A little background music for reading if you prefer.
Last night I fell asleep around 1am and had my normal dreams that are quite easy to bounce back from. However I am not sure if it was due to the cold (forgot to turn the heat on last night), or the whipping wind but I had what I can only describe as a cerebral adventure last night.
I was on the frozen ice caps in the North, I was tracking polar bears across just vast whiteness of ice and and frozen wind. I could feel my breath exit my mouth and immediately freeze to my beard. I was totally alone and making good time on catching up to what seemed to be three polar bears judging by the tracks. I was not sure why I was trying to track them, but I knew that the sheets of ice were splitting and I had to make sure I was on the same sheet as them each time it split.
Then I felt like I was no longer alone. I stopped and spun around and in the distance I could make out a large white object following me. No longer was I hunting, but being hunted. My breath increased and so did the pain in my lungs. I began to run, exerting myself in this sub-polar conditions, no longer paying attention to where I was going. The sheets around me began to crack and I was jumping to get one from sheet to the next, not looking down as I lept.
The polar bear was gaining, he let out large howling moans and I could tell he had only one intention when he caught up to me….and it was not to ask directions. As I ran I remember putting my foot down and feeling no ice beneath it, I tumbled head over heels into an icy crevasse and hit my head on the way down. I felt something warm and metallic in my mouth and my vision went wavy….the wind blew white crystal 50 feet over the opening above me and I heard the heaving huffing of an animal trying to find my scent on the wind…..and the sudden abrupt stopping of breathing signaling that he did. His head appeared above me and our eyes met. I watched a drop of saliva drip from his mouth, freeze, and fall like an ice chip, bouncing off the ground and shattering next to me.
My head hurt, blood oozed out of my mouth and froze on my beard. I had the tools to climb out of here but I would climb right to my painful death.
I heard a sharp sound like a window shattering and looked down, the ice beneath me seemed to be moving but not. As I looked closer I noticed I was on a thins sheet of ice with a river of water flowing beneath it. I looked up and saw the polar bear.
Clink clink clinkclinkclinkclink…….the ice below me was giving way and I would swept into a frozen icy river where I would surely meet a painful demise of drowning under ice. I went to stand and put a hand on my ice axe, CLINK CLINK CLINKCLINKCLINK SSSHHHHHKKKTTTTTT…..the ice was about to give way and in one motion with all the strength I had I swung the axe into the side of the crevasse and held on. The ice below me gave way and the icy river was inches below my boot as I hung onto the axe handle.
The polar bear above howled. I kicked my boots into the wall and clung to the side, trying to avoid my situation. I closed my eyes and I said “Please, please let this be a dream, please let me wake up and be in a nice warm bed.”
I opened my eyes and was staring straight into a blue frozen wall, the strange warmth of ice that you feel when mere inches from it as your warm breath melts it. I was stuck between two choices of death not sure which was worse, climb up and get torn apart by tooth claw or drop into an icy watery tomb. I decided the bear were the way to go. At least he would gain nourishment from my death.
Gripping the ice wall with my boots I pulled out my axe swung it above me and began my slow ascent to death. Each moment I got closer to the top the longer I would prolong the next move upward. I began to cry as I got closer, crying for the people I loved, crying for the people who loved me, crying that I would die alone and cold. As the tears came out they froze, it became harder to see. So I gave myself a pep talk and said the time for crying is over, the time to die is here, now man up and deal with it.
I could smell the bear’s breath I was so close, he swiped down with his massive paws but couldn’t reach me yet. I stopped where I was closed my eyes and said “OK, this has to be dream, any minute you are going to wake up and be in a bed, it will be warm, it will be safe, it is fine.” I took a deep breath and opened my eyes.
Cold, frozen walls. It had been what seemed like a day in that crevasse, emotions ramped up to red line levels….this was it, it was no dream. One more swing and I would be in the polar bear’s grasp. I was exhausted, emotionally and physically drained. I had already cried and accepted death, I had said goodbye to the people I love and made peace with the fact that I would die in this frozen hell. I swung my axe and before I pulled myself into the polar bears’ grasp I thought “If this is a dream I will wake up when he attacks me”.
I pulled myself up and all of a sudden I felt myself being pulled out of the crevasse by something other than my own weight I looked up and was inches from the mouth of a polar bear as his giant claw dug into my back and pulled me over the edge onto the ice sheet above. I tried to run but he swatted me down and held me in place with one paw. I struggled to breath under his weight, the world spun around me and out of instinct I swung my arm to try and fleetingly fight of a giant polar bear. I swung at his head and when I did I heard a sharp yelp and the bear jerked away and when he did I noticed I was pulled with him for a second.
I was still holding my ice axe, my hand frozen with fear never let go of it when I was pulled over the edge. The giant bear collapsed, my axe buried deep within its skull. I fell to the ice, collapsed from emotion and hugged the frozen ground below me. It was so quiet and warm, so peaceful, suddenly I felt tired, so tired I didn’t want to move anymore nor did I care to move. My brain told me it was time to sleep, but a tiny voice, screaming in my head but only as audible as a whisper was telling me not to sleep, if I go to sleep I wouldn’t wake up. But I didn’t care, I was so tired all I wanted to do was sleep and if I never woke up again that was OK, because the ice was so warm and the world was so quiet…..it was time to sleep.
A hypoxic sense of euphoria swept over me and the same wavy feeling I got when I was being put under anesthesia enveloped me again. Sweet, sweet sleep was taking over my body and I remember as I drifted off listening to the cold wind off in the distance, I thought to myself “I hope I don’t dream, I just want to rest, no dreaming this time……”