Namely, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass are two classic works of children’s literature that for over a century have been read by children and adults alike.
In the analysis of chapter four, outlined human-animal relationship exposes the divergent powers between human and animal control authority. The White Rabbit’s position as an authority tool forces Alice to change her insight that human beings sit at the summit of the animal outlined hierarchy. Alice hence wonders if her experiences and perceptions in Wonderland will typically affect the technique she conducts herself well when she gets back domicile, since she notes and imagines that she would have to start assuming orders from her cat named Dinah (Carroll & Lewis, 27).
"It's too bad we can't acknowledge a message we never received," Alice said as she turned off the radio's power.
I scanned the sky overhead. The wispy streaks of morning clouds of had given way to a high hazy overcast. Tops of advancing clouds were beginning to appear on the western horizon. The minuscule amount of weather lore I still remembered from my days as a Tenderfoot Scout told me high thin clouds and Mare's tails were telltale signs of approaching storm systems and usually signaled that a weather front was moving in.
We left base around 9:00 AM and had been on the trail for almost four hours. If we returned now, we would make it home with barely 30 minutes to spare before the storm hit.
"We need to turn back if we are going to beat the snow," I urged Alice.
"No fucking way! I'm not getting this close without bringing back Bambi Burgers," she replied with a look of determination that could blister paint.
"Besides, we can get down to the valley floor and back in less than 30 minutes. We should have time to spare. Not much, but enough. I didn't come this far to go back empty handed." I wasn't going to win this argument.
The 30-degree angle of the slope and the sheer granite face of the nearly treeless ridge made for a treacherous descent. We had almost made it to the base of the ridge when our rocky trail abruptly narrowed before ending in a dead end at the edge of a vertical cliff. It was fucking frustrating. We were within a hundred feet. As far as we were concerned, our goal could just as well been on the dark side of the moon.
"Shit! I missed the turn, we're on the wrong trail," Alice swore as she reached for the radio and turned on the power.
Haste makes waste but I kept my thoughts to myself as I scanned the sky.
"Liberty Base this is Hunter One, come in please. Over," Alice paused and repeated her call, "Liberty Base this is Hunter One, come in please. Over." It was useless. A granite slab a mile thick stood between our location and the base's radio receiver, effectively blocking out our signal. The steady hiss of static ruled the airwaves. Alice handed me the radio's microphone and instructed me to repeat the call to base every five minutes.
Backing up the steep slope was a royal pain in the ass. Reverse gears are slow and the best speed our mule could manage up the incline was not much faster than a slow walk. Our retreat finally paid off when we came to a wide spot on the trail after 20 minutes of travel. Alice executed a tight 3-point-turn and at last, the front of the ATV pointed in the right direction.
The trail up the side of the ridge was difficult to follow. The overcast changed the light. None of the landmarks we passed on the way down looked like the ones we were passing on the way up the trail.
We blazed our own path and followed the contours of the ridge in an ever upward journey. Slow and steady wins the race in fairy tales. In our case, we won the ridge in an hour and thirty-six minutes and lost our race against the clock.
We used too much time backtracking and there was no way in hell we would be able to make it home before the weather turned to shit. Unless we could find a sheltered place to hunker down and ride out the blizzard, we would both be dead before dawn.
"Do we have the time and tools we need to build a lean-to?" I asked.
"Good idea. We have the tools, but we don't have the time. We've gotta find something almost ready made - like a cave, rock overhang, or a cluster of fallen trees," Alice said as she handed me a pair of binoculars.
We drove to an outcropping with a good overview of the eastern face of our ridgeline.
"Scan to the north and I'll scope out the south," Alice said as she lifted her binoculars and searched our southern flank.
The heavy overcast of clouds reduced the daylight in the valley to near twilight conditions even though sunset was still 45 minutes in the future. In a classic case of the lull before the storm, the wind died down to almost nothing. I felt a drop of wetness on my cheek and a few moments later another on my nose. Like the advance scouts of an approaching army, the first flakes of snow explored the ground around us.
"Damn it! There's nothing to the south of us!" Alice growled in frustration.
To the north, the slope of the ridge gave way to a nearly vertical drop. Conditions were favorable to the formation of rock shelter. Over the eons, slabs of granite had broken away and tumbled to the ground. I was looking for anything resembling a natural rock lean-to or cave opening.
"Alice! I think I got something," I shouted with more hope than conviction as I pointed to a dark shadow in a land of shadows at the base of the granite cliff.
My partner studied the rock feature with her binoculars for a moment before slamming the ATV into drive and racing forward to possible sanctuary.
Hope turned to disappointment as we got close enough to see the details of our target. We were well and truly fucked, the rock outcropping was too large and exposed to serve as a shelter. Daylight was nearly gone and snow was falling as fast as the thermometer.
