The next morning, I found myself pressing lightly against the soft, dew-covered ground with my walking stick. My father carved me a new stick as I grew older and I always kept it close. Each one was made to fit my height, and carved from the sturdiest of wood. My brother and I found it a tradition to venture out each year to find the perfect tree to cut from, and I always enjoyed it. I depended on my stick, for it was my eyes.
“Be careful here,” my brother warned ahead of me. “We’re just entering the mountains.”
Mountains, I thought to myself. Oh, how I had dreamed of what the image of mountains might look like. All that I knew of mountains was what my brother had described to me. He’d explained that they reached to the skies and blessed their lands with their majestic appearance. I was taken by surprise when my stick hit the hard surface of rock at my feet. The vibration through the carved wood sent a sudden message to my brain, “Rock.” I lifted my foot and pulled myself atop the first rock with great confidence.
“Do you need some help, Arin?” my brother asked me. I felt his touch against my arm.
I quickly shrugged it off, “No, I’ll be fine, Theo. I can do this on my own.” My confidence was strong in my voice as I walked on, listening to the tap of my stick against the hard surface.
We walked on through the moist morning air until I felt the afternoon sun’s hot rays against the back of my neck. My feet were beginning to grow sore within my boots, however I kept my mouth shut and my face smiling. I was trapping with my brother and I was grateful.
I heard my brother’s footsteps come to a stop as he turned to face me. “Are you alright?” he asked. I nodded in approval as I regained my breath. “We’ll set our first trap here,” he stated. I heard a clang as metal met with the hard, granite surface of the mountain. He had been carrying the metal traps over his back as we traveled and I could tell that he was relieved to let them fall through his exhausted sigh. “Here, I’ll show you how to set them.”
I listened to my brother and placed my stick down before walking to where his voice was and kneeling to the ground. I heard him kneel beside me as I felt his hand on mine. He slowly moved my fingers across each piece of the trap until I had a good visual reference of it in my mind. He named each piece and told me how to set the trap as I continued to explore with my fingertips. I was thankful to have such a caring brother and a proud look overcame my face as we tested our first trap with a stick. I am sure the twig received a grim fate as snapping wood and clanking metal met my ears.
After resetting our first trap, my brother and I set forth to set our remaining four. We traveled far as I noticed the weather grow colder each step. The sun had sunk behind gray clouds that had suddenly appeared and the wind had increased in ferocity. I could sense that a storm was coming.
My brother could feel the storm, too, as he turned to me and stated, “We’ll just set this last trap and start heading back home.”
I felt frightened as I blindly followed my brother through the mountain wilderness. I trembled with cold as I walked slowly behind him, tapping my way as I went. My lungs felt frozen as I inhaled the frosty mountain air and my fingers were growing numb. My sense of touch was fading making it more difficult for me to find my way. As I heard the hoot of an owl, I knew that night had approached and that we were to be heading back soon. “Theo,” I called ahead. “I’m going to go back! It’s getting too cold and windy! I fear that a storm is coming!”
“Just wait a little longer,” my brother cried back. “We only have one more trap left!” My brother was always looking out for me but his longing to please our father was obscuring his wits.
“I think that I’ll just wait here then, Theo. I’m too cold to move on!”
I could sense worry in my brother’s voice as he responded. “Alright…I’ll be back as soon as I can. Stay here!” I listened to my brother’s footsteps die out in the howling wind as I sat and waited for him to return. All there was to keep me company were freezing temperatures and harsh weather. I felt the algor beginning to set in as I rested and trembled. My body shook tremorously as I felt my strength begin to diminish.
It seemed as if hours had passed when I decided to find my brother. I feared that something had happened to him and that I was to help him. I stood from my resting place and began to walk through the mountains alone. “Theo! Theo! Where are you, Theo?” I called out as I searched. I did not hear any responses through the fierce wind. My stick clamored against the rocky surface on which I walked, but I was unable to retrieve its messages. My hands were numb and I was no longer able to feel my stick’s vibrations. As I continued on, I suddenly felt tired, my eyes feeling heavy in their sockets.
As I gave out one final cry for my brother, I heard my voice echo across the land as I fell to the ground. My stick bounced and rattled against the hard surface as I lay on the edge of the cliff overlooking our peasant area of the kingdom. I tried to lift myself up, but was too weak to manage. I lay there with the thoughts of death echoing through my mind and the thought of the severe pain that I would inflict on my family. I thought of my mother who had died during childbirth and how saddened she would be if she were here. Just before I closed my eyes, I listened to what I thought were to be my final heartbeats.