My heart warms with every frostbitten step I take toward the fire-- like myself, so full of life and death in the same moment. Long before I reach it I hear its crackling and watch the shadows it casts upon the boulders flickering in the snow. My pace quickens.
I reach the boulders in a desperate, stumbling run, straining all my remaining energy into one final burst that sends me plummeting blindly towards the fire, and collapsing face-forward onto the ground beside it. I breathe deeply, relax my muscles as much as I can, and sit up.
I stare in shock at the blank face of a dead man curled up in the snow beside me, the fire dancing in his frozen eyes, and he is naked.
My mind struggles to make sense of it; a man, all the way out here, lying naked and shivering with only some rocks for shelter and enough frozen sticks to build this little candle of a fire, which seems weaker with every passing second. But the fire is alive, so he can't be long dead. Where could he have come from? Or was he brought here intentionally and left to die? What monsters would do this to a person, or what monster was he, if he’d deserved it?
There is nothing in the vicinity with which to cover him, nor anything to feed the waning fire. I know I'll freeze to death if I leave, and if I stay? The corpse stares back, mocking me. I have no choice but to curl up like a fetus and pray in vain that the fire would last forever, as he had done. But what is life, if not every moment clinging to a dying light, on the off chance that another will show up before the first goes out? And I, at least, have my clothes on.
After too many long minutes of lying here, assailed by a stream of bleak and morbid thoughts I hope never to return to, I hear a distant yet unmistakable sound that brings me ten times the warmth of the fire. And so, this time, I have a naked dead man to thank for my life.