Chapter 7 - Climb for life
I reached it. I stretched, one last step... the rock cool and solid beneath my damp forehead. I took two breaths to gather my strength to climb. My forehead drug across the dark uneven surface. I swung a leg up and over the lip of the rock and began to lever myself up.
My leg slid on the grainy surface of the rock. I pulled but I couldn’t muster the strength to get over the edge. I slipped and rolled and hit the ground on my side. The wind knocked out of me, I gulped air like a fish.
The stitch in my side was no longer just a painful pulling, now a bright new pain had joined it. Perhaps a broken rib? A rock perhaps? My mind adding it to the catalog of injuries in a detached disconnected way.
My mind was recalculating my odds of escape and survival. I was no longer able to do the math in my head. I couldn’t remember the names for the numbers. I just knew my chances had gone from very slim to somewhere around winning the lottery.
I think I may have slept for a moment.
A yelp and then a howl nearby brought me alive again. Or I may have forgotten to breathe. I rolled onto my belly and groaned involuntarily. I crawled to the edge of the rock looking for the seam or a foot hold. I searched between, desperate for purchase. I was desperate to find a way to get the leverage to pull myself to higher ground.
My foot found a spot. Another yip and then snarling, I could almost feel the breeze of the teeth next to my leg, but if I turned to look I might lose my footing. So I twisted and threw my other leg forward and pulled up immediately. Whereupon I squealed in pain as my foot caught in the foothold and then wrenched itself free from where it was wedged in the rocks. I rolled forward onto my face on top of the rock unable to stand.
It sounded like there was some disagreement among the pack as to who would deliver the coup de grace, my killing stroke.
Growling, snarling, and the papery rustle of snow as the beasts fought for the upper hand in the light flurry. I turned my head, my eyes smarting from the pain. It looked like only shadows caught in a whirlwind. I couldn’t separate one from another, there had to be three or four of them. They flickered like tongues of black fire.
The sound of teeth scraping bone and then a sound that I can only describe as a large water balloon filled with jello bursting. An inhuman squeal of agony that snapped into a gurgle. Then the stench washed over me, one of the wolves had been disemboweled, it guts flayed steaming onto the dirty snow. A sharp bark and the sound of many paws disappearing into the night in a matter of seconds, I couldn’t see where any of them had gone.
I wretched. The smell of carrion filled my nostrils. Bile, bitter and thin, wet my throat.
Just make it quick I thought at my attacker. I suddenly wanted it to end. It would take too long for my injuries and exposure to kill me. I raised my head to get a better look. I wanted to see my killer.
The clearing was silent and empty. I could make out a dark shape on the ground, the steam fading away. The stench of death coming off of it in roiling waves. I listened but couldn’t hear the sound of breath. It must already be dead. The stillness was eerie, but empty.
I turned back to the rocks. Maybe I could find a place between them.