Two years of hell


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As my last stalker run was both great fun and very immersive for me, I've decided to write a survival story about it.

I chose to tell the tale from Anna's perspective, making both myself and patch-related changes of the environment a result of her increasingly troubled and confused state of mind. The whole text is thus some kind of mixture between survival story and fiction.

I would like to apologize in advance for the huge wall of text and its (presumably uncountable) grammar, typing, word choice and other mistakes - English isn't my first language and I certainly lack eloquence in it.^^

Anyway, I hope everything is (at least halfway) understandable and hopefully fun to read. Anna's diary entries sometimes includes irony, sarcasm, bitterness & hatred, guess you'll notice that quite soon. Better don't read this text to children. ;p

There's one last annotation I would like to make, although it should really be obvious: Hinterland Studio, of course, has the exclusive Copyright © on Anna and her background story. In no way do I wish to steal their intellectual property or anything even remotely along these lines. ;)

Enough said for now: Let's get started with the first 130 days (Chapter 1/5) of this tiny tragedy.

Chapter One: A Nightmare unfolds

Night 0

Dear Diary,

My head is aching and I feel sick. I lack most of my memory regarding the last few days. The only thing I remember is talking to Will at the airport, waving goodbye as his plane soars into the air. My two girls were with me back then. Now they're gone.

I cannot tell why or how we got separated, but I know I would never have left them voluntarily. I feel incredibly desperate. If only I could remember anything, if only I knew where I am or how I got here. If only I knew what happened to my girls.

All I can tell is that I'm sitting in a cave, freezing and sick. When I touch my forehead, I feel a tiny cut caked with blood. I can hear the wind howling outside, but it's night and I can't see anything. Nothing except an extraordinary strong aurora.

I stumble across a piece of firewood lying on the cave floor, strike one of the matches in my backback and finally manage to light a fire. Pale flames shed some light on the most precious photography that I store within my diary - Will, my girls and me about one year ago. Good times. I can hardly resist to cry, never felt so desperate in my whole life.

I have to sleep now, need to gather my strength. Tomorrow I'll search the area for my family.

Day 1

I've been looking for my family - or any other human being - the whole day, but found nothing except a derailed wagon and two frozen corpses. Picked up some medicine, a candy bar and a hunting knife lying next to one of them. Guess the poor wretch won't need it any more.

The local wildlife is extraordinary aggressive. I've never heard of a single wolf that attacked a person on sight, yet this happened to me today. Fortunately, I had a flare in my backback and could scare the beast away. As for now, I'll keep my distance to every wolf I may cross paths with.

While I'm writing this, I'm sitting in a bunker I found by coincidence when I absentmindedly climbed a hilltop this afternoon. Can't even tell why I wanted to get up there in the first place. I have a really strange feeling something - or someone - might have guided my steps.

My head injury seems to be more severe than I thought initially. Strange thoughts hover through my mind without making any sense. What on earth is "layout B" and why should I be happy about it? I don't feel happy at all, just tired and increasingly desparate.

Found some cans of food, a can opener, two hunting rifles and about 15 rifle rounds in the bunker. Packed everything together to take it with me. The rifle might at least come in handy in case of further wolf attacks.

Day 14

Dear Diary,

I cling to you as sole leftover of my past life and a last resort of my sanity.

The strange thoughts I contributed to my head injury haven't vanished, but instead soliditied to an unfamiliar female voice whispering in my mind from time to time. She doesn't seem to be hostile, yet I refuse to trust her. I suspect her to lead my steps into certain directions whenever I'm preoccupied which I find nothing but creepy. However, at least until now she has never put me in danger but rather helped me to discover certain places or buildings. Not sure whether I would have found the abandonned trapper's homestead in some remote valley in the woods without her help. As for now, I'm using the homestead as a base for my daily exploration trips.

Although I have been searching my family for two weeks now, I didn't find the slightest hint what happened to them. Neither could I find them, nor any other living person. All people seem to have either frozen or been killed by wildlife. I feel terribly alone.

I've never been into hunting very much, but after I had to shoot two wolves in self-defense some days ago, I somehow managed to flay and gut them. I'm mostly living on their meat at the moment, sometimes my raids also add some candy bar or canned peaches to the menu.