"Now what the hell do we do?" Alice pounded the steering wheel in anger flavored with fear.
"Let's check that out," I said pointing to a stand of saplings about 100 yards to the left of the useless overhang. Maybe we could construct an emergency lean-to from the young Aspens.
We drove across the dusting of snow-covered ground and dismounted our vehicle. Flashlights in hand we inspected the thin grove of trees.
"Holy shit, there's a cave opening back here," Alice shouted and pointed to a five or six foot wide opening at the base of the cliff behind the trees.
The remains of the aborted attempt at gold mining was almost hidden behind the stand of saplings. We explored the inside of the cave with our flashlights. Thankfully, it was uninhabited. The dry and dusty floor of the tunnel sloped upward to a level area, which formed a low cramped chamber about fifteen feet across and twenty feet deep. At the most, we had about four feet of headroom. Whoever had been looking for gold hit a dead end, gave up, and went home. Bad for them, lucky for us.
"Unload the Mule and get our stuff inside, while I cut down as many saplings as I can with our survival saw," I said as I grabbed the folding cutting tool from the ATV's cargo bay.
Our plan was as desperate as it was simple. Cut as many of the young aspens as possible, slide the trees into the cave opening, and use the thin branches and remaining leaves to block the wind. As storm raged, the crowns of the trees would collect snow and form an impenetrable shield against the wind. The narrow trunks of the young trees were only four or five inches in diameter and the saw made fast work. Within fifteen minutes, I had almost a dozen saplings down on the ground.
I had finished cutting the trees and by the time I was done, snow and night was all around us. Winter had arrived with a vengeance.
Alice finished bringing the last of our gear into the cave and together we hauled away at the fallen aspens to plug the entrance as best as we could. Alice and I had no choice; the rock cavern would be either our salvation or our grave.
As I adjusted the position of the last tree, Alice screamed, "Snakes! Oh my God, look at 'em all, the fucking cave is filled with rattlesnakes."
In the confined space of the cave, Alice's distressed cry reverberated off the walls, so loud my ears hurt. I scrambled to be at her side. She sat in a fetal position with her arms wrapped around her knees and her whole body trembling like a leaf in the wind. Fear distorted her face and her eyes closed so tightly her facial muscles twitched with the effort.
A tiny voice uttered from her lips, repeating a single word again and again: "snakes." Kneeling next to Alice I put my arm around her shoulder and held her tight until her trembling lessened to not much more than a shiver.
"Where are the snakes?" I kept my voice calm and measured.
"Uhh, everywhere," she said.
"Where is everywhere? Can you point them out," I said as I gently pressed her for details.
"Over there," she answered as she pointed to the right-hand side of the rocky cavern, "And over there," she said gesturing to her left.
The blue-white beam of my tactical LED flashlight lit up the last place Alice indicated. I nearly let out a scream of my own. Against the rock wall, at least 75 fat sleeping rattlesnakes knotted and piled together like a braided rug. Several dozen more snakes clumped and piled together against the opposite wall. She was right; hibernating snakes were all around us.
When an old-timer first told me every dry cave in the mountains contained a snake den, I laughed at him. All around us, I surveyed the living proof of his words. The old man made his living as an environmental scientist and he was obsessed with snakes, specifically the Rocky Mountain rattlesnake. Racking my brain, I tried to recall what else he had told me about our legless friends.
Venomous snakes, such as rattlers, hibernate when the average daytime temperatures fall below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. In the high mountains, their favorite winter quarters are caves and deep crevices. While in hibernation, snakes are lethargic, torpid, and essentially unresponsive zombies as their metabolism slows down to the minimum necessary to sustain life.
He said not all snakes survive hibernation. A skinny snake will not live through the winter, nor will a snake with food in its stomach or intestines when they cool. The undigested meal will rot and kill them.
Other than a heavy-duty icky factor, the slumbering reptiles posed little danger to us as long as we left them alone. I shuddered to think about it, but our slumbering cavern mates might prove to be a useful source of food.
The first priority was to help Alice regain her composure. I shared and understood her fear of snakes. Fear is useful and can provide the necessary adrenaline to power us through dangerous situations. On the other hand, too much fear has the opposite effect; often paralyzing a person into inactivity. The secret was to find a healthy middle ground between terror and bravado.
While I comforted Alice, I used the beam of my flashlight to explore our shelter. The dry soil of the cavern's floor could just as well have been talcum powder. The ATV's survival gear lay scattered about where it Alice tossed it when we scrambled to get everything inside the cave.
To survive the blizzard, we needed to organize ourselves. Our situation reminded me of the scene from the movie, 'The Martian' when the stranded astronaut faces the camera and said, "to survive I'm left with only one option, I'm gonna have to science the shit out of this."
