass by a pool below, and then the river disappeared into a myriad of twisting canyons.  It must lead to the sea, if i could only get down there.  I headed on through the tunnel, really just a huge cave whose roof had fallen in, again blocking the line.  I emerged and soon reached another bridge.  

This was different, like something out of a Western movie, usually about to be blown up as the steam train passes over.  It was a curving timber construction, high above another tumbling ravine, running parallel to more angry falls.  There was no walkway or railings, just the tracks.  On the far side I could make out another tunnel.  There was no way down to the valley below.

Thank god the wind was low.  I'd come this far, I wasn't about to turn back.  if it could take a train, it could take little old me.  I stepped out, bracing the outside of each foot against the inside of each rail for extra purchase.  I looked around, and again the river below surely must reach the sea just over the horizon.  On and on I stomped, past halfway, past two thirds, when I was stopped dead in my tracks.  The bridge was out.  But not fully.  Tantalisingly, the rails twisted across the broken beams, still connected like a mighty thread.  My rabbit friend could have easily scampered over.  It was late.  I was cold.  if nothing else I could light a fire in the tunnel.  Do I risk it?

No.  I trusted my gut, and for the first time since the wolves on the lake allowed my fear to overrule my aching limbs and desperate mind.  It was too risky.  There could be other ways, other trails.  The creaking boards were one thing, but slippery cold steel, with a laden pack, quite another.  I turned and eased my way back to solid earth.  God damn it!

A wave of exhaustion and disappointment hit me as I looked back.  I'd been so close! I swigged some cold coffee that I'd brewed up the day before back at the office.  It tasted foul and bitter, but I definitely got a caffeine hit.  Reinvigorated, I jogged back through the cave/tunnel.  It was too exposed to camp down in, although I knew I wouldn't make it back to the trailers by the dam before nightfall.  I wasn't going back over that fallen tree like this.  Would I need to make a snow shelter?

I went back over the tunnel bridge, and reached the sidings.  I decided to look around, and found a few more mushrooms, as well as another warren that I left unmolested.  Then a stroke of luck, a cave!  Another tin of beans and a cereal bar, as well as a coiled up climbing rope.  Interesting...  I'd need to check the condition though.  A job for morning.  For now, I needed a fire.  There was a burnt out fire by the cave entrance, but I decided to head in out of the wind.  It didn't go back far, but I definitely noticed an upturn in temperature.  Confident this alcove would get me through the night, I went back outside and with the last of my energy sawed up a fallen log.  It took a while but the 3 large pieces of timber were worth it.  I soon had a roaring fire going, and boiled up some water before trying my hand at brewing various teas and replacing my emergency coffee.  Then, I treated myself to a warm meal- hot beans, with extra rabbit meat, washed down with a soda.

Feeling close to full, I stoked the fire then got in my sleeping bag and quickly fell asleep.  I woke in the middle of the night to the hoots of a nearby owl.  The fire had burnt out.  I was cold, but just about above freezing if I hunkered right down in my bag.  At least I was for a couple more hours.  Some time just before dawn, it got too cold even for that.  I didn't want to head out in the dark, so wasted a few matches restarting the fire (I was loathe to use any more lamp fuel, possibly not a wise move).  Once it was blazing away I got back into bed and scribbled the days' journal notes down, which is where I am now.  The fire is guttering, i've put on my last couple of sticks (I've got a piece of old timber crate and a lump of coal for emergencies), and I'm going to try to catch another quick nap before setting off.  If the rope is good, and long enough, I might check out the bottom of the ravine.  I've done a climbing wall at summer camp before, it can't be that hard, huh?  If not, back to the dam or even the lake, to take stock.  One day at a time...

