16Sunsets – Eye of the Tiger


Peter awoke in his cabin. He preferred the desolation and the wilderness that the Yukon provided. It wasn’t just the desolation he desired, but the anonymity the vast frontier offered.

He climbed out if his bed and straightened the layers of blankets and animal furs. His fireplace was burnt down to embers, but he ignored it – today he had work to do.

Did my time, took my chances…

Peter felt the weight of the shovel across his shoulders. He squeezed the handle and felt the imperfections he knew were there. He walked the perimeter of his cabin selecting five spots with sight lines favorable for tree-line reconnaissance.

Just a man and his will to survive…

At the site of the first selection, Peter’s shovel bit into the ground. Working the frozen ground by hand would be difficult and would take most of the day. Peter devoured his task and whistled a tune he remembered from his childhood.

* * *

Peter ignored what embers remained in his fireplace, but he couldn’t ignore the messy bed. Sight one was complete. He had worked through breakfast and lunch. When his pit reached nine feet, his stomach demanded he stop for the day.

So many times it happens too fast…

Peter grabbed the shovel leaning against the railing and walked swiftly, but stiffly, to site number two. His joints creaked and complained as he turned over shovel after shovel of frozen earth. This pit would take longer than the last one, but Peter was determined to finish in time for dinner. He paused and looked over his shoulder at site one and the wooden ladder sticking out. Then he returned to digging whistling a tune popular in the 1980s.

* * *

Peter woke and stared at the roof of his cabin for a few minutes. His shoulders and arms begged him to stay under the furs and blankets a little longer. He felt he barely had the strength to lift them and scurry into the cold cabin. Little heat radiated from the neglected fireplace.

Went the distance now I’m not gonna stop…

Finally, he willed his muscles to free himself from the warm embrace of sleep. He staggered towards the door after painstakingly fixing his bed and dressing for the weather and the task at hand.

Risin’ up to the challenge of our rivals…

At site three his shovel bit into the ground and he had to lean into it with all his weight to break through the frost. It took longer than it had yesterday and even longer than the day before, but once he had a rhythm going, he began to whistle a tune released in 1982.

* * *

Peter woke from a deep sleep. Despite being under layers of blankets and furs, his teeth chattered. His cabin was as cold as the outside – his fireplace having been neglected for three days now.

You must fight just to keep them alive…

He fought his way from under the piles. Hands shaking, he laced his boots and stood in the middle of his cabin for a few minutes. He willed his feet to move towards the door and his task for the day, but they refused to move.

…. with the skill to survive…

It was excruciating, but he placed one foot in front of the other. “Five steps,” he said aloud. The echo from the tall roof did little to reassure him. After five steps, he renewed his effort and gained five more.

Had the guts, got the glory…

He repeated this herculean effort again and again until he reached site four. His shovel dragged through the snow and left a peculiar zig-zag trail. “Need to cover my tracks.” His breath visible briefly before the wind stole it and left frigidity in it’s wake. It was lunchtime before Peter hit his stride and began whistling a tune that he heard on the radio for the first time during the spring of 1982.

* * *

Peter woke, but his eyes refused to open. His shaggy beard was frozen and his eyes felt heavy as if something was holding them closed. He tried to wiggle his fingers and after a few attempts he was able to, but he felt dampness through the gloves he wore. He sat up and opened his eyes to see a field of white.

He rolled over to see his pit trap at site four. Calling this one a pit trap was an insult to pit traps across the ages. It was barely four feet deep and his ladder was still at site three. He sat up like he was performing a sit up. The muscles in his abdomen screamed as he got to a sitting position. His stomach rumbled to remind him that not only had he not made it back to the cabin, he had missed his dinner the day before.

He tried to push himself into a standing position, but his arms hung at his sides. Twisting at the waist, he felt his arms flail out momentarily. Flopping back into the snow, he pushed with his legs and made only about three feet of progress. Drawing his legs to his chest, he planted his heels into the snow and pushed. He watched the sun move across the horizon as he conquered four feet at a time. The sun was behind his cabin and darkness was rising when he hit his head on something. He closed his eyes in preparation of maneuvering himself to see what he had hit.