In our case, we needed to use our heads and think the shit out of our predicament. Our biggest threat wasn't sleeping snakes, it was creeping hypothermia. The chill air drained our bodies of heat and unless we figured out a way to keep warm in our shelter, the cave would become our tomb.
Turning to Alice I said, "Let's collect our stuff and do an inventory. We're goanna need to come up with a plan of action."
We gathered our meager stash of supplies and arranged the gear in front of us as we huddled together for warmth. We had salvaged an odd assortment of survival items including:
? two Kimber 84M Mountain Ascent rifles and a 20 round box of ammo
? two winter sleeping bags (rated to 15 degrees)
? two all-weather mylar space blankets (useful as ground cloths)
? one Marmot Tungsten 3-Person 3-Season Tent
? Folding survival saw
? four packages of Meals Ready to Eat
? First Aid Trauma Kit
? Rayovac LED Lantern (150-hour battery life)
? one plastic vial containing 25 storm-proof wooden matches
? compact snap-together stainless steel Hobo Stove
? one-gallon stainless steel cooking pot with cover
? two metal water flasks filled with nearly frozen drinking water; tin cups attached
? 3 ounce bottle of Japanese sesame seed oil
? ready box containing: a mess kit, one bag of zip lock and plastic shopping bags of various sizes, Pocket Thermometer (0-220 degrees), deck of cards, 25 tea bags with 25 sugar packets, three energy bars, a tin of 25 beef bouillon cubes, a bar of Lava soap, and a SAS Survival Handbook in Spanish
Huh? Spanish? What the fuck? I shook my head in bewilderment.
I emptied the contents of my pockets and added a KitKat candy bar, a pack and a half of cigarettes, one Bic lighter, a small glass pot pipe, and several buds of potent homegrown weed to our collection.
Lisa snorted in her sleep as she rolled over on her side and we nestled like two spoons in the kitchen drawer. She was quietly snoring again within a few minutes. I wrapped my arm around her bare body and held her close as I kissed her neck and soon joined her in slumber.
My bladder is the perfect alarm clock. The urgent need to go dragged me out of hibernation as the night sky brightened in advance of dawn. I awoke to the gentle sound of Lisa's breathing. Naked, beautiful, and warm, she lay next to me in the relaxed innocence of sleep. Lisa sensed a change in my position, shifted her body, and pressed her bare bottom into my groin as we snuggled together under the covers. My hand remained cupped to her breast. Lisa placed her hand over mine and pulled it tight to her body as she slept.
Our bodies cuddled together in blissful warmth. I wanted to stay under the sheets forever, but I needed to take a piss. With a bad case of 'morning wood', my erection found a home between the cheeks of Lisa's ass. As pleasant as it felt, I wouldn't be able to stop my body from unleashing a flood if I didn't get out bed soon. Wetting the bed wasn't an option.
I untangled myself from Lisa and silently slipped out of bed into the chill of the morning air. I adjusted the blankets to cover Lisa's exposed shoulder, and made tracks for the bathroom. I decided to make a quick getaway instead of using the facilities in her room to avoid the awkward moments after a night in which nothing happened. I almost made it to the door when Lisa's sleepy voice called my name.
"Where are you going, Dennis?" she asked.
"Gotta go pee," I mumbled.
"Excellent idea; hang on and I'll join you," Lisa said, as she threw the quilt back and climbed out of bed
"We might as well take a shower since we're already up," Lisa suggested while grabbing towels and soap from the closet.
Three members of the kitchen crew hard at work preparing breakfast are the only other people up and about in the hour before sunrise. We had the showers to ourselves.
We dried each other off after our morning scrub, and Lisa suggested, "Let's head down to the kitchen and grab a cup of coffee."
The custom of indoor nudity might make more sense if we were born kangaroos with natural pockets. I stopped by my room to make up for our genetic deficiency, put an unbuttoned flannel shirt on, stuck a pack of smokes and a lighter in the breast pocket, and joined Lisa in the kitchen.
Coffee is the nectar of the Gods and Colombia's only legal drug export. It's also a natural lubricant, allowing us to slide from dreams to wakefulness with a minimum amount of friction.
Coffee in hand, Lisa led me to a cozy nook next to the fireplace in the Great Room and we sat together next to the fire.
"I want to talk to you about last night," Lisa said, as she sipped her coffee.
"OK, what's on your mind?" I responded.
"Tell me something, I know I turned you on. Why didn't you want sex with me?" Lisa asked.
Her question was both delicate and dangerous. The wrong answer could do damage to our relationship, but I had no idea of what she thought the correct answer should be. I followed my grandfather's advice: 'tell the truth if all else fails'.
I set my coffee down on the fireplace hearth, took Lisa's hands in mine, and looked into her eyes as I spoke, "Your body said one thing, but your words were saying something different last night. I listened to the truth that your body spoke. You weren't ready to get that intimate with me. "
"True, but I would've gone along if you had persisted," she acknowledged, as she gave my hands a soft squeeze.