 

 

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Day 6

I'd had better nights' sleep than that first night in the cave, but I'm sure I'll be having worse soon enough... I awoke again at daybreak- worryingly I was starting to shiver inside my bag, and a thin coat of rime was on my new 'beard'.  At least I didn't have a mirror.  It was too cold to lie there feeling sorry for myself, which was probably not a bad thing.  I decided to leave the rabbit remnants in the cave as they were starting to smell.  I was loathe to waste my last fuel on a fire, and it was too cold to go around gathering sticks, so I munched an energy bar, broke camp and headed back towards the log bridge.

Outside was shrouded in a heavy dawn mist, but I managed to find the tracks, and shortly after the bridge.  Luckily, the fog meant I couldn't see the bottom, and the overnight ice crunched reassuringly under my shoes rather than being a solid slick rink.  I made it over, and went across to where the crows I had spotted the day before were still hovering, roughly parallel to the edge of the gorge.  I examined the nearby outcrop, standing guard like a solitary dolmen.  It seemed perfect.  Now to check the rope- I tied one end as securely as my shaking hands would allow to the rock, then gradually fed the remainder over the edge and down, checking for any frayed bits as I went.  It seemed ok.  The fog persisted, and I had no way of knowing if the rope carried all the way to the ravine floor.  Only one way to find out.

My pack was heavy but manageable.  My improvised gloves were actually excellent for grip due to the way the cloth was wound around.  There was no safety line, so I had to trust my upper body strength.  I was glad I had managed to stay reasonably well fed thus far.  A deep breath, a firm grip and I backed off the ledge.  I decided to go as quickly as i dared, pushing out and down with my feet so I was almost horizontal.  After possibly 50 feet I passed a small ledge.  I considered stopping to catch my breath, but my main concern was losing my grip due to the cold.  I was still feeling ok, so carried on.  Gradually the ground below materialised, as did the end of the rope, cut to measure it seemed a couple of feet above the ice!  I Neil Armstronged the last little jump, and took a few triumphant breaths.  I was also delighted about the ledge, as getting up would be much more difficult so a stop point could be crucial.

I surveyed the scene.  Surprise surprise, another corpse was the source of the crow's excitement.  My new buddy did have some sort of adrenaline stim.  i didn't envisage getting a bad wasp sting any time soon, but added it to my growing experimental pharmacy.  The small frozen brook was blocked by fallen timbers just to my left, heading back towards the dam.  Around me was the remaining train wreckage- an overturned carriage and the engine itself.  I could get into the engine, although it was too exposed to start the by now urgent fire i needed.  I did though make a big find- an orange emergency container that housed a flare gun and three shells.  The gun broke open on a hinge like an old shotgun, and the flare clicked easily into place.  I didn't know how lethal the ammo was, but it gave me a chance to signal to anyone passing planes or boats, and maybe to scare off any hostile canines.  I tucked it safely into my parka pocket for easy retrieval. I also grabbed a chocolate bar and a book on guns (hopefully with a chapter or two on flares!), and then headed off upstream, my view still hampered by the lingering mist.

Eventually, still surrounded by fallen trunks, the way opened slightly into a frozen pool, surrounded by cattails, rabbits and a deer carcass.  Was this the deer carcass I had seen from the bridge yesterday?  I peered upwards, but I couldn't see more than about 100 feet.  By now I was so cold I was starting to warm up again- never a good sign.  Beyond the deer was a small cave, with a bed of leaves in one corner.  I felt warmer immediately for being out of the wind, but not trusting my sense of temperature decided that I still needed to heat up properly.  I lit a fire (not scrimping on the lamp fuel this time), and burned my last lump of coal, boiling up water and then more tea as i slowly thawed.  I decided to try a mug of the bark tea- I don't think I'll be marketing my own blend ('Wolf Brand Herbal Tea Company- our bark is better than our bite') when i get back, but it was warming and I did feel a little better for it.  As the last embers glowed i heated up my remaining can of beans.  After licking clean the can (and, of course, safely storing it in my pack), I realised how drained I was feeling.  I was comfortable temperature wise with a hot meal inside, so lay down on the leaves and grabbed a quick nap.

