Flint Stryker was miserably cold. Actually, he was beyond miserably cold, hovering somewhere in that shadowy world between frozen stiff and dying of hypothermia. It was all he could do to keep his eyes open. He knew he shouldn’t, but it would be so much easier to drift off to sleep. Even death had to be warmer than this.
Lying on his back, he could see the vapors of his breath hanging in the air. It was so damned cold, he wouldn’t have been surprised if his breath didn’t freeze in midair and fall on his face.
But it didn’t, and with each new breath, he took another lungful of the frigid arctic air into his lungs. He looked around him in the destroyed shelter he was in. “Shelter” was a very subjective term in this case. There was very little of what remained of the structure that offered protection from the harsh elements.
“Yeah,” he spoke aloud, “it’s not exactly balmy in here.” The frozen stillness amplified his voice and it startled him at how loudly he had spoken. “That’s it,” he muttered, “now I know I’m going nuts.” He shifted himself under the silver mylar space blanket that covered most of his body. Even with the premier cold-weather gear he was wearing, it didn’t seem to have much effect against the bitter cold. The pain in his head only amplified his utter misery.
“Why did I ever agree to this?” he wondered aloud. “I must have been crazy.”
“Or stupid,” the stuffed moose head lying amid the other rubble said. Flint shuddered underneath his covering and mumbled, “I’m hallucinating, too. That can’t be a good sign.”
“You think you’re hallucinating?” the moose added. “You really should give me a little more credit than that.”
Flint shook his head, attempting to clear his thoughts. “I’ve got to get a grip. I need to think about something else.”
“Atta boy,” said the moose, giving Flint a sly wink.
Trying to force his brain to tune out the moose, Flint thought back to how he came to be in this place, in this situation in which he found himself. How long since he was in the hospital? Months? Years? He felt sure it was at least many months ago, but in his current addled state, he couldn’t be sure.
“That hospital stay was the pits, right, Flint? It took a while to recover from your gunshot wounds, remember?”
Flint shivered and replied, “What do you expect? At least I recovered from mine. You were less lucky.”
“Touché, Mr. Stryker, touché.” The moose fell silent.
Flint was rather proud of himself for that little comeback. He gave the moose a smug look.
His teeth chattered loudly as he tried to recall that pivotal day in the hospital.