In order to count the days of my search, I started to cut tiny notches into the grip of a hatchet I found near a lumberjack's corpse. Every evening another notch - it soon became a ritual to end every day of my gruelling search. Once I'm done writing this entry, I'll add the 14th notch to the grip. I wonder how many more are going to follow before this nightmare is over.

Day 25

Every evening, I return to Trapper's homestead packed with some more tools, clothes or cans of food. During the last two weeks, I have looted every cabin, outlook or hunting blind I could find in the whole area. My raids were very yielding and I'm pretty well equipped now. Found various matches and two firestrikers. Furthermore a prybar, three toolboxes and - thank goodness - appropriate winter clothes.

The local wildlife continues to behave like ferocious beasts. Had to shoot a few more wolves in order to defend my life. At least, their behavior is rather predictable and they're not too hard to avoid. Scaring a deer into their direction causes them to chase and kill the poor bucks almost every time. I've learned to use this as a means to get both wolf and deer meat with only a single bullet. "Save in time and you have in need" as they say.

I was even able to use the pelts I harvested to craft a wolfskin coat, rabbitskin mittens and deerskin boots. Building a snaring trap for the rabbits was much easier than I expected it to be. Surprisingly, all of my handmade clothes seem to be of good quality. At least they're cozy and warm, just a bit heavy.

Day 30

I still haven't found a single living person in the whole Mystery lake area and thus started to talk to some of the dead guys instead. Even gave them names - Alan, Max and, of course, good old Albert on the upper floor of the camp office. Whenever I come around, I say hello to them, but they're not very talkative. Impolite pack.

I stopped to believe that any living person is going to come by soon. I lack cookies and milk to serve, anyway.

With every passing day, my bitterness grows. If even grown men drop like flies in this frozen nightmare, how on Earth could I believe that my two little girls might ever have made it?

The voice inside my head insists that I have to leave Mystery lake and move on before my state of mind deteriorates further. It's great to have someone who cares for you, isn't it?

Day 31

I've finally overcome my self-pittyful tendencies, although it was damn hard to rebuilt some confidence. I'm not very happy to leave the security of trapper's homestead, but I'm resolved to continue the search for my family at any cost.

This morning I packed up my most important tools and headed towards Carter Hydro Dam, the only building in Mystery lake which I hadn't visited so far.

All along the way, the voice inside my head keept warning me about some - allegedly terrible - monster called "Fluffy" lurking inside the dam. She's really annoying sometimes. Honestly, how dangerous can something called "Fluffy" be? Sounds like a fat angora rabbit! However, in retrospect I'm grateful for the vigorous warning.

I had some trouble to open the dam's entrance gate at first as the metal doors were terribly rusty. When the double door finally swang open, a loud and piercing metal screech announced my arrival, echoing through the vast basement of the building. I gathered my courage and entered the dam with a burning flare in my hand.

I stepped into the dam's entrance room and oriented myself quickly inside the big main hall, fearful and more or less expecting a sudden attack. Full of suspicion I looked down the dark corridor leading to the dam's basement for almost two minutes, but I couldn't see or hear anything. Apparently, no monster rabbit was going to come for me today.

I shrugged and turned my back on the corridor. Ignoring the hysteric voice inside my head, I entered the dam's control room and started to break into the safe.

All of a sudden, a ferocious snarling behind my back made my heart sink to my boots. Before I could even turn around, a giant black beast jumped me, digging its teeth deep into my shoulder. I screamed in pain and sank to my knees. To make things worse, the voice inside my head was panicking as well, cursing very unladylike.

Adrenalin rushed through my veins and washed away the otherwise unbearable pain. I can't remember how exactly I did it, but I somehow managed to turn around and stab the wolf with my hunting knife before it could aim for my throat. My hands didn't stop to shiver for minutes. Once I calmed down, I finally understood what kind of fluffy beast my ghostly advisor had tried to warn me of.

As I'm writing this entry, Fluffy's meat is sizzling above a fire I made in a metal ton inside the dam's basement. Decent food for the long journey I'm going to make tomorrow. I cleaned and bandaged my shoulder injury thoroughly, the wound wasn't as bad as I had assumed in the first place.

I think I'll dare to trust the voice in my head, skip the coastal highway region and travel right to Pleasant Valley instead. "Pleasant Valley" sounds like a place where other survivors might try to find shelter. I'm hoping so much to find my family there.

