Sometimes, you just have to chase a plot bunny. Here’s where today’s has been leading me:
Dan bent his stiff fingers around the ice covered sapling. He groaned as he squatted to lower himself down the muddy slope. His knee popped and he grunted, momentarily pausing while he lowered himself. The sapling bent and ice crackled. Dan’s foot slipped. He strained, pulling harder against the sapling. It snapped, sending him head first down the hill.
A tree a few feet down halted his fall. He laid for a moment, icy leaves against his cheeks. The chill of the ground penetrated his damp clothes, and his muscles tensed into full body shivering. He shut his eyes. Pin-pricks of snow touched his exposed cheek. Dan blinked at the leaves in front of his face and forced himself to sit up. Using the tree for support, he pulled himself up and carefully made his way down the hill to the bottom of the narrow valley. Downstream, he knew, there were some warm spring pools that sometimes had fish in them. At least, he thought, he could chew on some moss for a while for a least a little nourishment. From there, he’d head back to the run-down cabin that he had occupied and made a home of.
Snow and ice in the bottom of the valley hid rocks and fallen trees, making his trip slow and treacherous. His feet fell leaden. He had lost sensation in his toes sometime earlier, but had continued trudging forward. It felt like a storm was on the way, and he wanted to try to forage at least a little before he was stuck in the cabin for a few days.
“I miss being warm,” he said to no one.
A snap above him on the valley edge caught his attention. He froze and looked back. A bird called. He waited. There was nothing. He continued on.
Steam rose off the tiny pool of ice-free water. Dan knelt on the bank and attempted to scoop some of the water into his mouth. The water ran through his stiff, cold fingers. He bent and put his mouth directly into the water and drank deeply. He sat up and surveyed the water’s edge. Some moss grew on the other side. He rocked back to stand. The water in front of him burst as an explosion blasted him from the behind.
Dan covered his head and staggered to the side. He ducked when he heard a second explosion. Dirt and stones showered over him. He ran.
He staggered blindly along the valley. Icy pains shot up his legs from his nearly frozen feet. He tripped and fell into a pile of logs and debris. He climbed up and over. Behind him came cries. Demands to stop. The valley turned, putting him momentarily out of sight of the gunman. He clambered up the bank. He could hear the man behind trying to navigate toward him. As Dan crested the rim of the valley, a tree ahead burst into splinters of wood. He dove aside.
Something caught Dan on the back. Another shot echoed against the trees as pain cut through his right shoulder and he fell hard, sliding briefly on his chest then rolling.
A yelp a joy carried through the chill air as the sounds of the gunshots faded.
Dan laid still, twisted slightly against a log, staring up at the greying sky. The snowflakes made the forest look like the world was losing its signal and going fuzzy.
Sticks snapped nearby, and Dan’s assailant cursed. He remembered why he was laying there and struggled to get up. His arm dangled painfully at his side. He could feel blood running down his chest and back.
The man with the gun was coming. Dan fled, this time more slowly. He did not want to fall, because he wasn’t sure he could get up again. He came to another ravine and looked around quickly.
A shout rose from behind. “Where are you?” Dan peeked back to see an angry Clastad spinning, searching frantically for his quarry. Dan knew this place. He dashed toward the ravine, and a familiar well-beaten trail.
The Clastad spotted him. Another shot rang out, but not before Dan had disappeared into the ravine.