Running With Wolves
Chapter Two - White Cold
In between trying to telepathically communicate with Rowen, I somehow managed to doze. It was 2:00 in the morning when Seth woke me to take my stint in the driver’s seat. Yawning, I rubbed my weary eyes. My brief slumber had been filled with horrifying nightmares and in no way restful. There was an all-night diner near where we had pulled up.
“I need a coffee first.”
“No worries. I’ll stretch my legs and grab a sandwich.”
I nodded. We had made good time so far. Hopefully we wouldn’t run into any trouble. I grabbed a double strength coffee and an egg and bacon roll, then waited while Seth made his order. With food and drinks in hand, we got back in the car for the next leg of our journey. Seth fell asleep almost immediately after devouring his sandwich, and I was left alone with only my thoughts for company.
At this time of the morning, the roads were usually deserted, most people being safely tucked away in bed, although today, I couldn’t help but think they were deserted for another reason, like, the possibility of there being no one left alive to travel these roads. Luckily, every so often, a truck would go rumbling by in the opposite direction and I would breathe a little easier. There are still people, I reassured myself. I wanted to stop them and ask where they were coming from. Perhaps one of them would have news about what lay ahead. Some of them flashed their headlights at me. Were they telling me to turn around? Did they know something I didn’t? After all, there were no other cars heading the same way we were. I tried not to think about that too much.
We had long crossed over into Ontario and were currently passing Thunder Bay. There was still a long way to go. My first stint driving was supposed to take us to Sault Ste. Marie, but we decided that we should probably cross through Ontario further inland, avoiding close proximity to the water. Though we were still a little sceptical, we figured it was better to be safe than sorry. As we drove further and further east, our doubts were quickly dissolved. The temperature began to descend faster than we could keep up with and it was getting harder and harder to stay warm. The car heater was on full power, yet we still stopped to put on more layers of clothing until we were wearing everything we had brought with us. This was getting ridiculous. The temperature gauge announced it was zero degrees and soon after, kindly informed us in regular intervals that the temperature was continuing to drop. Ice patches appeared across the road and the land became invisible under a blanket of thick snow. Eventually, as we were nearing the Ottowa River, the car stalled and try as we might we could not get it started again.
“Now what?” Seth queried, shivering.
We had not passed a single car for hours and my anxiety was reaching critical levels. I was not going to give up. A sign on the side of the road indicated that we were close to a shopping mall.
“We need more clothes.”
“You’re planning to go on foot, aren’t you?”
My face set in determination, I gave a single nod.
“Right. Well, let’s get on with it. The quicker we move the warmer we will feel.”
With that, Seth set out at a steady jog in the direction of the mall. I made sure to lock the car and took off after him. He was right. The jog quickly helped to warm us up. I could feel blood returning to my extremities as my breath huffed out in little white clouds. As the shopping mall came into view, we shared a look of utter surprise. The car park was a mess. Trolleys, rubbish and beaten-up cars lay strewn across the concrete expanse – a concrete expanse mostly covered in snow and ice.
“What the hell happened here?” Seth wondered aloud.
My fears skyrocketed as I realised the truth. The ice age was real.
We picked our way through the scene to the door and stopped short. A large mound of snow blocked our way. We made quick work of clearing it only to realise the doors were frozen closed. I told Seth to step back then planted a solid kick into the glass. It shattered into tiny pieces and the sound echoed through the mall’s interior. Usually, one would expect a mall to be noisy, full of life with people going about their various errands, however, only a suffocating silence greeted us as we entered. It was empty. There were no customers and no staff.
“Where did everybody go?” I whispered in the eerie stillness.
“Evacuated, more than likely,” Seth surmised.
Neither of us mentioned the word ‘dead’ – until we came across the physical portrayal of the word.
He was an older man, perhaps around sixty years of age. The cold had preserved the body, making it difficult to determine how long ago he had died, and there was no way to tell whether that same cold had been the cause of his death. I wanted to believe it had been something else, something simpler, like a heart attack perhaps. Beside him was a trolley full of food, enough to last a few months if used wisely. Had he been stockpiling? Carefully, I reached into the man’s pocket and fished out his wallet. Inside I found his licence and a photo of a woman with two children.
“His name was Kevin,” I stated solemnly. I passed the photo to Seth. “He had a wife and two kids.”
Seth sighed and shook his head.
Not knowing what to do, because there really wasn’t anything we could do, we moved further into the mall and found a store that sold ski gear.
“Do we just take them?” I asked. It felt like stealing.
