hell is a frozen wasteland… for some [story part 45]
November 29, 2012 § 12 Comments
A month later pretty much all the paperwork was done.
“I hate flying…” Regina said as we boarded the plane.
After a rather short flight we landed in Moscow.
Russia. Again. I wondered why didn’t we go the other way more often, not that I have anything against Russia, but I’d rather not go into a Moscow during the winter, and yet there we were, going not only to Moscow, but someplace much worse.
It took us another three full days to get there.
“That’s it. This is as far as we can go. From here we walk.” Regina said as she started gathering things from around her and preparing to get out of the car. I couldn’t read in Russian properly, but I could work-out we were in an almost deserted town-port, later I had found it was the Novyy Port.
I wasn’t so keen on opening any doors, windows, getting out or leaving the nice warm micro-climate we had going there. We were basically descending into hell. Once that door was opened, there was no more warmth, no more comfort, just pure frozen hell.
Regina looked at me with a blank expression, as if she was looking through me…
“Are we ready?” She asked.
“You tell me. I have zero idea what I’m doing here. There’s nothing here and we’re searching for someone… that has been gone for a long time. Nothing can survive here Regina. Nothing. Let’s just go back.” She didn’t say anything, but clearly we weren’t going anywhere back.
“For how long do you reckon this food will last you?” She asked looking to her right. On our backseat we had loads and loads of backpacks all filled with nothing but food and clothes. Lots of food. Human food.
“I don’t know, ten days maybe? In normal conditions I guess. But in this cold and with you on my throat I might eat a lot more.” I answered.
“Me too.” She added. I didn’t like that. Like she used to say, “not one bit”.
A boat took us across what seemed to me an entire sea, I was literally thinking we were heading into the north pole and Regina wouldn’t say where we were going. I went anyway. The crossing of took us more than five days although it should have taken one and as soon as we got on the boat we immediately regretted, both of us, that we didn’t board an ice-breaker.
There aren’t many ships lying around that area, and this one shouldn’t have been there in the first place, but after the first 3 hours of continuous walking through the Siberian town port in search for that very ship, the crew of which were more than happy to see us, we were both thankful for a small break. We took the time to sleep. We needed as much sleep as we could, at least I did. I was almost always tired no matter how much I slept or ate. Nothing interesting happened on the boat except sleeping, eating, sleeping, eating… and then getting off the boat without eating. Smart.
As soon as we got off the boat, on the shore of that god forsaken island, I realized that we were alone. Alone in the world. There was nothing around us for maybe hundreds of kilometers except ice, snow and yet more ice. And mountains. This was both heaven and hell in the same time.
“Shut up and grab the rope already!” Regina shouted at me from the top of a 20 meter cliff which she climbed and then threw a rope down to help me climb it too, but I was too busy making sure I explained to her how this was a really bad idea. The whole thing, not just the rope.
This would be one of the many such climbing expeditions, although I’m no climbing expert and those were no mountains. I just held on really tight, pulled myself whenever I got the chance, otherwise pushed with my feet, and Regina pulled from above. I’m fairly heavy and she’s fairly small but she had no problems in hoisting me up faster than you could say “Shit! That’s high.”
We couldn’t have been more than 6 or 7 hours in the cold before we had to take our first break. We saw the opportunity to get cover from the merciless winds and took advantage of it.
We were both so cold we could barely speak anymore. In front of us laid a makeshift cave of sorts, more of a hole carved in the side of a rock, we ducked in there, lined everything with snow wherever we could and pulled a synthetic fabric over the whole thing. Even though we were both already hungry with over 48 hours of no food for Regina and nearly 24 hours for me, and with the blistering cold and the walk we just had, even with all that, we still had the power to smile to one another and be optimistic for the rest of the journey.
One thought lingered in both of our minds, the thought of going back because we might just die there, the both of us. There was no escape and no salvation, not even for a being such as Regina. Blood is life and without it – without me – she would be as vulnerable – if not more – than myself. But alas, we were prepared. We were both, combined, carrying over 40kg of supplies ranging from cooking utensils (a basic pot and a mini-gas burner) to spices, among others. Yes, spices. If you’re going to die, you might as well go in style.
I fired up the burner to prepare some food for me – and after I ate and got warm enough – for her too, indirectly. I was her mini-burner and cooking utensils and spices, all-in-one. Pretty convenient if you ask me. Vulnerable, but convenient.
We were almost soaking wet on the outside. As the temperature inside our little hut got to a bearable -10 degrees, we unclothed the first layer and held each other tighter than you could hug your own mother. I slowly felt her turning up her own afterburner, and although she usually was colder than me, she was now burning red. I knew she was trying to keep me warm and I could see her focus on squeezing out everything she had. I don’t know even to this day whether it was the fact that my skin had spent so much time in the cold and now even the least bit of warmth felt like burning, or if she really was that warm, but my skin was tingling with a burning sensation and it felt heavenly.
Later, I would write about this moment in my journal:
When we kiss, your lips still tingle and burn with all of the passion as before, your touch is still fire to my skin. The way your eyes gaze back into mine shows me two things: the love that you feel for me, and the hate that resides just beneath the surface. The hate that you have for me because of what I am and you can never be again. You miss that and I can see it in your eyes. Make no mistake, that is the only thing that keeps you strong – the love you have for who I am – the love and your longing for your lost humanity.
