Make it Home
“We got a big one!” My dad said, “Quick, bring Mule!”
“Comin’ Dad.” Mule is quite the animal, or should I say, all flakes are. They are extremely loyal. Flakes have about six to seven inches of long, pale brown fur. We bring Mule with us whenever we go out into the icy landscape. He can be ridden, haul stuff, or even fend off predators. Weighing roughly 400 pounds Mule can carry anything, like the iceare we just caught. From what I’m learning in my LearnTech, an iceare is a “rabbit” that has evolved to adapt to the new arctic environment. Now it has thicker fur, way sharper, longer teeth, and are two to three times the size. They have also now evolved into omnivores, unlike their herbivore ancestors. Very few are up to four times the size, but we had just caught one.
I grabbed Mule by his strap and brought him over to the trapped iceare. After we got it loaded up, my dad and I walked on either side of Mule. “A little faster Mule” I said, and he instantly sped up. We check the traps every day because we need the high protein content due to the extreme temperatures.
When we finally got to our home I checked the plant house and then went to the kitchen where my dad was already preparing the iceare for dinner. “Can I help you with anything?” I asked.
“Could you go check your sister?” he asked me over his shoulder.
“Sure.” I said and headed to her room.
“Did you catch anything good?” she asked when I made it there.
I said, “You betcha, we got our biggest one yet. Not only that, but it had such thick fur it wasn’t frostbitten, so we can eat all of it!” I then added, “Maybe Dad will let you have one of the legs tonight!” The legs are the tastiest part on an iceare, but it’s also the most vulnerable spot to be frostbitten so we were lucky it wasn’t.
“Yes!” she shouted in joy.
“If you come with me to the plant house, you can pick what greens you want for dinner.”
“I want that one!” she said pointing to the second shelf on the freeze racks in a corner. There sat the green and white vegetable she always picked when given the opportunity.
“O.K.” I grumbled, sick of eating it all the time.
When we got back to the kitchen Dad was already finishing up with the meat and I set our bowls and spoons at our places onour round table. Between bites, my dad said “Good catch Ben.” He took a drink of water. “Mule needs to be fed too after that hike and haul, if you could after dinner.”
“Sure Dad.” I responded.
When we finished I headed out to the stable and gave Mule a big helping ofhis energy mix. It consisted of water, bits of an iceare, and fish which my dad goes out to catch. He slurped it up hungrily. I patted his head as I watched him eat and told him “Good job out there.” He grunted in response.
That night I pulled out my LearnTech, and typed in: Is everywhere on Earth in the same condition? I waited a second for the answer to appear and it said Earth is in a stage referred to as an “Ice Age”. An ice age is a period of colder global temperatures. 80% of Earth is covered in snow and ice. Ice Ages occur roughly every 100,000 years. During an Ice Age animals soon adapt to fit in with the new conditions of Earth or become extinct. I thought, Wow, I wonder what it was like before. On that note I tucked the LearnTech away, rolled over and fell asleep.
The next day Dad and I were up early to check the traps to beat the blizzard that was forecasted. The traps are set very far away from the house; otherwise the iceares won’t go for the bait due to sensing our presence. Dad said, “Why don’t you start to go out and get Mule situated?”
I headed out with Mule and swiftly put on our snow masks so our faces wouldn’t get frostbitten. I climbed on top of Mule; normally I ride him to the traps, and walk back. I was anxious to get going so I started up the rise. I turned back to see if Dad was on his way. That’s when I saw it, taking my breath away; a polar bear! I was about to yell for Dad, but the polar bear was already advancing. I caught myself and said “Go Mule, run!”
Out of habit, Mule took off toward the traps where we usually go, but I turned him in another direction. I didn’t want the polar bear eating an iceare if we had caught one. It would be a disaster if he started regularly stealing from our traps.
The polar bear continued to chase us. For now there was no chance to get back inside the house. So I kept going in a direction I wasn’t as familiar with. I figured we could circle around after we lost the bear. Polar bears are very fierce beasts and are always looking for a meal. To make matters worse, it looked like this bear hadn’t eaten in a while. I leaned forward to add to Mule’s momentum.
After about ten minutes of being chased and trying to lose the bear, he lost interest and wandered away, so I slowed Mule down. He immediately laid downexhausted, I leaned against him in relief. We lost the polar bear, but we also got ourselves lost.
I tried to survey my surroundings for anything that looked familiar. I didn’t see anything, but I noticed a frozen lake. As I ate snow to hydrate, I decided we had to try to find something to eat; we would not survive long in the cold with little food.
Our best option was ice fishing, but we didn’t have the drill. Frustrated, I rummaged through my pack and found a machete like tool used for slicing open iceares. Wait, I thought, we could use it to hack away a hole! That was our best option in place of a drill, although it would be time consuming and require a lot of energy. I rummaged through the pack some more and found Mule’s leash rope. We can use this for the line.
Mule and I headed towards the lake. Uh-oh, there’s a large patch of sastrugi in the way! Sastrugi is hard, sculptured snow formed by the wind. I groaned, “Let’s go Mule, we got difficult traveling ahead of us, so we best get moving.” Mule snorted and started walking toward the lake. We reached the tall, solid surf of the sastrugi and Mule stopped, looking over at me with a questioning look. I said, “Go on Mule.” nudging him forward with my knee.
He had just started to slowly walk across the sastrugi when I saw the polar bear again. It barreledtowards us before I could do anything. Mule saw it and took off. He started off fine running on top of the sastrugi whenhe tripped right at the edge of the lake. Mule stopped himself from going on the frozen lake, but the sudden stop sent me flying off of him and onto the lake.
