• 03 Nov - 09 Nov, 2018
  • Nadeem Alam
  • Fiction

He froze immediately as it may be a white bear. After a short while, when no further movement occurred, Anatoly took a step forward when he heard a faint human moan. Suddenly, Anatoly’s heart started racing and all his senses got heightened. A sharp cold wave travelled down his spine. A thought came to his mind that the sound he heard might have been produced by the wounded animal under the snow. He wanted to move forward but his curiosity stopped him and forced him to inquire. Slowly and carefully, he walked towards the snow dump. As he reached closer, he took out a small torch from his pocket and switched it on. His heart stopped breathing. Despite freezing cold, sweat appeared on his forehead. He could not believe his eyes and his luck. It was a creature for which he had ventured out to this place. He could only see part of it as most of it was covered under the snow but the exposed portion was good enough to figure out that it was a fairy.

Anatoly cautiously removed all the snow with a small shovel from the dump, and there it was; a marvellous piece of flesh and white wings lying helplessly in front of him. He checked her pulse and she was still alive. She was probably caught in the storm and might have fallen down and got unconscious. Anatoly picked her up, put her on his sledge and tied her with a rope so that she does not fall. He was aware that the weather had no effect on this creature but some physical injury might hurt her. He, therefore, started his journey with speed and reached back Murmansk in two days without stopping much for sleep or rest.

The storm had badly affected the town. Electric system was in disarray and Murmansk was masked in pitch darkness. Anatoly dragged his sledge to his room and then went in the hotel kitchen to get the oil lamp. He lit the lamp and found a stash of firewood in the store adjacent to the kitchen. He returned to his room and shifted the fairy to his bed. He lit the wood in fireplace and changed himself in some comfortable clothes. He then inspected the entire body of fairy looking for any injury. He was a trained nurse and had all necessary medicines with him. Anatoly did not find any wound or injury except for a damaged wing which he fixed, applied the bandage and gave her necessary medicines through injections. He was not sure whether these medicines would work on her. She pretty well looked like human with wings. Anatoly changed her dressing after every 12 hours for two days in a row. His adrenaline was keeping him awake for last so many days but he had reached a limit. He finally slept while sitting in front of her on a chair. After few moments, he woke up with a jerk. He felt like falling from a cliff. When he looked at his bed, he jumped in air and started looking around frantically. His bed was empty. He ran outside the hotel. Curtains of his room window were slid part and the light was scattering on the road. He saw the old Victor sitting on other side of the road. Anatoly walked up to him but said nothing. Victor looked up in the sky and said, “She is not going to come back.” Anatoly was heartbroken. He did not get a chance to talk to her. He was dejected and deeply disappointed. He dragged himself back to his room and fell on his bed.

Anatoly woke up after two days. He was burning with fever. Initially, he could not recollect as to where he was or what had happened to him. He looked around in his room. It was freezing cold and it was dark. Slowly and gradually, he started remembering everything. He recalled his nonstop journey back from the base camp of Mount Kaaf, his discovery of the injured fairy and then her disappearance. He also remembered the old Victor telling him about the fairy flying away. His energy seemed drained out and he felt sick and weak. He, however, managed to get up from his bed, lit the lamp and ignited the wood in fireplace. He went to kitchen and made some food for himself. All the time, he was thinking whether he saw a dream or was it a reality. He returned to his room with a cup of coffee and sat down in front of fire. He was a realistic person and could not sit around like the crazy Victor. He was still confused as there was no physical evidence of the fairy with him. He finished his coffee and was looking around in his room anxiously when he noticed a white broken feather, placed neatly on his bedside table. He picked it up and kept looking at it for a long time. He then placed it in his baggage and started thinking of going back on the first flight out of Murmansk. There were still two months remaining in the sunrise. All he had to do was to go to powerhouse and help Andre in restoring the power. He could also search for a generator in the town to get his batteries recharged and resume his mission to Kaaf. He had to make a decision soon. Anatoly stayed on bed for another two days. He took the necessary medicines and was feeling better. His pessimism was gone and he was energised to make another attempt to scale Mount Kaaf. He now had a broken feather too although he was not very sure that it belonged to the fairy. Weather in the town was extremely cold. Temperature was touching minus twenty Celsius. Blizzard had passed and the wind flow was normal again. It had been almost four weeks that the sun was down, and the electricity had not yet been restored yet. Anatoly had enough wood to burn and sufficient gas in lamps to use for next two months but he needed electricity to charge the batteries. He had lost all his communication with rest of the world and needed to get in touch with Eddy before he got panicky and took any drastic measures.

