I couldn’t talk. My teeth chattered so loud I was afraid they were going to break. The ratty blanket draped around my shoulders smelled like sweat. My stomach twisted into a gnarling knot of bitter pangs. The others were all in the same miserable boat. All four of us were stuck in the same frozen hell.
It was supposed to be a guys’ trip. You know, manly men hunting in the woods away from all the nagging wives and office politics. Two-hundred miles away… from anything.
I know what they’re thinking. They blame me. It was my idea to come to the mountains. I see the anger churning behind their eyes, the plumes of steam venting from their purpled lips. I know they’re planning something: when I woke up they had been huddled around the table, talking low. Part of me doesn’t blame them.
Generator’s dead. Food ran out six days ago. Radio… nothing but static on the two-way.
Sleep’s been scarce. It’s no easy thing, settling in when you’re not sure if you’re going to wake up. The same puffy bags beneath the eyes and hollow looks on the others haunted my own face in the mirror above the stone-cold hearth. Every haggard face asks the same question.
Are we really doing this?
This whole pitiful ordeal could have been avoided. If only Alex had made it out with the last snowmobile. If only we could’ve recovered his body; none of this would be necessary.
Gary’s shoulders were a vibrating blur of shivers. Drawing straws had been his idea. We have to pick someone, he had said. Drawing straws seemed the only fair way to decide.
Stick and Mikey had drawn their lots ahead of Gary. We sat in circle, spaced evenly apart in the cabin’s living room, each man afraid to display their selection. Mikey’s facial tic rippled over his cheek, clenching his left eye shut. It was the hunger. The hunger was eating him from the inside out.
Finally, someone spoke. I don’t remember who. My mind has been hazy for a while now. Everything’s been happening in slow motion. Sounds are distorted like a needle dragging against an old record.
Stick suddenly jumped up from his seat, blanket falling from his narrow shoulders, pointing wildly in my direction. He flung his straw back at Gary. Steam poured from his mouth while he ranted. Gary’s hands beg for Stick to be reasonable. Even through the murk I can tell this is it.
Gary rose from the couch. His hand reached towards his belt. I know what he’s doing. I know I should struggle, but I’ve got nothing left for the ropes around my wrists. Moonlight glinted from the cold steel in Gary’s hand. The gag shoved the whimper back down my throat. I looked at Mikey, hoping for an ally or at least a friendly face, but there’s only a savage, primal smile. He knew the hunger would be gone soon.