When I woke the mist had lifted, and i could guess from the sun that it was late afternoon.  Even though I had probably only gone a few hundred yards as the crows circled, I decided to consolidate for the evening.  The weather was tolerable, so I headed out and used my saw to cut up a fallen tree branch.  I needed to warm up a little after that, so spent a quiet hour in the cave finishing off the last chapters of the cook book.  I then headed back out into the late afternoon sunshine, and examined the deer carcass.  Frozen solid, something had recently had a nibble, but no obvious signs of decay and there was clearly still some meat left.  My trusty saw yielded three small steaks (despite starting to go worryingly blunt), each about half the size of the one I had hacked off the deer near the office.  I also decided to further practise my butchering skills by taking off the skin and a length of gut.  it was messy and grim work, and I wasn't best pleased with my efforts, so again dumped them in a corner of the cave.  Maybe if the skin dried it would do for an extra blanket for the bed of leaves or something.

Confident that I had memorised the salient points from the cookbook, I managed to use it to restart the fire with a single match and no extra fuel.  I soon had a few twigs and one of the bits of log crackling away merrily, and roasted my venison steaks on a couple of flat stones.  I ate two for a delicious dinner, washed down with all the water I needed, and saved the last one for a hunter's breakfast.  Not convinced of the warmth from the leaf bed overnight, I laid out my sleeping bag over it, and had a contented night's sleep.  It was warm enough first thing for me to jot down these notes- today after breakfast I'll see if there is a way out of the ravine past this little pool, and either explore that or head back up the rope.

 

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You've got a good serial going.   Some nice story elements tied into the locations, and a growing sense of dread for those readers who know where he might be heading..🙂:coffee:

Edited by Screenshot Pilgrim
forgot my coffee
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1 hour ago, Screenshot Pilgrim said:

You've got a good serial going.   Some nice story elements tied into the locations, and a growing sense of dread for those readers who know where he might be heading..🙂:coffee:

cheers, glad to know you're enjoying it!  It's fun to try to make decisions based on the character/ low of the story rather than just knowing safest likely routes to bases or loot, has freshened things up a lot.  Hope there's more than one more installment left though...!

🐺

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Day 7

Bit lively...

After finishing the morning's writing, I had a quick flick through one of the several 'guns and ammo' related tomes I'd accumulated.  Folks in these parts were clearly partial to a carbine- wish I knew where they kept them!  The cold venison didn't quite live up to it's freshly grilled predecessors the night before, but it was filling enough.  I treated myself to an extra hour of almost warmth under the covers, before heading out into a clear but chilling morning.

I examined the pool area.  There were three main passages running off it- the way I'd come, another frozen rivulet blocked by fallen trees, and then nearest the cave was an extension of the river gorge.  I couldn't see too far ahead due to a corner up ahead, but clearly this was the only option other than turning back.  Onward!

I soon came to a roaring waterfall- the river (as it had now grown to) must still be liquid at some depth under my feet.  The ice seemed solid enough though.  A large unclimbable summit loomed over me, and below the falls, a large frozen pool that again split into several locations.  I utilised some more fallen trees to hop down to the pool, and explored the trail furthest to my right.  It soon reached a dead end by some cliffs.  i thought it a good idea to sketch this down, but by the time I'd finished the cold was already biting.  I headed back and instead took the left hand route out.

This was more successful initially, and I could make out some sort of rusted firewatch tower in the distance.  Great!  If I was going to find some sort of working communication equipment that was as good a place as any.  My joy was short lived.  A huge grey wolf, bigger than any I'd seen so far, was prowling the valley between me and the tower.  No go.  There was another lower pool to my right- I jogged over to it, flare gun drawn, trying to put some distance between myself and the wolf.  There was a trail leading up and out of the pool, and I thought I'd made it undetected when I spotted a second creature up on the small hill between me and wolf #1.  