Anatoly first thought of going to the airport as he was sure that there would be an active communication system and he would be able to talk to Eddy.

Moreover, he would also be able to use the generator to recharge his remaining batteries. The airport was 2 hours walk from his place. He had another option of going to powerhouse and take help from Andre. The powerhouse of Murmansk was only 20 minute walk so he decided to go there. He packed his bag of batteries and satellite phone, wore his snowshoes and got out with his last remaining light. Anatoly did not wear his full gear or took anything else as the powerhouse was just nearby. It was 10 a.m. but it was pitch dark outside. The sky was cloudy enough not to let star lights reach the town. As he got out, he switched on his light and spotted old Victor passing in front of his hotel. Victor was wearing full mountain gear otherwise he could not survive such extreme cold weather. Andre had told Anatoly that some mountaineer with the name of Boris had given this gear to Victor and this brought a huge smile on Anatoly’s face. He used to wonder where his father had abandoned his mountain gear. He got his answer here as old Victor was wearing it.

Anatoly reached the powerhouse and found it to be in complete darkness. He knew the Andre’s room on the backside of the generator room. He had to manoeuvre around the powerhouse as the route to generator room was blocked with a fallen tree and power cables were scattered all around. He could only see up to limited distance with his last fading light but he was able to see from the distance that the Andre’s cabin was smashed under electric pole and heavy snow. He circled around the generator room and managed to reach the Andre’s cabin. He was not much worried about the cables as the generator was silent. With some effort, Anatoly entered the room and found Andre frozen to death. His leg was stuck under the beam that had fallen from the roof. He must have tried his level best but was unable to get his leg free and ultimately froze to death. Anatoly also tried to lift the beam but it was too heavy. He did not try to pull Andre out as it may detach his leg or shatter it into pieces. Anatoly left Andre as he was and returned to his hotel. Next morning was a little better as the sky was clear and stars were shining. There was sufficient light present all around as he started marching towards the airport on a snowy road. He wore his full gear and started his journey. Old Victor was nowhere to be seen.

Anatoly reached the airport building much earlier than he had anticipated. He took a sigh of relief when he saw light emanating from couple of windows. Main entrance to airport was locked. Anatoly made loud noises to attract attention of the two guys present in the airport building but in vain. He then went to the fence and started finding some place to venture into the airport premises. After about one hour of hectic search, he did find a place where the fence was broken. He carefully went through it. He returned to the airport building from inside of the premises and found the tarmac door locked as well. He was now frustrated and was running out of options. He looked around and saw the pickup truck parked near the tarmac door. It was the same truck in which Alexander had dropped him to the hotel. Anatoly walked up to the truck and pulled the front door. It got opened easily. Anatoly heaved a sigh of relief. He pressed the horn till Alexander appeared in the tarmac door. He clearly looked puzzled. Without saying a word, Alexander took Anatoly inside, made him a cup of coffee and then inquired about his visit. Anatoly told him about the dead of Andre. In the meantime, Jack, the other person at the airport, also joined the conversation. Anatoly then inserted the batteries for charging. He also talked to Eddy using Alexander’s satellite phone. Anatoly spent next two days there and then Alexander dropped him again at the hotel.

Anatoly was now ready to resume his journey to Kaaf. He had the latest weather report, which did not show any significant weather activity in the area. By now, he became very much familiar with the area and reached the base camp in three days. He did not see anything suspected while passing the spot where he had found the fairy. Fresh snow had covered the signs of snow dump and his digging. He reached the base camp of Mount Kaaf at 4 p.m. It was quiet and dark. There was no wind. As he pitched his tent at the same old place, he found his lost bag of batteries at a little distance from the tent. He was surprised and elated to find another source of light. Anatoly was so relieved that he decided to take rest of six hours before climbing up the mountain. This time he did not forget to secure the bag of batteries and oxygen tank inside the tent before going to sleep.

He woke up at 10 p.m. and started preparing for his journey to the fairyland. He tied the heavy luggage on sledge and left it in the base camp. He had a complete map of the Mount Kaaf and had chalked out his route and was now moving to his check point one located on the first cliff at about 2100 meters from his starting point. He had worked out his climbing time to be around 3 to 4 hours. The weather this time was very friendly and Anatoly was concerned about the total lack of any worthwhile weather activity.

to be continued...