I face planted on the ice and a stab of pain shot through my nose; I skidded along the ice on my stomach with my mask filling with blood.
The polar bear, skidding past Mule, also tumbled onto the lake. He righted himself and charged at me. I whimpered as I understood I was about to be eaten.
Right then, “CRACK!” boomed the ice. With no time to react, the polar bear fell through; the lake swallowed the bear. Freezing water shot up in the air, narrowly missing me as I scrambled out of the way.
I tore my mask off. Clutching my nose I tried to stop the downpour of blood. I eventually made it to land, dragging myself back to Mule. When I stood up, I felt myknee buckle and I almost fell on my nose again; my hands barely catching me. Mule started nudging me with his nose wearing a sorrowful face. I put my arm on him and lifted myself up with my good leg. We walked a few feet away from the lake and slumped on the ground. Mule laid down with his back to the wind and put his head in front by me. I snuggled up close to Mule to share our body heat. Once the bleeding stopped I put my mask back on.
I startled awake to the wind howling. Idiot! I thought, I could’ve died sleeping out in the open! How long have I been asleep?! As I heard our stomachs growl I thought, we need to eat something soon. When I stood up, it seemed like there was something on my face. I took off my snow mask, to check my nose. I felt a lot of crusty dried up blood everywhere beneath my nose. I spat on my glove and tried to rub it off, but it stuck there anyways. I ate a handful of snow before putting my mask back on.
I grabbed the rope and bits of raw meat from the pack. These were treats for Mule as an extra reward when we were out checking traps. I slowly limped to the hole made by the polar bear, trying not to use my right leg. It was much better, but I didn’t want to overdo it and injure my leg further.
I hope ice fishing is as easy as it sounds, I thought, as this was my first time. The lakes are even farther away from the house than the traps are, so I rarely go. I tied the bit of meat and iceare slicer to the end of the rope. I tossed the bait in the hole and waited patiently.
After a while, I felt the line tightening. I tried to stand up and pull on the rope. However, the fish pulled down really hard tearing me off my feet. I dug the heel of my boot into the ice stopping myself from flying into the water. I started slowly walking away with the rope slung over my shoulder. The fish tugged harder and I felt the rope saw at my bones. I yanked at the rope as fast and as hard as I could. The fish came flying out of the water and onto the ice. When I saw the Arctic grayling wriggling around on the ice, I was completely relieved. I had been worried I was going to only catch a small fish, that couldn’t feed both me and Mule.
I rolled the rope as I walked towards the grayling. I pulled the iceare slicer and line from the fish. I hit the grayling’shead with the handle of the iceare slicer to kill it and brought everything over by Mule. I scaled and cleaned the fish. I gave the head, guts, and more than half the meat to Mule who gladly started eating. I started eating my portion too, just not as enthusiastically as Mule was. I’m not a raw meat fan. We have to get home if we want to survive, I thought while eating chunks of snow, we can’t stay here much longer.
When we’d finished eating I put all of the things I had in my pack and got back on Mule. I said, “Let’s try and find home, Mule.” I tried to head back in the direction we had come from, starting back across the treacherous sastrugi. It took a while, but we finally made it off. I was completely relieved; now it’ll be smoother traveling. It was evening when I finally spotted something I recognized; the iceare traps!
I hopped off Mule and raced to the traps. To my utter disappointment they were empty. Now I had to make a decision, did I want to stick around and hope to catch an iceare or begin the long walk back to my house. Mule and I walked a little ways away to sit down and eat snow.
Suddenly, I heard an iceare growl. Yes! I thought, he must be trapped. Then I realized, it wouldn’t sound this close. I bolted up and saw an iceare prowling a few feet in front of us. The iceare started to back away and looked ready to run. I jabbed Mule and we slowly backed away to make it look like we weren’t a threat. I didn’t want the iceare to run away.
Suddenly, he jumped at me with his teeth bared. “Mule!” I shouted and he snatched the iceare’s front leg in midair and threw it to the ground. I promptly brought the heel of my boot down on its neck.
I sat down and started skinning the iceare. I was surprised, iceares don’t usually attack people. He must have smelled the blood from my nose and sensed I was a weak target. I knew that Mule was using more energy than me so I gave him more than half of the iceare. I gagged down small bits of the raw iceare with snow, knowing I needed the protein to make it home. I climbed Mule, re-energized, knowing home was close. “Let’s go home,” I said as I nudged Mule.
When we finally got home it was dark. My dad and my sister came rushing out the door, hugging me and Mule. We all had tears in our eyes and Dad and my sister were amazed that I had made it back.
“I’m sorry you were out there all on your own. When I came out, I didn’t see you or Mule. I saw your tracks going towards the traps. Then I saw polar bear tracks which scared me to death. I rushed back to the house for gear and supplies. As I came back out gale force winds had obliterated your tracks and I couldn’t see anything. Without Mule I was helpless to come after you in a blizzard,” he said with relief washing over him as he hugged me tightly.
I told him how we had gotten lost, narrowly escaped the polar bear, and all we had done to survive. All the while reassuring him I was alright.
When I was done with my story, Dad said, “You must be cold and famished. Let’s get you inside and cleaned up.” gesturing at my nose.
I held up what was left of the iceare. “Looks like dinner is on me,” I said with a smile, looking at my sister. My dad smiled as he saw my sister’s tear stained face light up. We slowly walked into the warmth of home with Mule at our heels.