Day 33

It feels like a miracle, but I somehow made it to Pleasant Valley without further wolf attacks. My advisor guided me all the time, telling me which paths to take and where to expect wolves. I don't think I would have made it without her help.

I left Carter Hydro Dam late in the morning and soon had to cross a damaged railbridge spanning a vast canyon. My heart was beating heavily and my knees shivered when I looked down the slopes of the ravine, but I made it to the other side safe and sound. After a short break and some pieces of beef jerky and soda, I felt much better and could continue my journey.

When I left the ravine, I could see why the voice inside my head called this region "Coastal Highway". I was standing on a mountain ridge, looking down upon a road that meandered along the shores of a vast frozen ice plain. I can't tell whether it was a giant lake or the sea, but its surface was frozen as far as the eyes could see.

I considered climbing down the slope and search some wooden cabins I saw on the shore, but my advisor insisted to stick to the original plan to travel to Pleasant valley as the coastal highway region was inhabited by vast wolf populations. I decided to trust her and stayed in the mountain regions, using cliffs to cover my back. Following the small hidden paths she showed me was tedious, but less dangerous than following the big main roads that bursted with wolves.

In the afternoon, I arrived at an abandonned mine shaft. I was tired and wanted to take a short break, but as soon as I started to unpack my food reserves, I heard an angry barking behind me. I didn't even turn around to have a look at the beast, just grabbed my backpack and escaped into the mine.

As soon as I emerged the mine shaft in Pleasant valley, a blizzard started. I felt weary and somehow resigned to my fate. The gal inside my head swore like a trooper. It was quite hilarious and I couldn't resist to chuckle hysterically. Tired and almost blind due to the blizzard I tried to make my way through the wilderness. My advisor led my steps down a gentle hillside, but it was quite obvious that she had lost orientation. I started to feel cold and the desperate chuckles soon sticked in my throat.

I was completely exhausted when I finally saw a small river in front of me. Incredibly slow, freezing and desperate I plodded along the riverbed. After a whole eternity, I saw a bridge in front of me and limped up the bank. At long last, I found shelter inside a house. I slipped inside a bed on the first floor, ate, drank and soon fell asleep.

When I woke up this morning, I felt much better. After I had searched the small crossroad settlement for supplies, I could afford to have an almost royal breakfast including pork& beans, canned peaches, chocolate bars and soda.

The wound I conceived from Fluffy two days ago is healing well. I haven't found a living soul in Pleasant Valley yet, but I'm going to continue my search tomorrow.

Day 129

Dear Diary,

I'm very upset as some of your pages were ripped apart during a terrible wolf attack a few hours ago. The beast jumped my back while I was writing an entry inside a barn at three strike's farmstead during a blizzard. I was so surprised I could barely fend it off. Out of pure desperation, I rammed my diary between the wolf's jaws at some point and smashed its nose with my fist. The beast ran away bleeding, but I became slightly wounded as well. The physical injury, however, does not compare to the incredible sadness that filled my heart me when I saw the only photo of my family shred into pieces. I've tried to stitch the diary together with my sewing kit as good as possible, but many of its pages were completely ripped apart and seem to be beyond repair.

I'm still trapped inside this barn right now because of the godforsaken ever-lasting blizzard. I'm hungry, tired and deperate, but at least managed to forage enough wood to keep a fire burning. I'll try to summarize the last 100 days from memory while I wait for the storm to end:

After I had recovered from my journey to Pleasant valley, I began to explore the whole area starting with the wide empty plain in its center. I established two main bases there, one in the northern area inside a red barn, the other one further south inside a farmstead. The vast distances in pleasant valley made it necessary to discover its remote valleys in a star-shape manner, using various more or less centrally located bases as emergency shelters in case of emerging blizzards. The crossroad settlement house thus soon became another side base of mine, just like a small hut I named Draft Dodger's Cabin because of its outlying location and the rifle rounds I found there.

Shortly after my arrival in pleasant valley I encountered a new kind of terrifying wildlife. An animal way more rare, yet also way more dangerous than the omnipresent wolves I knew from Mystery Lake: a black bear.

While I was scouting the area north-east of the red barn in search of food, I almost ran into one of these huge beasts. I kneeled down, aimed for its head with my hunting rifle carefully and shot. I still believe the bullet hit its target, but the the bear didn't drop dead. Instead, it screamed ferociously and ran towards me at an insane speed, mauling me with incredible brutality. Any resistance was futile. I remember to hear my clothes tear and my ribs crack as the bear flung me on the ground. One of its giant paws swiped my head and I fell senseless.

