It was snowing much harder now. Buck, instead of making good time, was beginning to struggle against the bitterness he felt from the cold. He had never felt so cold and his breathing was becoming rapid. As it dawned on him how much trouble he was in he started looking for shelter. He was past exhaustion, losing his balance and stumbling. Catching his balance and moving ahead a few steps at a time. Once, he thought he had heard a twig crack behind and off to his left. That was the uphill direction. It was too rocky for a man so he knew there was no help there.
When he fell it was sudden. What had caught his foot he would never know but, already off balance, he dove head first the full length of his body. He caught himself, barely, before smashing his left shoulder on the side of a boulder. By placing his right arm out in front of him he only just evaded a full impact on the unyielding rock. Glancing off the boulder he landed on his right side, twisting his ankle horribly as his toe had caught beneath the root of a tree. Instantly he knew he wasn’t going to be getting back on his feet. He lay there with no need of assessing the damage. The pain was breathtaking. His shoulder screamed of damage while his ankle sang harmony; one octave lower.
He lay there for several minutes as the snow piled relentlessly around him. If there was any good news it was that he found himself just a couple of feet from a pine which had fallen and lie across the rock he had fallen against. Gritting his teeth against the pain he pulled himself slowly and agonizingly under the fallen tree. There was noting else to do but, he thought, to die here just one mile away from Geoff’s and Sylvia’s home. The irony stung as he thought how close he was and, yet, as the poet’s say, so far away.
She was a hunter. She knew the forest intimately, within a radius of ten miles. Knew where the rabbits holed up and their trails into and out from their dens. She knew where the deer hid with their fawns and when a chipmunk dug a new nest merely by the scent of fresh dug earth.