He stopped in his tracks. The horse’s muzzle shook underneath the reigns behind him. He could feel the frostbite seeping through his fingertips as the snow filled in what footprints they had made. The horse’s breath fell in wisps upon his shoulders, causing a small break of warmth in the bitter, dead cold of winter. No one ever believed that they would have the opportunity to die like this, like Miles was currently. He never believed he’d get the chance to think of his short thirty-two years of life before it was ended. Who would ever believe that through the cold of winter that you could still feel the fire on your face? You could see you son napping with red cheeks, curled up next to his favorite stuffed animal.
“Dad, we can get one someday, right?” He shook the ragged puppy in Miles’ face.
“Sure, son, whatever you want, we’ll get it, definitely.”
And that’s how it all began. The brutal cold pierced through their cabin, came down the chimney, dowsing their fire. His wife begged him, said it would be too much on his body, that they could just eat Kasha.
There was no way Miles would ever let that happen. The way his son’s face lit up at the prospect of riding her. She was the closest thing he ever had to a friend. So much for living the nomadic life.
Something that no one ever tells you about dying, is the ultimate peace that washes over you after you’ve already accepted it. It has that pit of despair, that desperate desire to continue, but there comes a time when you finally just relax, and accept what’s coming. So this was it, this was Miles’ end. And he wanted so badly just to get Kasha to safety, or somewhere, maybe that someone could find her.
So he pushed them forward. She nudged his back every once and awhile. The brown mare had her own language. It was if she was begging him, begging his legs, to keep going, one step at a time. Miles had no regrets. His family would starve if he didn’t get back, and he supposed that was a regret, but maybe they wouldn’t. He held on hope for them, that this bitter, cold winter wouldn’t shake their bones like it did his. He always thought he was the weakest one anyway. His wife had such a painful childbirth, and she had made it out with an exhausted smile on her face. That same sideways smirk that she always gave Miles at the best of times in their life.
And his son had overcome the famine. He had survived two grave illnesses that many children his age had died from years prior. All of this without medication. Miles knew, or convinced himself, they would make it. They had to make it, because one more step in this white snow wasn’t going to happen. He knelt down and felt the dampness seep up through his two heavy layers. The whinny behind him made him reach up and scratch Kasha’s nose. “It’ll be okay, girl. You have to keep going.” He pointed and looked at her, pleading. “One more mile, girl, it’s fine. Please.” She nudged his shoulder. He felt hot tears rising up in him. He choked them back, it was no use to have them freeze on his face. It would just make him colder.
Miles blinked slowly, holding eye contact with Kasha. “Please, Kasha, go.” She opened her great mouth and grabbed his jacket, almost pulling him up. Miles couldn’t help but let out a meek laugh. She was choosing to die with him.
Though I could see this becoming a longer piece, I don't think it will. Frankly, I know nothing of being a nomad, having settled down for most of my life. I've always wanted to just live on the road, travel to random, outback destinations. Some of my favorite stories are of people trapped in the wilderness.