When I regained consciousness, my vision was blurred. Every single muscle, bone and sinew inside my body was aching. For whatever reason, the bear had turned around and decided to let me be. It limped away, bleeding heavily from a wound, but I was in a terrible condition as well. With the last of my strength, I somehow crawled away in the opposite direction, wrapped bandages around my most dangerous wounds and hobbled back to the red barn. It took me days to recover from the bear's bone-grinding attack and I never ever underestimated a bear again afterwards.

I killed four of them alltogether in Pleasant valley, alongside dozens of wolves and deer. I also found quite a lot of rifle rounds, clothes and tools during my exploration trips.

Taken as a whole, life in Pleasant Valley was not too bad once I had learned to cope with the dangers inherent to this area. The decimated wolf populations made travelling much easier than in Mystery Lake, rabbits were numerous around the farmstead and I discovered various caves all over Pleasant Valley that could serve me as emergency hideouts during blizzards. But no matter how thoroughly I searched even the most remote areas in Pleasant Valley, I simply couldn't find any other living human being...

I could continue to write down numerous other adventures of mine, but the blizzard that trapped me inside Three Strike's Farmstead has finally ceased and my best chance to survive is to try to reach Draft Dodger's Cabin before nightfall. I'm injured, out of food and starving. I remember that I deposited a Military MRE and some water at Draft Dodger's Cabin some weeks ago, but the way there is long and the sun is already setting. I have no further time to spare.

to be continued...

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Thank you for the kind feedback, I'm glad you like it so far. ;)

Here's the final version of chapter two. I'm currently racing against time a bit because of the Witcher 3 release on Tuesday, but I'll try to get the final version of Chapter 3 out tomorrow evening.

(I took my holiday the whole next week - have a date with Geralt, you know). :)

Chapter Two: The Spark of Hope

Day 131

I had just left the barn at Three Strike's Farmstead and walked up a hillside when another blizzard started. I tried to keep my direction using some rocks as landmarks for orientation, but soon got lost nevertheless. My advisor remained silent and wasn't helpful at all. Blind and starving I tried to make my way through the blizzard while night began to fall. All of a sudden - without even the slightest warning - a wolf jumped out of the white and involved me in a hand-fight. Even though I could fend it off and chase it away eventually, my already bad condition dropped even worse.

Lost, lonely, starving and injured I grimly limped through the white-out blizzard, more or less waiting for the next beast to attack and put me out of my misery. It was precisely then - literally in my hour of greatest need - when I stumbled across a safe shelter by pure chance. The massive disbelief of my advisor's voice can hardly be put in words as my eyes caught sight of a familiar dark metal square with a hand crank on top.

I climbed down the bunker duct thanking goodness for my unexpected savior. This prepper's cache wasn't full of rifles and ammunition like the last but instead contained numerous cans of food and bottles of water. Just what I needed most. The gal in my head was happy as well and prattled some nonsense about "Type A caches" and confirming bunker positions. I plainly ignored her idle prattle, devoured as much food as I could, drank some water and went to sleep.

It took me the whole next day to carry most of the remaining food to my main base at the farmstead. I still haven't fully recovered from my injuries yet and will spent my next days near the farmstead, crafting clothes and maybe snaring some rabbits. I've already pushed my luck incredibly far and don't want to dare fortune even more - at least for now.

Day 139

I have recovered from my recent adventure near Three Strike's Farmstead eventually and feel the need to move on soon. Even though I searched the whole Pleasant Valley area thoroughly, I couldn't find any living person here. Not even the slightest hint that someone stayed and survived here for an extended period of time.

The grip of my hatchet is covered with 138 little notches and it's gonna be one more this evening. With every further notch I carve, I tiny piece of my hope to find my girls and Will unharmed dies. But I refuse to give into despair. Not yet. I still nourish the hope to find my family somewhere along the Coastal Highway. I don't care much about my ghostly advisor's vigorous warnings regarding the wolves in this area. If there is even the slightest chance to find my family there, I'll gladly butcher whole packs of these rabid beasts.

I'm going to leave for Coastal Highway tomorrow morning.

