035 - channel
So it had come to this.
Winston's journey through the mountains had been harrowing, to say the least. There was that bear attack that robbed him of much of his supplies. The bears, like most animals, hadn't been the same after the incident. Then there was the landslide that destroyed the only trail he had known to follow.
He was cutting his own path, now. Still possessing his compass, he felt that he was traveling in the right direction. "To the south, and up. Up the mountains." That's what they had told him. To get to the promise land. Where things were supposedly still okay.
It had to be hidden in this direction. The going was slow, with each day it was harder and harder for Winston to find a passable route. It made sense to him, though. The only place where an enclave of humanity could survive in safety now would have to be in a remote, hard to reach area.
So he pushed on.
It was getting colder with each passing day. Winston wasn't sure if it was the altitude or the changing of the seasons, or some combination of both. Then, eventually he hit snow. Climbing this mountain was difficult enough without the proper gear, but now in the snow it was bordering on impossible.
He did the best he could.
Supplies were running low, and the fabric protecting him was running thin. The thing he did not expect to run out of, though, was mountain. There was nothing more to scale. At least not in the direction he intended to go. Had he made a wrong turn? He did not want to backtrack completely and lose the progress he had made. So he sought out an alternative route.
Finally, he found something. But it was not what he was expecting. A huge glacial arch span across the gap between two mountains. When he first spotted it, he could not believe it. From a distance it looked like a man-made bridge, built purposely to cross from one side of the divide to the other. Surely it was an optical illusion.
But the ice bridge was far too real. And it left Winston in something of a dilemma now that he stood at its base. He had no idea how it had been formed. Presumably at some point, a huge glacier had been here, with perhaps a river or stream running underneath. That stream had formed something of an arch, and over the ages the glacier had retained that shape as it melted.
Or so he surmised. Right here, the ice looked thick enough to stand on without any problem. But he worried about its thickness towards the center of the arch. The entire span of the bridge was probably around a hundred feet or so. The distance to the ground below was, well, Winston didn't even want to think about that. It was thousands of feet if it was an inch, he was sure of that much. It made him dizzy just to catch a brief glimpse off the edge.
What else was there to do? He was getting weaker with each passing day, backtracking now may have meant death just as much as a collapsing ice arch did. At least plummeting to his death would be quicker. Although, at heights like this, Winston joked with himself that it might not be that much quicker.
It was just that damn middle section. The ice looked so thin.
He took his first step. It was cold.