A Bitter Cold Night

February 19, 2013
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There have been many nights below freezing in the history of the world; however there has never been a night as cold and bitter as this one. I could feel it coming for days, even weeks. Each day that passed got a little bit darker and perceptively more frigid. The thermometer read minus 10 degrees, then minus 15, then minus 20, and it continued to drop at an alarming rate. I could feel the chill to the very depths of my bones. The cold brought with it an eerie and persistent ache and the air was strangely still yet unsettled. Silence in the woods was broken only by the groaning of trees and howling of wolves. I knew with clear certainty that something unprecedented was about to occur.
Living alone in a little cabin in the middle of a damp old growth forest of tall fir and pines would seem to be a dark and unfriendly existence. However, with a crackling fire, the soft glow of modern electrical lighting and 4G communication with the outside world, provided by a solar array located in a nearby clearing, life was warm, light, and comfortable. That life had also been predictable, changing with the seasons in an expected way. From summer rains to blazing falls; from winter snows to spring thaws. Over time though, routine had become pattern less and now, when this most recent string of frigid days and nights became increasingly longer and harsher, I felt a real danger to my health was eminent. Life had become wild and fluctuating, as many predicted.
I found myself sitting closer to the fireplace every day and chopping piles of wood as assurance that my home would be toasty even as frost clouded the windows with an ever thickening glaze. The coldest night on record came and the impossible started to happen. I had a thermometer that read from +100 degrees to -100 degrees and had experienced many winter nights where the temperature was below -25, but when I stepped out of the warm, comfortable log cabin and into the dark freezing abyss; that thermometer read -100 degrees. Amazingly, the thermometer needle visibly struggled, pushing to break the glass that encased it. Finally, the needle spun wildly and continuously like something out of a cartoon, and then it snapped in half. My eyes had never witnessed such a crazy display. It seemed from another world. Although minus 100 degrees was the lowest my Wal-Mart brand thermometer could measure, it was clear that it was actually much colder than what the thermometer read. I wondered anxiously how much lower it could go.

Being appropriately bundled up to venture outside to restock the firewood supply, I could still feel the cold creeping in, slowly but surely, like a knife, making its way to my vitals. This was despite four layers of down jackets, four windbreakers, heavy duty mountaineering pants, and super thick down mittens. I hustled back inside with an arm load of wood, gasping to catch my breath. Suddenly, the door frame cracked, snapping the hinges off the solid wood door. Bitter gusts of wind blew snow throughout the house. Snow settled on everything like powder sugar on a jelly donut. To my horror, I turned and saw that the once cheery fire was completely out, its life whisked away by the deadly cold draft. Then the lights flickered and everything went black.

In a panic for life I hurriedly grabbed keys to the old beat up Chevy truck I inherited from my parents. I ran to the truck, praying and hoping it would start. I had to get to town. I had to get warm. I had to find friends to be with. To my agonizing disappointment the engine sputtered but it did not start. I waited a long five minutes and tried again, turning the key hoping to hear the familiar hum of the motor, but it was not to be.

I feared this was the end. As I turned away from the old battered truck I could not help but shed a tear. As soon as that tear left my eye it froze on my face. I went inside, found an old kerosene lantern, and built a blazing fire. After propping up the front door over the bitter opening and covering it with a thick patch work quilt, I crawled into bed, taking with me every blanket, every sheet, and every warm item that I could find. Now I lay here freezing, thinking back on my life and how I grew up in this beat up old log cabin with my parents. Somehow, I knew I was destined to die here, and die I shall. Freezing to death in my mid forties is not the way I planned to go out, but the unexpected happens every day. Tonight, with frostbitten hands and aching heart, I write this tale so someone will know what transpired this horrific night. Now I shall go to sleep and hopefully wake up tomorrow morning. Until then, I say, goodnight.

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