Chapter 12 - Thirst

I don't know exactly how long I spent at this camp but by the time I felt the cold setting in I knew it was too long. The search party must have given up on me as it had been at least a month since I had set up camp. I was all alone, and I would have to cross the mountains by myself in order to return to saftey. The largest piece of meat I had dried was from a hind leg, and I knew it would last me the journey if I could carry it. I had spent some time training for this and I was ready. I drank as much water as I could. I drank until I felt sick. Leaving everything behind, I lugged the large chunk of dried meat along with me, surprisingly light without any water in it.

It was a large, flat piece of meat. Like nothing I had ever eaten before, the unprepared meat was tough and sandy from the rock I had dried it on. I knew it would be hard to digest without water, but I didn't have many other choices. I needed to get to town, to saftey.

I didn't know exactly where to go, but I knew there were wolves in the park. Wolves in Alaska are hunted extensivley for their pelts, treasured luxuries among the rich. The park was a reserve, an area of protected land where it was very illegal to hunt the wolves. I figured I could follow their howls to saftey, navigating by the sun and stars if that failed. I would have to walk southeast, I didn't know how far, and I would have to find water as there was little to drink save for the rain and juice from blueberries. Luckily I had picked this cold, rainy day to leave, so as I walked and practically dragged the dried meat behind me I drank the rainwater that fell into my mouth. Finding blueberries along the way I ate them too, hoping this would be enough to stay sufficiently hydrated.

After several days of walking, I was viciously thirsty. I tried to drink rainwater when it rained, but the hot Alaskan sun was too much for my body, especially without clothing. Before I knew it, I felt I was dying of thirst. I didn't know what to do. I tried to keep walking, but eventually I couldn't anymore. I crawled, and then laid back, defeated.

As I didn't have the time or energy to build a shelter every day, I walked all night, pausing to eat what I could. I slept in the morning through to the day, covering my eyes and using the sunlight for warmth. After several days of walking like this, I finally heard the howling of a wolfpack. I must have been close to the park at this point, as I knew a pack of wolves this large could only exist inside the protected land. I followed the howling, being careful to pace myself so I didn't sweat too much. One advantage of travelling at night was that I didn't sweat very much in the cold. I moved just fast enough to be able to keep myself warm without sweating.

I found blueberries along the way. Whenever there was a patch I ate as much as I could, thankful for something better tasting than the cured meat I was carrying. It was beginning to rot away even though I had preserved it as best I could, I supposed some of the inside wasn't as perfectly dry as the outside. At least staying on the move kept the flies off of it, even though I started to feel like their lord when I stopped to rest, eat or sleep. The blueberries weren't completley enough to satisfy my thirst, but they helped. Days passed as I moved closer to the pack, orienting myself to the howling every night. I thought of myself like a wolf, a natural product of and tenant of the wild. If I made it to safety I was a worthy, successful animal, and if I didn't I would pay my dues to the wild, letting the nature consume the consume my body to be born anew.

The howling was getting closer every day, and I was getting tired and thirsty. I drug myself along for less of a stretch every day, eating what I could find to stay hydrated. I ate moss, leaves, I even considered eating dirt wet from the rain. When it rained I drank what I could, directing the water to my mouth with leaves. I would have drank what I could from my body, but I had no way to without a container. I was dying of thirst and the supply of meat I had brought was running out. I would have to snare again or try to hunt to survive unless I could find another kill from the wolves. I had little idea of what to do, but I knew the downhill I was walking and stumbling on meant I could find water, and maybe even rabbits nearby.

The terrain was getting rougher. There were no blueberries here. I still had some of the meat I had brought with me but it wouldn't do me any good without water to drink with it. I wished it would rain, I prayed it for rain. I felt so frustrated with myself. Why had I left instead of going to the police and telling them what had happend? They probably would have sent me back to France or maybe even Germany - I could have seen my parents. I shouldn't have had to suffer this. Finally I couldn't walk anymore. My body felt destroyed. I couldn't even eat without vomiting, and I was getting more and more tired. I slept during the night and felt far too cold. The shivering made me even more tired and hungry. Finally my memory started to fade and I began to remember little of the events. I was crawling like a child, tumbling down hillsides. I lost the meat I had carried with me.

I curled up for the night by a large boulder for shelter from the wind. I was delerious, fleeting hallucinations spreading across my vision and disappearing. It had been more than ten days since I had drank water. It normally takes ten days to die of thirst. At this point I was sure I wasn't going to make it, so I stopped trying. I couldn't even cry anymore, my eyes were dry from thirst. The rain might have saved my life if I had stayed there, but my last thoughts were of something else. I prayed someone, or something else would.

< Chapter 11 Chapter 13 >