No escaping the gaze of the second mutt.  She gave a triumphant cry, alerting her pal and possibly some others.  I didn't stoop to find out, but sprinted down the exit trail as fast as I could go.  Excited howls grew ever closer.  Surely they could overtake me if they wanted?  They must be playing with me, waiting for me to tire myself out for an easy kill.  They didn't have to wait too long.  Exhausted by the cold and the weight of my pack, I collapsed on my haunches for a couple of seconds, then turned to face whatever came next.

I'd gone over a short ridge before stopping, which meant I'd lost the line of sight, and would have only a few seconds warning when they decided to follow.  Suddenly two steel-coloured snarling furballs surmounted the ridge.  They weren't here to play now.  As I raised the flare gun they split either side of me.  'Clever girl...'  Panic stricken, I fired anyway.  I clearly hadn't got the trajectory right, and the shell exploded only a few yards in front of me.  The low crack of the gun was followed by a spluttering hiss as red smoke erupted from the shell.  Hardly the clap of Thor's hammer, but it did the job.  The hounds whimpered and ran past me in terror.  

Now I had a quandary.  i could still hear dogs behind me back the way I came, so still between me and the tower.  I could see a chain link fence in the opposite direction, but the two dogs I'd fired at had headed that way.  I clicked a fresh flare into the chamber, gritted my teeth and headed after the brace of wolves.  The hunted had become the hunter?  More like I was going to go down with a fight.  I soon came to a carpark, of all things, with a rope bridge to a large radio mast in the distance.  There seemed to be a control hut in front of it.  Great!  If I was going to find some sort of working communication equipment etc. etc.

I could see the dogs, still scampering panic stricken, on the far side of the bridge.  At least it looked intact.  With the last of my stamina I flung open the door of the nearest truck and fell inside.  I couldn't feel my feet, but by crawling inside my sleeping bag managed to warm up slightly.  I nodded off, still with barking in the distance.  I can't have been asleep for long, and had a bit of welcome cheer when i checked the glove box and found a tatty pair of fleece mitts.  Proper gloves at last!  I then cautiously jumped from truck to car to truck, checking for wolves as I went.  They seemed to have gone, and I also found a very welcome dry pair of trainers in the boot of an old sedan (near enough my size when you factor in 2 pairs of socks and swollen toes), which eased my sodden feet somewhat.  Gun still drawn, I headed up to the radio hut.

 

TBC

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Day 7 (cont)

The hut was barely warmer than the truck, and pitch black even though it was just after midday.  Luckily lamp fuel was one of my more bountiful resources (a very relative statement, to be fair), so I decided it worth turning on the lamp for a few minutes to properly scope the place out.  I was rewarded immediately, with a pair of battered but still superior work boots.  Tough leather with a good sole, they were definitely an upgrade, and fit me like a, um, glove?  Slipper?  Anyway, even better was to come in the main room- a heavy duty (and very expensive) expedition parka.  We are talking polar explorer levels here, warm, lightweight and durable.  It too had seen better days, but I had no hesitation on swapping out the worst of my two light parkas for an immediate improvement in temperature.  A good quality lightweight sweater completed the clothing haul.

A further gain was a box of decent wooden matches- much sturdier than the cheap ones I'd been struggling with so far.  Needless to say the hut was deserted (not even a friendly corpse for company) but I did also find an intriguing but troubling note.  Whoever wrote it was in a similar bind to myself- no food and harassed by wolves.  They'd even been chased out of the muskeg, so had likely followed the same route I had.  The note mentioned heading to a worksite below the tower, and gave a code '154' for a security door.  Musing idly on the odds of meeting another Wire fan out here (I suppose this would be a good job for someone with an interest in map references), I tried a couple of control switches on the various machines scattered about, but the entire building was dead.  Not a surprise, but still a kick in the teeth.

