Lost in Time
Huddling their limbs together over their shivering bodies, they continued struggling against the raging blizzard that seemed determined to wipe out every trace of life around ─ if there actually was any. Heading in the opposite direction, with bent forms and undeterred spirits, they went onward and away in search of a shelter for the night. Over the rugged terrain and frozen boulders of ice, they fortunately stumbled upon a small but hopeful opening along the side of a raised platform of ice, which, in essence, will shield them from the strong winds of the small continent like a cave. Grateful for the timely sanctuary in the tempest of snow, the old companions curled up in a fetus position to ward off the cold, and settled in their frozen cave less distressed than before.
It was ironic how the sole reason they were driven away from everybody else and now abandoned to brave the harsher side of nature, would be their shelter from the storm─ ice. It was all one could see beyond the reduced range of visibility that the blizzard created: snow mingled with the wind howling above their heads, crunching beneath their feet; stretching all over the landscape and blocking even their peripheral line of sight. It was ice all around, dampening their spirits as time ticked by agonizingly slowly. The entire landscape looked downcast as if some irreplaceable burden was weighing it down.
They could not believe the events that bizarrely lead up to that point; the moment the weather turned amiss and directed them off course, deviating so far away from the others and abandoning them in the midst of an endless expanse of ice that appeared as desolate and forsaken as concernedly ominous it looked like.
They had been heading westward on a probing trip beyond the icy hills which marked the end of their territory, to explore life forms that managed to survive the extreme temperature so far up north, from where forth they knew, they began to tread unchartered waters. After chasing fading tracks in the snow, following vague distant sounds for hours, they stumbled upon a fresh foot-mark embedded in the soft bed of snow: one that appeared to be less than an hour old. In the thrill of the chase, they ferociously followed the straw in the ocean and somewhere along the way, got separated from their pack. A storm had picked up by the time the realized they had lost sight of their course, and then it was a blinding race against the torrential snowfall, up and down pale rugged terrains towards a reunion with the others. What they did not realize was that they were stuck in the middle of a continent most exposed to biting winds and temperatures dropping far below the freezing point than any other on the entire planet.
It was as if losing a tiny grain on a vast camouflaging blanket of white ̶ the magnitude of an island ̶ marred with uncountable creases and folds that the very thought would send a shiver of cold fear down one’s bones. And now they were stuck with the horrifying reality of accepting the dreadful metaphor as their own inevitable fate.
“It’s cold, isn’t it?” the man said in a feeble voice to his companion, with a weak attempt at a joke of their current situation.
In return, all he received was a painful whimper from beside him, and a muzzle was rubbed against his leg, demanding.
“I know, boy, I don’t like it out here either. At least not in this way,” he reassured the Husky beside him that was his most loyal friend.
Blowing out a shaky breath that crystallized around the cold night air of the arctic, he settled deeper into their alcove, hugging his thermal clothes close against his body to break the freezing breezes that blew past their hideout.
Several unendurable hours ticked by, both the explorers lay shivering in their cave of ice, upon a blanket of thickly padded snow; enveloped by a chilling atmosphere of the uninhabited place all around. The wind occasionally caressed their closely nestled forms as if taunting them of their misery, cursing harsh accusations, dancing around; howling, laughing and chanting maliciously over the bleak state they were in.
The man and his sled-dog had chased the track due north and arrived at a steep sheer drop, not reaching very far below, but fatal nonetheless should anyone fall down the slope laden with jagged-edged rocks of ice. The narrow chasm forced him to head back the way they came, in turn making him stumble upon a realization that made his stomach churn uneasily. Discovering a broken boulder of ice where their sled had crashed some hours ago when they had passed from that point in their wild goose chase of an anonymous creature, he had forgotten to keep a check of the direction they were heading and of their surroundings. In that moment it dawned on him that they had literally been running circles around one part of the terrain and so had lost their bearings. He had no idea where they were. His face contorted in horror at his finding but he could do nothing to redeem for their vain effort. They were lost in a desert, and he could do nothing but stand stupefied amid the land of the frozen.
With a worry constantly troubling his mind, he wondered about what had become of his other companions. Do they know? He thought anxiously.
The sound of his friend howling loudly brought him back from his epiphany abruptly. He saw that the dog had pricked up his ears, listening for some sound in the distant that apparently, only his sensitive ears could catch. The man looked in the direction his dog’s now raised snout was pointing to, but he could see nothing.
“What is it, boy?” He asked him. Looking around hysterically for some sign of what his friend’s animal instinct had sensed ̶ a person perhaps ̶ he slumped his shoulders again in defeat when he yet again saw nothing. False alarm, he thought when his friend sat back down on the ground, as disheartened as he was.
