I’m going to start releasing a little less of this each time for a short while, as I’m only writing 600 words towards this a week yet I’ve been publishing 1,500; maths may not be one’s forte but regardless I’ve eaten up my headstart.
Also I’m late – sorry, exhaustion finally caught me up… expect several posts over the next days.
Here’s the first part of chapter 12.
Winter 3.05 HC, 2210 (Day 65 of the Year of Winter)
A dull pain made me open my eyes. I tried to focus, but the liquid in my eyes had congealed. I blinked a few times to try to make a few new tears, but to no avail. I pulled my hands up to rub them clear, which is when I noticed the sharp pain in my left elbow and forearm which was so sudden I croaked a gasp of pain. My throat was dry and full of ash. I cleared it and coughed, each one shocking the pain in my arm to the top of my attention. It might have been that the implant in my throat saved me again.
My right arm was okay, so I used it as best I could to massage my eyes and tear ducts so I could see what was around me. I had a pretty good idea from the smells, the crackling light, heat and sound of a nearby fire, and the sound of debris clattering to the ground as I tried to understand the situation.
As my vision returned, I noticed the absence of my friends. Enell and Uly’s bodies weren’t immediately obvious, even though the craft we were in was not that large. It was possible that they were thrown a short distance nearby, and it was also possible that they had survived. But then, depending on what happened immediately after the crash, it was also possible that they were either picked up or fired upon again, just to make sure. We were dangerous people.
Winter 3.07 HC, 2210 (Day 67 of the Year of Winter)
I managed to make camp nearby. I’d worked out that I was a few kilometres south of the City. A nearby patrol found the first camp I’d set up, fortunately while I was out. I hadn’t left anything there, but I decided to journey another couple of kilometres away and camp again for the evening. I wasn’t sure whether that was a regular patrol; if it was, it was strange for it to be out this far without a good reason. Perhaps they were still looking for me. For us? If they weren’t before, they would be now. I still hadn’t been able to find Enell or Uly. I had planned to stay one more night before attempting the approach on my own. I couldn’t stay out here any longer. Every morning it felt colder than the one before. Wasn’t spring supposed to be on its way?
Winter 3.09 HC, 2210 (Day 69 of the Year of Winter)
A noise woke me late at night. I reached for my knuckledusters, which I had been keeping under my pillow since the sound of footsteps woke me up the night before last. Nothing came of it, but I kept it on, as uncomfortable as it was, and felt the engraving for comfort until morning came. Not that they would be any real value in a gunfight, or against guards with Tasers. Melee weaponry was better in buildings, with lots of close combat. Snow had fallen all day yesterday and all night, so I had to fight to free myself from my makeshift camp.
The temperatures were freezing, and it was becoming harder to sleep and harder to wake up. I was worried that after another night like this, I might not. It was colder again this morning. The clothes Stephen had given me were made of a pretty good insulating kind of nanofabric, but even that was insufficient in these temperatures. I could hold out no longer; the 70-year-old rum was coming in quite useful to make me feel warmer and help with the sleeping, but I was already halfway down the bottle and low on food.
I’d been keeping my phone off and only turning it on to check messages, but the signal disappeared last night and my battery was down to single digits. It probably won’t turn on tomorrow. I tried Stephen’s phone again in hopes that he was both having more luck than I was and could somehow come rescue me. I knew full well that a rescue would be unlikely by anyone other than someone I didn’t want finding me, and that the lack of contact suggested Stephen wasn’t so lucky, or needed to stay incognito or something.
It was time to head back – there was far too much weather yesterday to even go outside, and the lack of company and bleak, white landscapes were messing with my head. Two days ago I had managed to take a lovely picture of a red-breasted robin next to some frosted red berries. It was like an old greetings card.
I packed up what little I had gathered around me – items from my bag, some of the unpacked for use, others just to make the sorry metal and wood shelter feel less bare. Finally, I had to dig myself out of the I’d managed to find a few pieces of wood to sleep on so I wasn’t on the ground and left these, but decided to scatter them slightly outside so my presence here was less obvious.