I tried to stay positive, but gave myself a little outlet for my frustration by tearing up the poorest pair of trainers and my now obsolete hand wraps into strips of leather and cloth respectively.  By the time this was done, my stomach was starting to mutiny, so I cracked open the MRE.  It would've been a lot better warm, but the gooey, creamy pasta, with a hint of pepper, followed by the almost jelly like fruit, was the best thing I'd eaten in days.  Full and nicely warmed up, I patched up the boots til they were virtually watertight again, and reinforced the threadbare palms of the mittens.  It was now getting late in the day, but with a full belly and having had a bit of rest earlier, I made the decision to try to press on.  The wolves may still be shell shocked, after all, so getting around them before they regained their courage wasn't a bad course of action.  Probably.

It was warmer and still clear outside, so I started by heading up the short slope to the tower itself.  What a view!  I could have used a guide to what I was looking at to map more effectively, but I could make out (from right to left) a huge frozen estuary, with a tumbledown jetty and trailers, a large industrial site on the shoreline proper (maybe what the note was referring to?) with what could be a ship's mast poking up from the buildings, a long freeway bridge over the bay, with several abandoned vehicles and an overturned truck, an island with the ruins of an old lighthouse out in the bay itself, and finally some cottages with fishing boats and huts on the opposite side of the bay to the factory buildings.  The excitement at seeing so much civilisation was ended by my realisation of the overwhelming stillness of the scene.  A light breeze was whistling through the spars and wires of the tower- apart from this there was only silence.  I rued the fact that I couldn't spare a flare shell, then, memorising the scene and adding to my piecemeal map, I turned around.

There was no obvious way down in this area, with the tower stoutly defended by both fences and sheer cliff faces.  I went back over the bridge, drew my gun, and headed back up the road leading from the car park.  It soon terminated in a morass of logs and landslides, but there was a route that should take me up to the watchtower.  I was on full alert now, but the silence, now welcome, pervaded.  At last I could see the tower up ahead.  I risked a run, and as I crested the small plateau that the tower stood upon, saw first one, then two old friends in the valley beyond.  My first steps on the clanking staircase of the tower alerted them to my presence, but i was now home and dry and they howled and barked in vain.  i even had time to pocket a couple of spent cartridges.  I went all along the watchtower veranda, finding a climbing rope for my trouble around the final bend.  I was safe from the wolves, so surveyed the view.  Similar to the view from the radio tower, with the exception of being able to see a river leading from the cliffs to the North (possibly, if I had my bearings right, the same river that the broken railway bridge crossed?) down to near the fishing huts, with an isolated cabin on its shore.  No obvious route down, but a boulder below the watchtower might be a good spot to climb if the rope was ok.  I'd have to get round the wolves first though.

I headed into the tower, a single square room with windows on all sides.  There was a small stove, a dresser, a few shelves, a computer desk and a camp bed in the centre.  From the notes on a noticeboard next to the desk, someone had been studying the wolf population from here.  I was less enthusiastic about conservation than I had been a week ago, to be honest.  Under the board was a major find, a warm but heavy bedroll made from what seemed to be bearskin.  It was obviously worth the weight.  The only other items of note were a few tins, including yup, my favorite, dog food.  I still wasn't confident enough to turn my nose up at food, so banged it open and slurped down the chunks, allowing myself a tin of soda to wash it down.  

The clothes I had found and the new roll meant I could hardly lift my pack now, so I decided to dump a few items here.  Medicines, spare clothes and bedroll, water, a few morsels and even a couple of matches and a flare (not a shell!  They were my lifeline).  Should be of use for anyone else following through, if this is the only passable route, or for me if I get forced back.  To this end, i went outside and sprayed a box glyph near the door, to hopefully highlight that it was worth heading up here. The wolves still stalked the ground below.

The sun was lingering just above the horizon, but I was done in, so climbed into the rickety bed and slept for as long as I needed.