I had no experience in things like these. Up until then I was not into any type of survival situation, ever. I had no idea what supplies would I need, what things would I need to know about survival, I relied mostly on Regina knowing that. I had to learn everything anyway, step by step, before the journey and continuing after. One thing was for sure: I was prepared, physically. I had feverishly trained each and every day and if there was someone prepared to face that cold, it was me.
I was never squeamish about the cold, and although where we were at that time was pretty cold, it didn’t go far from what I was accustomed to. I grew up in Transylvania, and Transylvania has a climate that can make anyone dizzy. It’s nice and fuzzy year round, with four distinct seasons, nothing out of the ordinary compared to the rest of Europe, however there are, just like in the surrounding territories, some small exceptions. The continental climate makes it prone to really hot and dry summers, with sub-Saharan winds arriving on the south-western part of the country and with temperatures in bigger cities firing up in those really hot few days during the summer up to 45, if not even more at street level, made entirely out of black tar, asphalt. It melts. Every summer, it melts.
However in the winters, in the region that I grew up, you experience really harsh winters. Not even 25km away from Sighisoara lies the township of Miercurea Ciuc, known for its beer, high population of Hungarian speaking Romanians, but also for its temperatures, because it is here where winter always announces its arrival, and it is here where temperatures plunge, in those dark winter nights, sometimes to as low as -30 with records of -35. Boiling water, if thrown in the air, falls down as ice-crystals by the time it reaches the ground. Freezing a cup of water on the window sill will take you less than 2 minutes. That is the dark face of Transylvania. It kills the unaccustomed, silently and fast.
Nevertheless, even being slightly accustomed to the cold, like I said, I wasn’t really in the know-how about supplies and the art of survival. Sure, I had read a few interesting books (which I can provide if you want) and that helped tremendously.
My supplies of food were something like this:
A lot of sweets, mainly power-bars and pure sugar. This was reserved as a last resort, high calorie intake, fast burn, readily available, fairly light.
3kg of high-fat cured and smoked salmon meat, ready to be eaten as-is, resistant to freezing (as in it can be consumed even frozen, like beef jerky if you want), very tasty and easily cooked if preferred to be eaten with anything else. Salted heavily.
5 tubes of different types of multi-vitamins, solvable in water or pill-based, both types, ranging from every single type of mineral and vitamin that the human body needs to function properly. This kind of stash would have lasted me at least 2 months under normal conditions, but I figured better to be on the safe-side. I wasn’t going to risk vitamin poisoning by taking too many, but they might (and did) come in handy.
Soup. Packaged, instant soup. This has little caloric intake as you might be aware, but is easily prepared and it beats tea in these conditions. All I needed was snow, the burner and this. Combined with a multi-vitamin and a power-bar, this made for a fast food intake, it was light and I could bring as much as I wanted. I did.
Spices – I don’t eat spicy, but I brought a lot of chilli anyway – I figured that between vodka and pepper and chilli, the latter would be a wiser choice.
Basically all of that, including the cooking utensils weighted about 10kg, so that was all the food. I estimated it to last me for at least 7 days. It didn’t.
The human body consumes twice the calories under such cold temperatures, and the fact that I was feeding someone else too didn’t help with preserving energy.
We must had dozed off for at least 10 minutes with the burner on – not a good start, but I woke up and Regina was already smiling at me.
“Well someone’s in a good mood…” I said as I was getting up in a sitting position.
“I made soup!” She exclaimed.
“Oh thanks…” I said.
“Wait. When was the last time you cooked?” I asked.
“Well, I can’t remember, so that might answer your question, but I wouldn’t really call this cooking, so it doesn’t count. Here, drink this.” She responded as she pushed the soup towards me. It smelled better than life itself.
I drank all of it, almost a liter of it, and then like I said, ate a power-bar and took a multi-vitamin and I was already feeling warmer, stronger and more energetic.
I turned off the mini-burner and it went completely dark.
Between me and you, this might just be the scariest experience one can imagine, but for me it was one of the most beautiful.
I was warm, comfortable, tired and ready to go to bed and the only thing that I wanted most in this world was right besides me. The only sound that one could hear there was the sound of our breath, and nothing else. Not even the wind which had seemed to calm down over the night.
I turned my back to Regina and let her creep up to me, encompassing me between her arms and legs all around me like a black window spider ready to strike. I know this might paint a dark picture of that, but it’s just for the sake of the story. In reality, all of this was set long-before, and we both knew pretty well what each of us needs and we offered it happily and were sad if we were even denied the chance to offer it, like a mother who would offer her own… everything for the sake of her child.
I let her take me in her arms once again, and in the dead dark of the sub-arctic night, I slowly turned my head and leaned it forward, I felt her lips creeping up slowly, touching the bottom of my neck and working their way up. I knew exactly where they would stop, and I shuddered with pleasure just at the thought of it. I pushed my body back into hers in a gesture of “I am yours” and then I felt nothing. I fell asleep and I let my body for hers to take. I wanted nothing more, nothing less, than to be a part of her in any way that I could.
A baby crying. I woke up to the sound of a baby crying.
What in the world was a baby doing here. This was surreal.
I flinched and then I suddenly opened my eyes.