A Snowy Walk
Mike felt his neck becoming stiff as he strained to see where he was going in the blizzard. He was kicking himself for not having left earlier. Several times he had felt the car sliding despite the four wheel drive. He hadn't seen a car in ten or fifteen minutes or a plow for that matter. He cursed out loud, 'where the hell are the plows?' It was hard to pick out landmarks in the dark but he knew one of his uncles used to live out this way. Mike hadn't seen the man since he was eight or nine when the uncle had a falling out with his mom. Mike had never really asked his mom about it but always thought it was strange to suddenly have no contact with someone you knew and had loved. What could be so bad that you carry the anger for years.
Mike realized he had somehow gotten off the main road. 'Shit,' he muttered, as he started to brake thinking he would turn around. The brakes thought otherwise as he felt the car begin to spin. He tried turning the wheel in the opposite direction but in a moment the car was off the road and about to go over an embankment. 'Oh God', was all that came out of his mouth before the car began rolling down the hill. Mike was aware of the first roll but didn't feel the next two after smashing his head against the driver's window.
The voice roused him slowly. Mike's mind was slow to grasp and focus upon what seemed to be a muffled voice. He felt cold as he reached up to feel his throbbing head. A gash by his temple had left him with blood matting his hair. He felt his face and ran his hand by his ear. He was caked with blood. He realized it wasn't fresh, it felt thick and sticky and he could smell it. His feet and legs felt cold but he could move them.
The image of his car sliding off the road came back to him along with the last memory of the car rolling down the embankment. He heard the voice again as though it was fighting through a fog. 'Are you okay in there, you need to get out or you'll freeze'.
Mike unlatched his seatbelt, he was aware it probably had saved his life. He leaned over and opened the glove compartment thinking there was a flashlight in there. Nothing but papers awaited him as he remembered bringing the flashlight inside recently to replace the batteries and then leaving it on the shelf by the garage door. Without gloves he pulled on the handle and opened the door. The cold air hit him like a slap. The snow was coming down very heavily. Although still unsure if he had actually heard someone call to him Mike looked around but saw no one.
A steep climb.
After a moment Mike stepped away from his car. In the snow and with no light he stumbled and fell immediately. His bare hands plunged into the snow as he caught himself. The cold on his hands shocked him and his mind cleared a bit. He decided he would climb up the slope and then head back the way he had come. Once again he heard the voice and saw a dim light of some sort at the top of the embankment. 'You need to get indoors or you'll freeze.'
Mike struggled up the embankment with great difficulty, slipping and falling numerous times. His pants were soaked and he was beyond cold. Wearing just sneakers and without gloves and with no coat just a hooded sweatshirt he was hardly prepared for the elements. He knew, even in his still groggy state that he must find shelter quickly or he would die.
Through the blowing snow he could finally see a figure moving towards him. 'Glad you made it up the hill, I'm a little too old to help you much.' 'Gotta get you inside, it's not too far, follow me.' Mike followed as best he could. This wasn't the direction he had planned. The old man seemed to fade in and out of the swirling snow. Each time the wind increased the snow would sting his face. He was glad the sweatshirt had a hood which he could tie tightly. Mike knew he was getting weaker, his legs felt as though they had weights tied to them. He stumbled and fell again tripping over a snow covered tree limb. He went down face first and the snow stuck to the caked blood on his face. He felt the old man helping him up and looked briefly into his face. The lantern in his left hand cast enough light for Mike to see that the man wasn't nearly as old as he had imagined. He seemed to be dressed in green and the shadows made his eyes appear almost black but there was something familiar about his face.
Safe at last.
Mike was growing weaker very quickly. He noticed that his thoughts were becoming very scattered. The man's voice focused him once again. 'Just a little further Mikey.' Mike's mind was scrambled and tired. For a fleeting moment he wondered if the man had called him by name. Mike wanted to stop and just sit, he was spent. His feet were so cold they hurt terribly. He lost sight of the man again and a shudder went through him. But moments later he could see the lights of a house. He wondered if the man had gone into the garage that was separate from the house but saw no footprints headed that way. Mike had trouble getting up the four steps to the front porch. He approached the front door and suddenly heard a dog barking from inside. He could barely stand as banged on the door.
Moments later a woman about Mike's age opened the door. Her expression gave away how badly he looked. 'Could you please help me,' Mike asked. 'My car skidded off the road near the bridge.' She took his arm guiding him to a chair by the fire. Her husband had come into the room as Mike was sitting down. 'James, this man has been in an accident, we need to get some dry clothes for him and I need you to call the rescue.' A second later she called out again, 'James, please bring some of that hot chocolate I just made so we can warm him up.' James returned with dry clothes and the hot chocolate and the phone in his hand. 'Rescue is on its way,' he said.
The woman asked Mike his name, and replied 'I'm Joyce.' 'How on earth did you find our house Mike that's almost a mile and a half from here,' Mike managed a slight smile, 'I wouldn't have without that man's help. Where did he go?' 'What man,' she asked. 'James and I live here by ourselves and there are no neighbors anywhere near us.'
Mike looked at the mantle above the fireplace where five photos sat side by side in ornate wooded frames. He pointed at the picture in the middle. A man with piercing blue eyes in a crisp green military uniform with a name tag that said Rogers. 'That's the man, he led me here.' Joyce looked at Mike incredulously, 'that's impossible, that's my dad. He died in Vietnam in 1973 when I was seven years old. He's buried in the cemetery down near the bridge where you crashed.' Mike laid his head back in the chair. He could feel tears on his cheeks as he saw the glow of the ambulance lights through the curtains. 'My mothers maiden name is Rogers.'