Hello readers! Here’s my third writing challenge during the pandemic; it’s a short story based off the image above. This one is about of a man named Roman and him trying to survive in unfamiliar territory. Nothing too trigger-worthy for me to mention going in, hope you guys enjoy!
The fur of the bear he’d had to kill was the only thing keeping him alive.
Just inside a sloped stone window of an abandoned structure, a burly man named Roman huddled closer into the corner, peering out into the crisp, pale landscape. Other than the many layers of snow and the brisk wind reminding him he was somewhere out in the frigid north, he had absolutely no idea where he was. For three days now, he had managed to set up a small camp within a mile or two off the road.
Roman coughed and reached for his leather canteen, but groaned in agitation as nothing poured out. His limbs ached as he wrapped the mass of fur tighter around himself, made sure the laces of his boots were tightened, and slowly rose up to head out back into the frosted wasteland.
The trees surrounding the grounds carried many winding branches; twisting and intricately laced like a spider’s web. While immobile and calm for now, the possibility of him becoming trapped prey didn’t ease Roman’s mind. No, he made sure his eyes captured everything he could during his stroll, and slowly squatted down to fill his canteen up with a handful of clear snow. He decided to go back to the indentation he’d left the last time he traveled outside his fortress.
A crunch in the snow behind his left shoulder had Roman twisting around, muscles tense and his heartbeat rapid. His ears rang with the high pitched scream, and his adrenaline spiked. He was ready for the unseen predator poised to strike, nothing but madness and hunger in its cruel eyes.
Roman almost pissed himself when a small shape jumped out of the snow. A single rabbit made a brief appearance in midair before its white fur helped blend it back into its surroundings; the perfect hiding spot out in the open.
When his heartbeat returned to normal, Roman couldn’t help but remember how exhausted he truly was. Tired of the ache of every inch of his body, especially from the bump on his skull. He was tired of constantly jumping at every inch of movement at the edge of his vision, every sound heard that wasn’t his own, and resorting to portioning out any food he’d been able to hoard around.
Roman wanted to go get home to his old bed.
He wanted to shoot that damned critter in retaliation, but he’d left his bow and arrows back inside, and there was no way he was going to use his spear and risk being empty handed for even just a few precious moments. Besides, he knew he didn’t have the energy to throw it fast enough to actually catch the little pest, plus he still had some venison thanks to his coat’s former owner too.
Roman reminded himself to think of some traps to possibly set up later.
Back within the safety of the decaying stone structure, he tried to recollect his memories of three days ago: the neigh of his horse, the felt of his saddle, the laughter of him and his companions, the wheels of the wagon trudging through the snow, and of course his immediate hatred of the cold from exposure for the first time in his life.
The last thing Roman remembered was always the same: a large, white shape with six legs falling from the trees much like the ones just outside, silent as if it hadn’t even been really there. It latched onto the side of someone’s steed, the piercing screech when it bared its daggers for fangs, then the red stark against the white of the land, right before everything went dark.
The bump on his head throbbed, and Roman could no longer concentrate. Just like every other time.
The long night was fast approaching, and Roman still had to make a fire to warm up his dinner for the night. He was relieved nothing had wandered by and attempted to fight him over his stash of food, but based off the last couple of days, he shouldn’t count on his luck to hold out, just to hope enough that someone would come to rescue him. Someone, and not something.
The long night always came faster than it normally should up in this frozen sea of snow and crooked trees, and Roman hated how the cold always got more grueling than it already was.
He pleaded with whoever would listen above that someone would take notice of his troop’s absence by now, that they’ve sent out rangers or some sort of search party to investigate. Hope was a bigger weapon he had in his arsenal than either his spear or his bow, but soon enough that wouldn’t help keep him alive either. Hope that whatever put him in this mess wouldn’t return for more blood.
As Roman’s small fire warmed his feet, and the cooked venison filling his gurgling stomach, he peered out that large slanted stone window, out into the black depths of the frozen wilderness, and waited for whatever came for him first.
Thanks for Reading!
— Nick Goodsell