It had been two nights since they’d been lost out here in this isolated place. Though it was difficult to tell how much time had passed in the land where there was evergreen murk for this part of the year, but years of practice had incurred in him this instinct by which he could tell exactly what hour it was. Although his mechanical clock had broken, his internal biological clock kept ticking. It had proved to be reliable so far, for it gave the impression as if they had been lost in time out here in this place where every breath seemed to stand still…where even death would stand still, unmoving.
And it appeared as if it will be where they would greet it inescapably, if the fates did not took a turn for them in time. All they needed was for a miracle to happen.
“I had never known such utter quiet,” he wrote later in his diary. “I paused to listen to the silence. My breath, crystallized as it passed my cheeks, drifted on a breeze gentler than a whisper. Presently the wind cups ceased their gentle turning as the cold killed the breeze. My frozen breath hung like a cloud overhead.”
The man had read a long time ago this entry of Richard E. Byrd, an American Naval Officer, of his feats of exploration in the Antarctic when he had traveled there to obtain scientific data and report on polar meteorology. The words had resonated with him so strongly at that time, that he still remembered, even if faintly, the impact that they had on him.
And strangely enough, the harsh wind had stopped blowing, and with it, it’s melancholy melody.
“It was enough to catch that rhythm, momentarily to be myself a part of it. In that instant I could feel no doubt of man’s oneness with the universe… It was a feeling that transcended reason; that went to the heart of a man’s despair and found it groundless.”
The man chanted the last of the words from that entry of the winter of 1934 in his mind. It gave him a meaning to his solitude that he could not find before, seeking comfort in knowing that another person had faced the same situation he was in, regardless of if it was another time, in another continent. Though the officer was not lost physically, he had not traveled that far south for a spiritual lesson. Nevertheless, he was fortunate enough to receive it, and seek comfort in the silence of deserted the South Pole. It was out of that solitude that he had acquired a moral lesson, and the man found himself agreeing whole-heartedly with the American’s profound words. It was unbelievable how quiet it can be when the breeze ceases to blow on those parts of the earth: how you could hear the slightest groan of the ice beneath you, the distant rustle of the breeze and the faint rhythm of your beating heart.
He stroked his loyal companion’s ear gently, to comfort him and let him know that he would not give up just yet…that they will see it to the other side together, if not alive. He leaned in welcomely to his touch. Suddenly, he did not think of their getting lost as a grave misfortune; he thought of it as an opportunity to harmonize with the natural forces. It was because of this revelation, it seemed, the entire landscape appeared to approve of his reflections and they were nodding their heads in unison that they had all become still to listen to his train of thoughts racing in the right direction. It was as if it were a sign, a sign that he had finally stumbled upon the profound meaning behind the workings of these forces.
He looked up at the sky then, in that moment, to witness it transform. It significantly changed from an obscure, fading black to a stark midnight blue with bands of green and lime marking the expanse of the northern sky dotted with glistening strings of stars. It resembled an elaborately embellished drapery at its core, too magnificent for words. But what caught his attention was a sole star in that sky, the Pole Star, shining as brightly as ever, forever embedded into the fabric of space and never moving from its almost royal throne just above the North pole. The star was there, a beacon for travelers and a landmark for other stars that were constantly moving in the sky; they set and rose again every day, but the northern star remained impassive, waiting to greet the others each night. He stood up, pulled in strongly by the star’s enchanting aura, for it appeared to be so close he felt like he could almost touch it with his bare hands. The feeling rendered him powerless.
In his daze he realized, his friend had gotten up too, for what it seemed like he had sensed some sort of activity in the distance. He looked eastward to the direction the dog was facing, and he presently witnessed the silhouette of a cloud of smoke rising against the night sky aligned with stark white stars.
He could not believe what he saw, but it was evident to his companion that they were lost no more. The seemingly insignificant cloud of smoke generally symbolized a signal of distress, but he knew better.
“The others are not far, boy.” he said aloud.
The enthusiastic little sled dog barked in excitement, for he knew what this meant. They no longer looked at the endless terrain of ice as a no man’s land; it signified something deeper for all the experiences they had been through in the past few days here. They were familiar with it like the back of their hands ̶ or paws. From every crevice in the ice to every whisper of the wind, they all knew these explorers well. It had come to symbolize their haven now that the man realized its significance.
They were not lost, for they were leaving their dwelling out in the desert. They were at home in the land where time stood still.
“And now we’re going to the other one,” said he with a sense of deep reverence.