Cold. So cold. I'm not going to make it out of here. And if this cold doesn't get me, the predators will. That or the Voices will catch me again. It's so cold. I can't keep going. I can't even think. My brain is hurting and I can no longer feel my feet. It's so cold...
That had to be the end of my story. But it wasn't. Two days after setting out I stumbled to a research centre, right slap bang in the middle of the Arctic. When I knocked on the door I must have looked a state, but they took me in anyway, seeing how blue I was and how my toes were in imminent danger of dropping off.
"What are you doing out there in those clothes? Where have you come from?" I couldn't answer. I knew I was about to die. No one could survive such temperatures -- even during what counted as 'summer' out here in the Arctic -- with such thin clothes and no food. Surely food (I'd heard chocolate) was the only thing that kept you alive?
"Get him inside," said one of the others. I assumed they were scientists. Students, perhaps. "Get him inside and wrap him up in a foil blanket. We can't risk a heater. He'll get chillblains."
"Chillblains will be the least of his worries at this rate," replied his companion, but half-carried me up the stairs to a little room. It was warm, which at that moment felt like the hottest summer to me. He wrapped me up securely, then handed me a bar of chocolate. "Here, eat this. You look like you're starving."
I tried to lift it to my mouth but I was too weak. "Can't..." I whispered.
With concern and friendliness in his dark eyes the young man broke up the squares and fed them to me, as I did my best to chew and swallow. "I'm Kurt," he said, trying to prompt a response. "I'm a student of Environmental Sciences, and I'm doing a year's research out here on the base. What about you?"
"Shane," I replied. It was all I could manage. At that moment, the other young man returned. Seeing me with a little colour in my cheeks made him smile.
"Kurt. Has he told you anything about him yet? We should tell the police." I shook my head once, briefly. If they told the police the Voices might track me, and I couldn't risk that.
"His name is Shane. But he's too weak to talk. He can't even eat." Kurt shook his head. "What he was doing out there in these conditions I don't know. But he's no danger to us. I'd be surprised if he could even walk on his own."
"I'm Ed." Now the other man introduced himself. I nodded in recognition. "I'm also a student. There are eight of us on base along with two qualified scientific researchers and one of our tutors. We've been here six months already, and to be honest it's getting pretty boring. Thanks for livening it up for us."
"That's ... that's okay," I managed to say with a faint grin. "Glad to help." My voice sounded odd. Weak and pale, hard to understand. I looked down at my toes. "Looks like I'm thawing out a bit."
"Don't try to talk," said Kurt. "You need to save your strength." But save it for what?