I still struggle to fathom to the extreme extent in which the bitter cold clasped to my cracked lips, sharp daggers which impaled me with any minor movement. I was a prisoner within myself, my body being the cell of impenetrable harshness. How did I get here? My mind was as foggy as the scenery in front of me. I was a mere wandering soul across the baron icecap; a needle in a thousand haystacks. Did anyone remember me? Was anyone looking?
Despite the incredible and isolating coldness surrounding me, my number one enemy was my mind. I couldn’t stop my own imagination straying away, but could I blame myself? Would I have rather remained in this blank canvas of hell or allow my consciousness to seek refuge elsewhere? Instead of the beautiful mirage of desert islands with elegant palm trees slanted at a diagonal, crisp and lukewarm sea water gently lapping at the golden sand, I was nowhere. There was no sand, no snow, no hope and no life. I was alone, stood in darkness and light at the same time. I felt as if I was nowhere and everywhere all at once. All my senses were obsolete. No warmth. No feeling. Nothing. Everything.
Is this what death feels like, I asked myself. Did I die, and is this was the aftermath? How am I to tell, for what really is life? Life could be a simulation to an advanced game; life could be a wild and vivid dream; life could be the cruellest interaction after death. Life is the game, and I it’s player.
My eyes refocused, and I realised where I was yet again. I was back. Back to the bare and icy landscape. Back to my numb senses, and back to my isolation. I often ‘drifted away’ in thought, for there was nothing else to do. I had the choice of accepting fate, curling up, and passing to a ‘better place’. I had the choice to keep going, keep walking to nowhere, and die in a lonely place. Or I had the choice to be with myself, to really activate my mind. I chose that. I chose to be alive at the brink of death.
I thought back to how I really became to be a lonesome blur of life on this lifeless sheet of ice. My surveyor plane crashed, but only after my pilot did also. Why did he pass out? Is this the cruel reality of life, to accept fate and ‘go with the flow’? I didn’t know what to do, I was just a photographer. Perhaps I was meant to crash. Perhaps I was meant to be here.
Perhaps I was meant to die, or perhaps I was meant to live. What was the purpose? To discover myself? Have I even done that?
There was a tug of war within me; one half of me was in an emotional war, waging across my mind a battle of disassociating thoughts and panic, versus the physical war of the crippling frostbite, the niggling numbness and the excruciating loss of senses. It was like dominoes. One fell after the other.
Perhaps it was also fate that I survived, that I found the small cabin. I don’t know. Maybe it was just luck.
Inside was a bare stove, once used to cook food or provide warmth. There was also a small gathering of blankets fashioned from hide. I would take any warmth I could take. Instantly, the change of temperature as I crossed the doorway was unfathomable. The only comparison I could make is the feeling of jumping into an ice cold lake after being wrapped in the warmest jackets. The sudden change shocks you, takes your breath away. It makes you realise your situation in a way you never thought possible. It brings out your most primal instincts of survival. Fight of flight.
Instead, this was the reverse. I was an ice cube being plunged into boiling water, a child in the rain being given a jacket. It was an uncomfortable comfort. The change hurt, but I knew it was for the best.
My fingers dripped, the ice melting slowly from them. They looked painful, but I couldn’t feel the pain. They were red and grey, like a morbid mixture of elementary paint being slathered over them. I touched my fingers together, but couldn’t feel.
After a short while of defrosting and regaining my broken senses, I looked forth to the makeshift bed. How long would I sleep here? Would it be an eternal rest or a short lived sleep? The deer hide, which I dragged begrudgingly over myself, itched and tore at my delicate skin, but I didn’t care. It gave me warmth, therefor it would do. How could I complain, after all, I would take any miracle I could find.
I guess the ultimate miracle I had was myself. Perhaps the hard shell of myself, my freezing prison, kept my mind and soul intact. Perhaps my mind and soul were shattered, and perhaps they were irreparable, but at least they were there. At least I knew I was here. At least I was alive.
I led backwards, dragged the skin up to my chin, and shut my eyes. If this was my last sleep, then I was prepared. If not, then that was fate. If not, then this earth needs me for another day.
I was needed.
-Benjamin John Wareing