Seth shrugged. “I guess so.”
Guilt ate at my insides as we began to dress in the warmer clothing, adding some spares to our bag. Was this how things were going to be now?
“Maybe we should find some food and other supplies as well. It’s a long walk after all.”
Seth’s suggestion made sense. “Okay,” I agreed.
By some silent agreement we stuck together, scrounging up whatever food we could find that was easy to carry and prepare, water, matches, flashlights, knives and all the other things we thought we would need. We even found a small tent and sleeping bags. I did not look forward to camping out in this insane cold, but we may not have another choice. Rowen and I had gone camping a lot together, so it wasn’t a foreign concept to me. We had both enjoyed being outside in the peace and solitude of nature. Sometimes, we would hike through the mountains and find a secluded little spot to set up camp where we would get up close with the wildlife. Other times, we would drive across into Quebec or somewhere. Quebec was a favourite of Rowen’s as it was home to an extensive number of wolves. She loved wolves and they loved her. It was a relationship of the spiritual kind. I could still remember a time when we had come across an injured one. We’d been hiking all day and were in the process of finding a campsite when Rowen came to a sudden stop. Without saying a word, she veered off the track, running as she made her way through the trees.
“Rowen!” I called. She turned back briefly and held a finger to her lips. That and the scowl on her face told me to shut it. All I could do was follow until we came across a small clearing, a large wolf lying in the centre. It lifted its head as we approached and let out a small whimper.
“Hey there, handsome boy,” Rowen said softly.
I held back, not wanting to cause the animal any undue stress. It was not the first time I had seen Rowen approach a wolf. There had been occasions where a wolf had approached her, too – a phenomenon even she couldn’t explain when I had questioned her on it. It was a sight I never grew tired of seeing. I remember being overcome by an immense feeling of pride as Rowen tended to the injured wolf. They truly were magnificent creatures.
“We’re camping here,” Rowen declared.
I had already known, of course, that this would be the case and had started setting up. She smiled at me when she noticed. We stayed there in that little clearing until the wolf recovered. Before it left, it walked up to Rowen and she crouched down to eye level. They stared at each other for several moments, then the wolf lowered its head and rested it against Rowen’s. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever witnessed. A tear rolled down Rowen’s cheek as we watched the wolf retreat into the forest.
A lump formed in my throat as I recalled these happier times. I forced it back down. Rowen was alive. I just needed to stay focused and I would find her. Perhaps she might even know what had happened to our parents. Shocked, I realised I had barely given my parents a thought since I’d left Winnipeg. Was it wrong of me to put my sister ahead of my parents? If I were to be honest though, it had always been that way. A bond between twins was like no other: especially ours. As with Rowen’s connection to wolves, ours could also almost be deemed as supernatural. We had never met another set of twins as in tune with each other as we were. I gave myself a good shake. Reminiscing wasn’t going to get me anywhere. Bringing my attention back to the matter at hand, I looked over the supplies we had amassed. It looked like we had everything.
“What do you think?” I asked Seth, indicating our packs.
“I think we’re ready.” He gave me the thumbs up and hefted his pack onto his shoulders.
I picked up my pack, a little concerned over its weight, but I would manage. I wasn’t exactly unfit. Rowen and I had both been members of a gym, which we attended regularly, and I had kept up the practice with Seth in Winnipeg. I tucked a map and compass into an inside pocket of my jacket, ready to begin the longest hike I would ever take part in; a hike that would be far more perilous than I ever could have imagined. At that moment, a book caught my attention, pulling me towards where it sat on a table in front of a bookstore. It was a small, pocket-sized Bible. Frowning, I picked it up and traced my hands over the cover. Feeling prompted to open it, I carefully did so, choosing a random spot near the middle. It came open in the book of Psalms and my eyes were immediately drawn to a verse.
“For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”
Even I had heard that verse before. I remember thinking how nice that would be if it were true.
“Reuben?” Seth had continued walking, not realising I was no longer following.
“Sorry,” I called as I tucked the Bible into a pocket of my jacket and hurried to catch up.
Seth looked at me curiously. “What did you find?”
“Just a bit of light reading,” I laughed.
Seth knew I liked to read and shook his head in amusement. A comforting warmth spread through my body, seeming to radiate from the Bible in my pocket. I put my hand over it, swearing I could feel it pulsing. It hummed beneath my palm. Strange. With an odd sense of peace, I stepped out of the mall and back into the world of white.
Continue on to read chapter three here: