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Here's a teaser of a current work in progress:

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.
Albert Camus (1913-1960)

Prologue – October 1833

It was cold in the small shelter, cold and dark. An old “tusker” cabin Eric had called it, probably used by those poaching elk. It wasn’t even the size of the root cellar back home, even though that’s what it resembled. Just six logs high above ground, and maybe six below.

There was a rudimentary window slashed into the wood, as well as a small open doorway he’d blocked with tree branches at first, until the last storm had piled snow higher than the shelter itself. The snow had covered the canvas roof days ago.

He’d worked to keep the small hole that let the smoke escape clear, poking the butt of the old shotgun upwards and knocking the snow down onto himself. But that was better than it falling on the fire and putting it out. Can’t ever let the fire go out – takes too long to try and start it again. He’d learned that the first time.

He huddled closer to the small, smoldering fire. If he could learn, then he could live. He repeated the words again and again. Trying to find some strength, some solace in the husky sound of his own voice echoing in the stillness. But the snow that made such good insulation and helped keep the warmth inside the shelter muffled the sound, making it eerie and unidirectional to his ears.

He was afraid. There were no shells left for the shotgun so he left it on the floor, clutching the axe to his chest instead as he listened to the sound of howling from somewhere in the night. He looked at the marks on the wall. Seven days. He’d been buried in the snow for seven days now.

He thought he’d prepared as well as he could, using the axe to cut wood for the fire that would keep him alive through the long winter. If he had wood he had fire, if he had fire he could melt the snow for water and cook the meat he would need for strength.

Killing the oxen and attempting to smoke some of the meat had been the hardest. The dumb beasts had looked up at him with such trusting eyes where they stood frozen in place and he had cried when he’d slit their throats. Soft. Eric had always told him he was soft.

The blood had gone everywhere. He hadn’t realized how fast and hot the fluid would spurt out and had ended up covered with it when he’d killed the dying animal. It was the first time he’d felt warm since the snow and ice storm had come, at least until the blood had dried, caking stiffly on his clothes and skin. He learned though, stripping off his clothes, shivering in the cold air and standing back as far as he could before slitting the throat of the second.

He knew nothing of smoking meat other than it was done and hoped his attempts would be edible. The remaining meat was stacked in frozen chunks at the back wall of the shelter. Before the temperatures had stayed frigid enough the smell of the blood and slightly rotting meat had left him nauseous and unable to do more than retch. His stomach was too empty to actually vomit.

There were other marks on the wall. Marks he didn’t want to look at. Marks that told him how long he’d been there. Marks that told him how long since Eric had been gone and how long since he’d found his brother’s body. Don’t think about that. Don’t want to think about that.

The wolves howled again and he huddled closer to the fire, clutching the axe. If he could learn he could live. He repeated the words again and again, sometimes in a whisper, sometimes louder.

He just didn’t know if he wanted to.