* * *

Peter opened his eyes to the same twilight he had closed them to, but the sun now shone on the horizon at his feet. Straining to sit up, he was acutely aware of a weight on his chest. He looked down and saw a brown mass covering his body. Knowing it was a worthless effort; he tried to push it off with his arms. When his arms deferred to his will, he was shocked.

“I thought I’d die out here,” he whispered.

He craned his neck and twisted at the waist to see the brown mass. It was a light brown with streaks of grey and dirty white. Peter sat up and looked down to see lifeless eyes looking up at him. He pulled his glove off and placed his hand on the head of the creature that had given its own life to save his. The fur was coarse and Peter began to cry. He remembered feeling this same way almost twenty years ago.

* * *

Peter stood looking out a window of his cabin. The rumbling in his stomach had ceased less than an hour prior. He turned, finished the coffee in his mug and began the process of wrapping the remaining hunks of meat from the wolf. The cabin was awash in heat and smells from his cooking fire. The pelt of the wolf lay on a makeshift rack drying. He’d tan it in the next few days and decided he would keep it with him always.

After the ‘left overs’ of the wolf were secured in his ice box, Peter returned to the window. He could see the mounds of dirt and snow marking four of the planned five pitfall traps. He eyed the woods beyond the traps identifying wood for to cover the trap openings. He still had to finish number four and number five before building up the dirt around the traps to conceal them.

After what happened at the post office… He looked to the calendar on the wall. …. Last week… he didn’t finish the thought, but vowed to protect himself by whatever means necessary.

He prepared to retire for the night. He had retrieved his shovel and ladder and they awaited him on the porch. The fire in the fireplace would burn down to embers by the morning, so he made sure his pile of tinder and logs sat ready.

As he lay down covered by furs and blankets, a song released on May 29, 1982 rolled around in his brain until sleep finally took him.

16Sunsets – Part 15

It’s been almost three weeks since I’ve written anything for 16Sunsets. I haven’t posted much either with classes and work in high gear. I’ll likely write another two or three more chapters before taking another break from this story. These 1,356 words bring the running total up to 15,022. For those of you just tuning in, the entirety of the vomit draft will be posted here as I write it. I value your comments on the story; so don’t be afraid to sound off in the comments. Click on the 16Sunsets tag to catch up on the story thus far.

About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degrees in Computer Systems and Applications and Applied Human Behavior. View all posts by Mark Gardner

2 responses to “16Sunsets – Eye of the Tiger

  • Adan Ramie

    I like this part, Mark. This is one of the characters that I wonder the most about, whose path is the most unclear in my head, and that makes him intriguing.

    That being said, I feel like you’ve used too many of the lyrics in the first bits, and didn’t bring it to close at the end with them. (I’m not a big fan of lyrics in stories, because I’m one of those people who, once a song gets started in my head, it’s going to be with me for the rest of the day, and as clear as if it were playing on a radio. Of course, that’s just me.) The song does seem to help Peter along, though, which I think is a great addition to the story.

    The only other thing I noted that felt a little off to me was this line: “He closed his eyes in preparation of maneuvering himself to see what he had hit.” I’m not sure exactly what I didn’t like about it; maybe it’s bulky? But I like the idea of the sentence, if that makes any sense.

    Another great addition to the 16Sunsets saga. I’m excited to see it through to completion!

    • Mark Gardner

      Thanks for the comments, Adan!
      Since these are unedited vomit drafts, sometimes confusing wording creeps in. It was likely that I had intended the story to go one way and half way through the sentence I changed my mind.
      My thoughts on the song run along the same lines as yours. I’ll have to figure out what I want to do with them when I do my rewrite. Who knows, I may not be able to secure the rights to use them – I haven’t looked into it.

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