Survival – Day of Reckoning
By Woody Woodruff
The hard-frozen December morning silence was shattered by a reverberating howl. The ground seemed to come rushing towards him as equilibrium flew away like his misty breath. The spinning snowbank softened the body blow but filled his eyes and mouth with dirty, re-plowed ice and gravel.
One second he was absent-mindedly shovelling the old, frozen-over snowfall from several days past, and the next he was thrown to the ground as the world spun and bucked like a rodeo mustang underneath him. He was flailing his arms trying to hold onto something, anything, as the ground humped and twisted, shrieking in its agony beneath him. His thoughts and perhaps his screams were drowned out by the howling roar of a million freight trains filling the otherwise subdued winter morning air. His mind was screaming, “Earthquake! earthquake!” Then the profanity came streaming out like a full-on fire hose. Or maybe it wasn’t his mind screaming, he couldn’t tell.
Gasping for the breath stolen by the body slam to the snowbank, the burning hoarseness of his breathing belied the fact that he was the one screaming, unnoticed in that roaring, howling insanity totally filling the world around him. As the world stopped spinning and the howling died down, he was able to hear other sounds, very much non-typical sounds for a cold winter’s day in December. The howling of dogs and the excited clatter of chickens was first and foremost, the deep rumbling of the earth taking the second stage to the exciting animal world.
An odd crackling noise interspersed with pops and fizzles propelled him off his bruised side looking for the fire. The first tendrils of smoke coming from a shattered window made it clear what to do next.
Fire! fire! Someone shouted, but he couldn’t tell where it came from.
Running the thirty yards to the cabin was not easy in winter gear and Packs but adrenaline gave him the ability to reach the door in seconds, pushing aside the heavy oak and wrought-iron monster to survey the scene inside. Because of preparedness training and planning, the damage was not as severe as it could have been. Sure, the windows were all broken or at least cracked but the double and triple panes had kept most of them at least weatherproof.
The smoke was coming from the huge, black iron stove in the middle of the room. The pipe had burst loose from the top of the stove which was rapidly filling the room with the smell of burning pine. The acrid, stinging vapours burned his eyes as he jammed the stovepipe back into place. Starting to turn, he was again slammed hard but this time the cause was obvious and licking his face. “Down!” Once was all it took but the big Labrador couldn’t control his shivering and querulous whining.
Bending at the knees and wrapping his arms around his big brown friend, he calmed the shaking, whining animal and himself as well. ” ‘s okay, Buddy, ‘s okay.” “It’s all over, Buddy,” “Let’s go see what happened.”
He had the strangest feeling at that moment, kind of a tingle or maybe a little buzz in his mind. Sort of like the after-effects of a heavy mushroom trip when the reality isn’t quite screwed back into place yet. He brushed it off, and got up, sliding his hands one more time over the panting dog.
This time the feeling was way more pronounced, almost like an electric shock, (we okay?). “Huh?” He looked around the room searching for another person. (okay now?) He automatically replied to the question, “Sure, everything is okay now,” and stopped dead in his tracks.
He looked down into the pleading eyes of his Labrador friend and companion for over five years. “Uh, uh, uh” he couldn’t bring himself to say what he wanted to, just stuttered with the shocking realization of what had just taken place.
He knelt again, holding the big dog’s head cupped in his hands, staring into the large, liquid brown eyes. “Buddy, was that you?” The answer, tickling his mind like a tiny feather, was the last thing he heard as waves of blackness engulfed him, (me!)