"Hey, Soldier! Where are you off to?"
"I am just going outside and may be some time."
"Well take that shovel with you. And be sure to dig deep."
Roaring and howling, the maniacal wind beat its vengeful tattoo against the walls of the tent, snow piling up without mercy. It was a wonder that frail material made by man could survive such punishment. A wonder too, that frail human material within could withstand it.
One man, Oates, known to the others as 'Soldier', was succumbing to this daily punishment more than others. Not a popular man, Oates came from a wealthy family, was educated at Eton, and had served as an officer in South Africa. Frostbite had taken a big enough toll of him but a leg injury had turned to gangrene. The rotten stench it made in the cramped tent, did not make him any more popular.
There would be no respite from the blizzard for days to come. They needed to get to the food dump and Oates was holding them up.
The next day, when he announced his now familiar: "I am just going outside and may be some time," nobody took any notice. They were too demoralized by cold and hunger to respond.
Oates didn't bother with the shovel. He wouldn't need it. Limping out into the wind, he dragged his putrid leg behind.
A comradely goodbye would have been nice, he thought, as he lay in the snow sinking, frozen, into unconsciousness.
About the Creator
Author based in Kent, England. A writer of fictional short stories in a wide range of genres, he has been a non-fiction writer since the 1980s. Non-fiction subjects include art, history, technology, business, law, and the human condition.