Day 250

I haven't written much lately. At first, I was busy searching the whole coastal highway region for my family. I inspected and looted every single house, wooden cabin and fishing shack. I searched cars, a train and even a doghouse for hints of other survivors. I hand-fought numerous wolves on my way to trailers and outlooks in remote mountain regions.

At some point I had to admit to myself that I was all alone. Completely alone, except for dozens of dead bodies.

Will, my girls, all my friends and my parents - I'm most likely [blur=black]never going[/blur] to see them again. Writing down these [blur=black]words somehow[/blur] makes things final.[blur=black]I can't[/blur]resist to cry and my teardrops smudge [blur=black]the letters of my diary. I[/blur]need to [blur=black]cancel this[/blur]entry.

Day 250, two hours later

I'm feeling a little better now. At least good enough to continue writing.

After I had realized me being all alone somewhen around day 200, I grieved for days. I could hardly force myself to stand up in the morning and keep going. What good is survival if you have nothing left that is worth living for any more?

I can hardly tell what kept me going during these days. It was probably hatred. An unlimited, uncontrollable rage floating through my veins whenever I saw a wolf. Those beasts apparently killed everyone months ago, leaving behind nothing but mangled corpses.

A defiant stubbornness arose inside me. Using the last spark of my dying hope I fanned the flames of my rage into a brisk blaze. I wouldn't give in to those monsters. I would fight them to my last breath, killing as many of them as possible. Dozens of them ended with a bullet in their head after I had deprived them of their prey.

I stopped searching for other human beings and began to live an eremite’s life on Jackrabbit Island. Deeply withdrawn into myself I thoroughly nourished my rage.

I think my inner turmoil might somehow have rubbed off on my imaginary friend as well. She seems to be somehow upset about the things to come, but her sorrows remain very vague.

Day 273

I'm in Trapper's homestead again. My advisor became more and more upset lately, mumbling some nonsense about an upcoming "patch" (whatever this may mean) and the slight possibility of the ravine crashing down. I'm afraid my imaginary friend is going mad like myself. However, she did not give me any peace until I grabbed my backpack and travelled to Mystery lake.

Had to shoot three bloody wolves and hand-fought a forth one on my way to Trapper's homestead. Only one of those bastards could be harvested safely. It was a lean one, hardly more than enough for dinner. I packed up the few tools, cattail stalks and cans of food I had deposited in the homestead and decided to spend the night here before returning to Coastal Highway tomorrow.

I very much doubt this trip is worth all the trouble.

Day 274

Things are looking really grim, worse than ever before. I wasted another two bullets, but got heavily injured by wolves nevertheless. Greedy me. I should neither have hand-fought, nor harvested the damn wolf corpse near the train loading area in the first place. Should have known how the scent of raw meat and my low condition would only attract additional beasts.

A pack of two jumped me as I tried to cross the bridge to Carter Hydro Dam. I barely managed to fend them off. Bleeding heavily due to a terrible flesh wound I limped into the dam and collapsed. Worst of all, I'm out of Old man's beard lichen bandages. Had to tear my sweater apart to bind the wounds. I'm feeling terrible as I don't have any antiseptic with me to treat my injuries. How incredibly stupid I was to forget the bottle in my Coastal Highway base.

I don't dare to continue my way to Jackrabbit Island as I'm almost dead and would never survive another wolf attack. Returning to Trapper's homestead is also out of question as a blizzard is raging outside. All that is left for me is to lay down inside the dam and pray that my wound won't get infected. I haven't heard much from my imaginary friend today, but I sense she's feeling shocked and guilty. I'm so very tired.

Day 290

I was incredibly lucky and didn't catch an infection. Managed to limp back to my base on Jackrabbit Island the next day without further wolf attacks. It took me several days to recover from my trip to Mystery Lake, though - both physically and emotionally.

I spent some quiet days afterwards to recover - only went fishing, repaired my clothes and snared some rabbits. My advisor feels rueful and worries about the amount of bullets I have left. She promised to work out a way to waste less of them in the future. Guess that's going to be necessary soon as I have only 28 rifle rounds left.

Day 335

It took her some time, but my imaginary friend finally figured out two new hunting methods to decrease our rifle round consumption. They're more dangerous than shooting a wolf, but that was to be expected I guess.

The first method she suggested to me is nothing but a plain extension of the usage of a flare or torch to scare a wolf away from a deer corpse. Most wolves aren't aware of anything happening behind their backs while they feast on a deer corpse. Greedy beasts. If you sneak up on them silently, it's possible to start a fire only a few meters behind their back. When disturbed during their meal afterwards, the wolves don't dare to attack because of the fire and either stand on the spot or run away. Once the beasts left their prey, it should be possible to harvest the deer corpse safely. At least in theory.

The second method, however, seems to demand quite some aptitude for deer chasing. To be precise, a deer needs to be chased towards a wolf in such an angle and distance, that the predator - which is most likely going to pursue the deer once it realizes the potential prey - kills the buck in close proximity to either a house or a fishing shack. It is then possible to provoke the eating wolf to leave its meal, outrun it, escape into a safe shelter and harvest the deer corpse later on.

I wonder if my imaginary advisor would have come up with such reckless ideas if it was her butt that might be bitten thereby.

Anyway, I don't really have much of a choice. I will have to put those two techniques to the test regardless of their risks in the near future unless I want to run out of bullets within the next 150 days. Should they fail, I will at least have the opportunity to stab some more beasts.

Day 345

Thank goodness, my new hunting methods both proved to be viable and my buttocks remained safe and sound.

I've started to use water bottles as markings to blaze safe paths between Jackrabbit Island and some surrounding ice fishing shacks lately. A whole network of bottle trails is covering the ice plain around my main base minimizing my risk to get lost in a blizzard or fog. I'm sitting inside this net like a spider, waiting for chances to kill lone wolves with my hatchet.

Day 350

My ghostly advisor is full of joy because the mysterious "patch" she constantly talked about in the past finally occurred today. She's really damn peculiar sometimes. But who am I to judge anybody's sanity - after all I apparently developed a split personality due to loneliness. The gal inside my head somehow seems to disagree substantively over her being a delusion. The irony of this very thought makes me chuckle.

As my advisor tenaciously insisted on a visit to the abandoned mine this morning, I packed up my usual travelling bag and ventured forth into the mountains north of the Coastal Highway. I really dislike this area, way too many blind corners for my taste. I can hardly describe my astonishment when I reached the mine's entrance - never before had I noticed the details of the shaft I had been crawling through so many times before. Memory loss might be a side effect of going mad, I guess.

Using my storm lantern to shed at least a bit light in the pitch-black shaft system, I gathered all my courage and began to discover the widespread mine layout.

I found seven rifle rounds, four pieces of scrap metal and some kerosene in there. This trip was really worth the effort. I spent the whole day discovering the mine and spontaneously decided to make a fleeting visit to pleasant valley the next day.

Day 351

On behalf of my advisor, I've visited quite a few spots in Pleasant valley today. Especially the radio tower shack turned out to be very yielding. I found various rifle rounds, a fire striker and almost more food than I could carry. My bullet reserves are back to 43. Sounds like a lot of dead wolves to me. Good times.

I'm going to spend the night in the farmstead and return to Coastal Highway tomorrow.

Day 353

My way back to Coastal Highway and Jackrabbit Island proceeded without an incidence. With every day passing, I'm getting a little better at avoiding wolves, I guess. The key to deal with these rabid beasts is only to start a fight when you are in full control of the circumstances.

I spent the night at my main base on Jackrabbit Island and left for a discovery excursion to the ravine early the next morning. As my imaginary friend advised caution and vigilance, I took quite a lot of food and one piece of firewood with me. Turned out to be a good idea in the end.

When I reached the ravine, the sun was shining and I had no trouble to cross the broken rail bridge I had already crossed quite a few times before. However, everything beyond this bridge appeared completely unfamiliar to me. My memory seems to be totally messed up and I'm starting to be afraid that I might soon loose what is left of my sanity.

It took me several hours to search the whole area between the rail bridge and Carter Hydro Dam. Couldn't find any canned food or tools, but at least some cattail stalks and - much more importantly - eight Old Man's Beard lichen. As I'm slowly running out of antiseptic and wound dressings, these are of great value to me.

When I was just about to return to Coastal Highway in the early afternoon, a blizzard came up within seconds. Weather is often just as nuts as the wolves. I found shelter inside a cave near the Mystery lake exit of the ravine. I lit a campfire, foraged some more wood and slept a few hours in my bearskin bedroll, hoping the blizzard might be over after a few hours. Unfortunately, it wasn't. Although I'm not very fond of it, I will have to spend the night in this cave. At least I don't have to worry about going to bed hungry. Had a huge salmon for dinner that I brought as food for the journey.