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Day 8

I'm writing up these notes in bed, hoping that yesterday's error was just grit in the oyster...

I awoke in the watchtower at dawn, as is becoming a welcome habit.  I gulped down almost all of my remaining water, then managed to use a couple of scraps of harvested cloth to reinforce the frayed cuffs of my new parka.  The only howling coming from outside was from a raging blizzard.  How would you prefer to perish sir, wolf bite or frostbite?  Gambling that this Canadian would be going where even mad dogs fear to tread, I decided to set out,  my recent climbing experience and new gloves tipping the balance.

I couldn't even see down to the possible climbing rock I'd identified yesterday.  Feeling my way gingerly down the stairs and then around the rocks in what I hoped was the correct direction, I soon stumbled into the monolith.  Taking extra care to get the rope secure, I jumped off into the abyss.  The wind buffeted me sideways as I tried to descend as quickly as I could, also trying to scope out possible ledges in case of enforced retreat.  Bingo, a couple of feet of exposed edge would make a resting spot.  Mentally naming it 'death bivouac', I continued my abseil, crunching down into a foot or so of fresh snow.

Visibility was next to nothing- snowflakes were being fired into my face by an invisible blunderbuss.  I tried to get the snapshot of the cabin and river in my mind and headed off to my left.  I've no idea what the temperature was, but I've been out in minus 15 before and this felt at least triple that.  If I stopped then I died.  I trudged on past dead trees and more rocks, the only landmark being a cluster of small silver saplings.  Then, out of the white, a chimney.  Pausing only to check the (empty) woodbin by the door, I staggered inside.

Again needing my lantern to see clearly, I found myself in a small wooden cabin with 2 rooms- a main room with table and fireplace, with a small bedroom annexe off the far end.  The planks and beams creaked in the gale.  Slim pickings on the shelves- a cereal bar, a few more revolver cartridges, some lighter fluid (no lighter or cigarettes, because of course), and another, slightly newer looking lantern.  I took my frustration out on the curtains and a couple of wooden crates, which I soon got blazing with the help of some of the lighter fuel.  Warming up by the grate and replenishing my water supply by melting a few handfuls of snow in my trusty saucepan, I decided this place was not a good spot to rest and that if visibility allowed i would head down the river towards the cabins, bridge and factory, depending on where I came out.  If my bearings were correct I had a good margin for error, and I guessed it was still only about midday.  I steeled myself for the journey ahead with a hot tin of soup I'd found the day before.

I bottled up the water and set off, luckily the worst of the storm had abated and I had a clear view of a little log bridge over the river outside.  I headed off to the left of the river, hoping to summon a rise on the horizon to better reconnoitre my route.  At the top I could still see the river to my right, with a small modern bridge over it.  Hypothesising that this connected to the estuary bridge, I set off towards it, reassured by my smooth grip of my flare gun.  I soon covered the open ground to the bridge.  To the left it looked like the highway was blocked by another collapse, although I didn't want to take the detour to find out for sure.  On the far side of the river down below the bridge I saw a dark shape that could be the angle of a distant roof?  It was roughly where I would have guessed the fishing hut and cottages to be.  I headed down the river bank, crossing the river without mishap, and ascended the far bank.  I had been mistaken, it was just a large outcrop of granite.  However, in the distance I saw a highway light, so the road did continue.  Carrying on my route roughly parallel to the road, I rounded the deceiving rock and at last saw the elusive cottages and a tumbledown jetty.

