A group of wonderful writers came together with an idea to write flash fiction pieces each month based on a single image. I was lucky enough to be invited to participate. Below you will find my entry for the month but please also check out these great writers for their stories:
He lived off crackers and rum. I don’t even remember his name but I remember what he ate while hiding away in the captains quarters of a wrecked ship, hidden under clothes. He also had a pet polar bear and I can’t recall how he managed that. Did he kill the mother bear for food or in defense? What does it matter, it was a book. Not about survival but, in a way, it was about survival. When I was nine years old I found it in the library of my school, surprisingly unmolested unlike many of the picture books or those of more popular authors. The Iceberg Hermit, with it’s massive polar bear on the cover and a boy, with a name I can’t remember, who made it out of the tundra. If he did it, I can do it too, right? Are my chances of survival reduced because this is real and his story is fiction? I don’t have crackers, rum, a shipwreck haven, a beast pet, or a girl at home to remind me life is worth living. The clothes on my back, my camera gear, and twenty hours without human contact. This is what I have.The guide will be the first to notice one of his party has gone missing. His leathered face and calculated eyes raising the alarm, transforming from a small, routined man to an iron fisted leader with native instincts. The other men in the group will follow blindly and I expect little to no help. Five of them. All men, white, handsome, varying in age and country of origin but rich, athletic, and well traveled. They were kind enough but I didn’t bother to learn their names and get to know them. Once we had camped I took their picture as they sat around the fire and engaged in light hearted conversation. Not because I wanted to remember their faces and the experience of travel but because they looked like the perfect L.L. Bean catalog setting. I couldn’t helped feel entertained and painfully out of place. I felt lost before I actually became lost. I’m just a photographer from Wisconsin with little time and little money. Sports teams, graduations, engagements, weddings, families, life moments experienced through a lens rather than to touch and feel them for myself. Those men knew life in a way money and privilege allowed. Even when trying to find life for myself, spend a healthy chunk of my savings to go someplace I’ve never been before, I am still surrounded by those who’ll never understand isolation both in the figurative and literal notion.
Now all I feel is wind. Almost a day ago I had wandered away to take pictures, to lose myself to nature, to reflect on the land and the beauty of simple things. The wind had kicked up and created a white out, losing my subject and the bright colors of the nearby tents. With my camera tucked safely back into it’s bag, I pulled the hood of my parka around my face tightly. Snow crystals embedding into the fur lining changing the brown pelt to white. I tried to wait out the wind but was unsuccessful. My face began to burn and my hands ached. A watch with built in compass seemed like a wise purchase before my trip but, as I have know learned, my inexperience in the tundra cannot be saved by such a simple device if I don’t understand how to use it properly. I’m not a smart man, I think this has been clearly established considering my situation. But I did know I couldn’t stand in the wind. I accepted shelter the first moment I came across it. A cave like opening solid with ice, not far from a nearby frozen lake. Still, the wind is in my skin, stinging, burning, and may always be from this day forward.
They will find me eventually. This I’m sure. I just need to wait out the weather like they most likely are and soon I’ll find a way to make myself known. Make a flag from the lining of my camera bag, use the lens and see if I can start a fire. From there I’ll listen for the sounds of dogs or snowmobiles. They’ll find me. Fly me back home in warm blankets and serve me hot food. Mom will cry and then tell me I’m an idiot but she loves me and to “Please, don’t do this ever again.” Dad will hug me and nod quietly, his message of fear and relief shown on his face without words. Friends who seem to never have time to see me will make time to welcome me home. Realizing my value and vowing to never let the time and distance between us return. They’ll offer to take me out for drinks to listen to my story. Rum. We’ll drink rum. For now I’ll rest. Pass the time. Let my aching muscles relax. Allow the chill to pass. They’ll come for me soon. They will. I know they will.
Allan Gordon. The boy who survived, that was his name. The one from the book.