As I'm writing this diary entry, the blizzard is still raging outside and night is soon to fall. I'll forage some more wood to keep my campfire burning till dawn and try to sleep afterwards. I can only pray that temperatures aren't going to drop too low tonight.

To be continued...

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Allright, here's chapter 3/5. ;)

It's probably going to take me two or three weeks to get the rest done, but I'll finish the story at some point for sure.^^

Chapter Three: Down the Abyss

Day 364

The next morning, I gladly noticed that the blizzard had ceased and returned to my base on Jackrabbit Island without further incidents. Didn't see a single wolf on my way home. The following days passed in peaceful routine. I went fishing in my favorite fishing hut, melted some more liters of snow and foraged approximately 50 pieces of fir firewood.

While fishing, I cought one particularly big Salmon, must have been more than 10 pounds heavy. My advisor was - oddly enough - full of joy as she seems to consider catching a big fish to be some kind of an achievement. I stopped wondering about her affectations a long time ago.

On occasion, I also scared a deer into a wolf and shot the wolf. Unfortunately, it happened three times that I was interrupted by either a blizzard or nightfall before I could finish harvesting. When I tried to continue my work the next day, the carcasses were gone. Maybe wolves or some scavengers feasted on them and dragged off the remains. I was a bit upset at first, but soon realized that it wasn't much of an issue - despite my losses, I could stock up my fridge with almost 20kg of deer meat.

Day 362 turned out to be the coldest day during the whole last year in this frozen hell. I left my base, heading towards my favorite fishing hut as early as dawn as I wanted to spend the whole day melting snow. It was already bitingly cold, felt like about -20°C. I just slipped inside the hut as a blizzard started and temperatures began to fall even further.

I started a fire in the stove, but temperatures simply wouldn't rise above zero. Outside, the blizzard was raging with terrible strength. Inside, temperatures decreased further and further. I added a few more pieces of firewood to the fire and crouched right beside the stove, but it wouldn't help. When it felt like -15°C inside the hut, I began to freeze and couldn't stand staying any more. I stepped outside, ignoring the danger to be blown off or hit by a falling tree. It was incredibly cold and I couldn't see anything except my precious water bottle-trail. Never before in my life have I frozen as much as on my way back to my base. It felt like -70°C at least and I wouldn't have been surprised in particular if a had seen a polar bear or a mammoth walking by. When I reached my base after a three minutes’ walk, I was shivering massively and had to go to to bed for a few hours to warm up.

Thank goodness I didn't lose any fingers or toes.

The blizzard ended in the early afternoon and temperatures returned to normal. I was even able to make a short visit to the fishing camp crafting table in the evening. Crafted three wound dressings and was glad no wolf jumped my back in the meantime. The overall wolf number on the icy plains seems to be decreasing in general. Maybe my killing efforts finally make an impact.

Day 365

Dear Diary,

One year has passed since this whole nightmare began and I could neither find my family nor get even a glimpse of comprehension what caused all of this. I gave up hope that spring might come some day several months ago. If all of this is real, earth must be on the brink of another ice age. I really wonder why I bother to keep going anyway.

The area around Jackrabbit Island seems to be completely depopulated of wolves and deer. I have no idea why this is happening. Might I have hunted them too excessively? My advisor seems to consider this a possibility. If she's right, I really wonder why it has never happened before. Well, maybe it has and I just can't remember it any more. Ever since my visits to ravine and abandoned mine, I don't trust my memory any more.

After one year of loneliness and almost constant fear of death, I feel very depressed. Getting up in the morning gets harder and harder. I miss my family more than I could ever have imagined. If only I knew what happened to them. Even certainty about their death would be better than this never-ending uncertainness.

If nothing else, at least stocks look fine. 38 bullets, 18 pieces of scrap metal, 15 pieces of cloth. Some flares, torches and more than 300 pieces of firewood. I'm out of matches, but at least have all four fire strikers left that I found during the last year. What troubles me most, is my current lack of antiseptic - only eight wound dressings are left. Once they're gone, things are going to look very grim. I'd better practice aiming with my rifle. Can't afford to miss a shot anymore.