There then followed a goldilocks moment.  The nearest cottage was in ruins (although it did yield some timber and coal).  The second was boarded shut, too securely even for my prybar.  The last one though was juuuuuuuust right, in that it was unlocked.  Bed, fireplace, chest, shelves, table, armchair, unresponsive radio.  I spent my usual few minutes thawing out and stocking up- a strange blue flare (navy issue?), peaches, soda, sardines, more cloth.  No sign of any recent occupation.  I ditched my excess baggage and left enough of the essentials to get myself or a stranger through a desperate night, and then was struck full force by the realisation that I'd left my pot back at the first cabin.  Language poured forth.  I'd already realised that this was much more efficient both for cooking and boiling up water, well worth the extra weight- indeed, the comforting clank as it bounced against the prybar in my pack helped me regulate my walking rhythm.  How had i managed to leave it?! I fought the urge to set back out and pick it up.  I had been lucky with the wildlife today- maybe the wolf pack by the tower was the only one around, but there were no guarantees.

There were still a couple of hours of daylight left, so rather than sit and stew (ironically, an activity that was now beyond me), I decided to head out to the nearby hut.  Sliding down the shore, I bounced over the sea ice.  Sadly no door on the hut, but I did scavenge some firewood and some fishing tackle to supplement my home crafted kit I'd put together back at the lake office.  With no little difficulty I smashed down through the sea ice with my crowbar.  Baiting the line with a few stray strands of cloth wiped around the inside of the used soup tin for some flavour, I dropped the line down through the hole.  After less than an hour I had some success, a small trout being dragged up into the light and then swiftly dispatched with the crowbar.  Enticed by my unexpected early success, i stayed for another hour, gaining another trout before a third leviathan took off with my hook.  it was just as well, as hunched and huddled over the fishing hole, i had neglected the later afternoon temperature drop.  I cold-footed it back up the slope to the cabin, and used my last bit of lighter fluid to get a roaring fire in the grate.

Soon the aroma of roasted fish filled the little single roomed shack.  i tossed the guts outside to be used as bait, and, even though I had a couple of litres of water left, filled a couple more empty bottles I'd gathered along the way as a precaution given my pot luck.  I took a quick inventory of my food- 2 grape sodas, a tin of sardines, 1 can each of beans and peaches, a mouldy looking cereal bar, a packet of crushed potato chips, a few cattails and lastly the jerky.  Enough for a day or two at a pinch, plus I still had my other fishing tackle, so I treated myself to a brace of hot trout, trying not to think too much of samphire, lemon and hollandaise sauce.  i was still ticking over about the pot, but as the light from the fire faded, i realised I was too tired even to read one of the books I'd lugged along with me, so rolled over in the musty bed clothes and dozed, leaving my quandary until the morrow.

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Day 9

So if I've worked this out right, this is the morning of the 12th.  One big incident, but an otherwise quiet day yesterday- like a shoplifter in the condiments aisle, I'd decided it was time to take stock.  I'd awoken with a start from a dream where a truck full of food and equipment had been parked up by my Pa outside the hut, but he'd left without giving me the keys, and when I tried the door the alarm set off- flashing lights and the wailing horn soon attracting crows, wolves and vengeful zombie bunnies.  I tried to lull myself back to sleep by thinking of the things that might make my situation more tolerable- smokes, a couple of bags of pasta and rice, my old mp3 player (complete with 'walking in the woods' and 'super party mix 5000' playlists), a tablet with decent wifi, a compass, a change of socks, a reliable map, chocolate chip cookies, hot from the oven and brought in on a tray by that girl from the bar downtown, an ice cold 6 pack, poutine...

After jotting down my usual diary notes, the reality was a cold breakfast of sardines and soda.  My feet and joints were aching this morning- I'd covered a lot of miles in the last week, and although the new boots were a good fit, I was still breaking them in and had a nasty sore on one ankle to show for it.  For the first time I was really starting to miss home, the folks, messing about with the guys on the relay team.  I had a word with myself and reminded myself that this was why i was putting myself through all of this, to get back home and see everyone again, get back to all those comforts, maybe even actually try to speak to the girl at the bar... I also decided it was time to cut myself a little slack.  'Bank holiday.  Rest day', I declared to the panelled walls.  