Day 370

Late this evening, I got jumped by a wolf on my way back to my base atop Jackrabbit Island. I had forgotten the time while fishing and it was already dark when I headed back home. The damn wolf had killed a deer just behind my terrace and suddenly attacked me without even the slightest warning. The unexpected assault almost gave me a heart attack, but I pulled myself together and killed the beast with my hatchet eventually. My hatred for these bastards is unlimited. Watching their blood splashing on the snow gives me a strange kind of satisfaction.

Day 380

On Day 372, the gal inside my head started to annoy me like hell once more. She didn't stop to unnerve me until I finally agreed to make a short exploration trip to the Misty Falls cave in Pleasant Valley the other day. The journey was long and grueling and I had to sleep inside Draft Dodger's cabin twice as the distance between Jackrabbit Island and Misty falls was too big to cover it in one go. A wolf that tried to jump me near Skeeter's Ridge caught a headshot and kindly supplied me with meat.

At least my trip to the cave was quite yielding. I found various Old man's beard lichen, cattail stalks and reishi mushrooms on the way as well as some pieces of cloth, a bit of kerosene and some canned food inside the cave itself.

After I had returned to Coastal Highway, I crafted some new wound dressings and cooked reishi tea. My stocks are up to 13 wound dressings and more than 20 antibiotics again.

Unfortunately, my short trip to pleasant valley didn't improve anything about the depopulation of wolves and deer near Jackrabbit Island. I had to walk all the way to the Coastal town site to find a buck for hunting two days ago. I'll have to leave this area soon if things aren't going to get better.

Day 390

Blizzards and fogs often force me to cancel my long-winded hunting trips. To make things worse, I'm slowly running out of canned food. Whenever I'm out of fresh meat, I have to eat cans of disgusting dog food. If somebody had told me a few years ago that I would ever stoop so low as to eat stale dog food, I would have laughed at them.

Day 404

Living in Coastal Highway became impossible as wolf and deer populations refused to recover. Cursing the wildlife near Jackrabbit Island, I moved on to Pleasant Valley.

Even though hunting isn't really easy here either I still like the place. I'm mainly spending my days in search of natural remedies and resources that I have overlooked in the past. I found enough mushrooms for 7 more cups of reishi tea and one more wound dressing. One day, my search even yielded 5 rifle rounds and a hatchet. Found both of them next to a farmer's corpse inside a green barn.

My daily routine at the farmstead is almost peaceful. I get up early in the morning, craft some clothes till noon, harvest my rabbit snares and use the afternoon either for exploration trips or to forage wood. The evenings are set aside to melt snow, carve notches in my hatchet and ponder on the grim fate of my family.

Whenever I walk up the stairs at the last light of dusk, the sad sight of a few left-behind toy dices stings my heart. Somehow I can't pluck up the courage to remove them, though. My girls used to have some of these as well.

Day 490

I returned to the Coastal Highway area about 40 days ago. The wolf population around Jackrabbit Island is still decimated, but I don't have much trouble to find a deer and wolf every few days. My food supply seems to be safe, at least for now.

The second of my precious four fire strikers broke about three weeks ago. Ever since then, I tried to use the remaining ones as seldom as possible. I even ate raw rabbit meat on occasion. Ripping the raw flesh off the bones with my bare teeth was worse than eating dog food. Much worse.

Day 510

Somehow I force myself to keep going, but my health and mental condition is getting worse and worse. I already had a food poisoning due to eating raw meat a few times, but I mustn't run out of means to start a fire. I have killed dozens of wolves lately, both with my rifle and manually.

I'm starting to be afraid of the dark. Darkness means creepy sounds, restless sleep and horrifying nightmares. Those damn wolves howling around my base all night long are to be blamed for my state of mind for sure. Not to forget the mad gal inside my head of course.

Since a few days I have the uncomfortable feeling that someone is watching me. I searched the whole area once again, but found no single hint of other persons. Most likely my imagination is playing tricks on me. My advisor tried to calm me down. Said some nonsense about "streams" and that those others watching me wouldn't be of any harm. I hope she's right.

If I am to survive, I need to find a way to expel my delusions and nightmares. I have to occupy myself with a task more meaningful than just butchering wolves. But most importantly, I mustn't allow my hatred for those bloody bastards to become my demise...

To be continued...

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