This meant staying at the cottage, but I decided I'd enjoy this more with some fresh food.  I headed out into the mid morning, and was immediately glad of the decision to temporarily curtail my roaming when I felt the chill of the fresh coastal breeze.  I took a proper look at the bay.  The broken lighthouse was on a small island with a jetty to my left.  Over open water lay the industrial buildings.  I counted four main structures and yes, definitely a small boat with a mast.  Still absolutely no sign of life. I made a mental note to try and look over there after darkness to see if there were any lights or fires.  On the far right the long bridge spanned the distance, and suggested a clear route over the bay.  I went round the back of the cottage, hoping to grab a bit of wood to stoke the little stove in the fishing hut.  There was a small frozen pond, but just a few dead twigs, no larger limbs.  I headed up over a rise which revealed the river I'd followed yesterday and the smaller road bridge.  Then I froze.  To my right was a set a pawprints, heading away from the pond.  They were big, large enough that I could have easily fitted my head into one of them.

BEAR!

Greg's dad had joshed me about ending up as bear food if i ever ended up out in the woods alone, and i had seen a documentary about their declining habitat on cable a couple of years back, but i didn't think they actually existed in my world!  And there it was!  Back to me, and hopefully moving upwind.  A lolloping black behemoth, as big as a car.  There seemed to be a depression or cave in the cliffs on the far side, probably its den.  I watched, fascinated and appalled in equal measure, for a few moments before coming to my senses and slowly backtracking.  Once over the hill I sprinted the last few yards back to the cabin.

Great.  First half decent place to set up that I'd found, and it was next to a grizzly's watering hole.  That made up my mind about heading back up river for the pot- no way!  I tried to calm my nerves by finishing off the book on handguns.  I also had books on ammunition crafting techniques, rifles and archery.  If i did find anyone alive out here they were probably going to be some prepper militia types, I'm sure they'd adore a city boy student.  Still, I finished the book and was confident that if I did find a pistol or revolver I could at least put some bullets in one end and get them to come out of the other.  

I'd warmed up and calmed down, and it was now early afternoon.  I still wanted that fresh fish, but was lacking in firewood.  I again examined the cottage.  There were plenty of things I could maybe smash up with an axe, but as it was I could only kick to pieces a small balsa wood crate.  I poked my head outside.  It seemed clear, and so I ran  over to the ruined shack to get more of the coal, then down to the fishing hut.  No sign of Winnie.  I broke the frozen fishing hole back open again, and fished for about 20 minutes, until I got another trout just as the cold was starting to become unbearable.  I had the handgun book in my pocket, and managed to use it to get the stove going and then added a couple more lumps of coal.  Toasty.  I gutted the fish with my hands, using the innards to continue fishing as it sizzled away, stopping only to siphon off the dripping oil into a bottle for future use.  By the time it was done I'd got another trout, and a good sized salmon.  Oh yeah!  I cooked up both fish, but then a minor disaster as my line snapped.  I had a couple of hooks but nothing that would do for line.  Dammit.  I boiled another can of water with the last of the fire, and then attempted to carry back a torch to light the fireplace in the cottage.  It lasted all of two seconds before a gust of sea breeze extinguished it.

I thought better of leaving the fish outside given my new neighbour, so took them in and ate the still warm salmon and larger of the trout.  It was as good as you'd expect- so good in fact I had no yearning for tatare or dill- the crisply charred skin being more than enough flavour.  I made good use of the last couple of hours of light, laying on the bed flicking through the archery guide.  I figured this may be useful if I ever found a bow to go with that arrow I'd acquired.  I decided to make plans for tomorrow, given I'd allowed myself some respite and could probably trust my frame of mind.  Going back was clearly not an option.  I would see if I could get over to the lighthouse first thing, and maybe fire off one of my flares to see if there was any response.  If not, back to the cottage to warm up and pack up, then over the bridge and into the factory.  Even if there was no one about, it seemed my best bet of finding a way to reach the outside world, and also working out what the hell had happened on this island.

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