"I figured that you would allow intercourse if I pushed it. You would be resentful, nevertheless, and that makes for a lousy start to our relationship. I would have selfishly screwed you to the floor if I only thought about my own gratification," I said with a grin.
"I'll take your friendship if I have to choose between being your friend and being your lover and can't have both," I further explained.
My father used to tell me that the best way to learn the thoughts of another is to ask a direct question, shut up, and listen to the answer. "What about what happened, or didn't happen last night?" I asked.
" I was relieved at first when you asked for my permission, then I was pissed. I was confused after that. I was happy in the end. Maybe you didn't think me desirable enough or maybe you didn't like me enough for us to fuck. I felt safe, loved, and cared for when you held me in your arms and stayed the night," Lisa said as she gave me a hug wrapped in a smile.
Silence filled the comfortable space between us as our conversation slowed to a stop. The colony's leader took a sip of coffee and studied me over the rim of her coffee mug for several moments before saying, "You're a strange man, Mr. Richards. Whatever am I going to do with you?"
Our zone of silence gradually evaporated as the sisters of the colony drifted into the kitchen for breakfast in ones and twos.
"Refill your coffee and grab a seat; we've got a group meeting in fifteen minutes," Lisa announced, as she excused herself to prepare for the gathering. I set off to the kitchen looking for fresh coffee. Ready or not, a new day was getting underway.
It's a fundamental law of the universe: staff meetings seldom begin on time, and the Liberty Mountain assembly was no exception. Significant numbers of sisters hadn't taken a seat at the conference table yet. Start time came and went as Lisa kept glancing at her wristwatch and scanning the faces of the attendees for missing members. I also glanced around the table for Darlene who was among the missing. My ladylove took starting times and deadlines as suggestions rather than requirements. She had a long established reputation for always arriving at the far edge of 'fashionably late'.
Only the light tapping of Lisa's pencil on the tabletop betrayed her outwardly calm exterior. The taps steadily increased in tempo the longer we waited. It was as if the pencil doubled as a Geiger counter reporting that her frustration was approaching critical mass.
The giggles and laughter of several women echoed from the walls of the hall as if on cue. Darlene, Lucia and a woman whose name turned out to be Sandra emerged from the kitchen moments later. I saw the trio and nearly burst out laughing. They were as drunk as skunks, and could barely keep from falling over as they staggered toward the meeting table.
Darlene took a seat next to me with a stumble, and moaned as she held her head in her hands. She seemed like she had just come from an orgy: her hair was a mess, nipples stood like stiff pencil erasers; her shoulders, cheeks, and chest glowed like a neon sign with the rosy blush of sexual arousal. The swollen outer lips of her labia glistened with vaginal lubrication.
"Too much party," she groaned, as she leaned her body against mine.
"Too much sex?" I asked.
"There's no such thing as too much sex," she said with a burp. Her hand flew to her mouth as her face took on a greenish tint.
"But there is such a thing as too much (burp) brandy," Darlene gasped, as she bent double and barfed up who knows what over my bare feet.
Standing in a puddle of someone else's used dinner is over the top gross. I nearly lost my breakfast before I got my gag reflex under control.
"Clean up on Aisle Five," I called out, as I helped Darlene to her feet.
Lisa's expression was halfway between annoyed and amused. "We'll start the meeting as soon as we've gotten these guys cleaned up and into bed," she said.
I took a seat next to Alice and her daughter twenty minutes later. The meeting of the sisterhood of Liberty Mountain was finally about ready to start.
The flannel shirt I was wearing gave me the comfortable illusion of being dressed even though it was unbuttoned, and it covered none of my vital parts. Alice leaned over and whispered in my ear, "Is it true that you spent the night in Lisa's bed?"
"We kept each other company last night," I answered.
"Very interesting; will you keep me company tonight if I ask nicely?" Alice asked with a sexy smile as she placed her hand on my thigh and gently caressed my bare leg.
"Mom!" her daughter protested as she watched her mother's attempt to seduce me.
"Shush, Little one. You'll get your turn after I check him out," Star's mother replied.
The touch of Alice's warm hand stroking my thigh in close proximity to my genitals was enough to get my libido's attention and I could sense myself responding to Alice's invitation.
Part of me was amused at the turnabout in my love life since I arrived at the colony. I had always played the part of the seducer prior to my visit to the Society of Sisters. With the tables turned, I was now the target for seduction. The new state of affairs perfectly fit with my passive/aggressive approach to sex. I had always been the sexual aggressor early on, usually with mixed results when I was young. My advances ended in failure more often than I cared to admit.
"Your place or mine?" I said to Alice, as I moved her hand to the relative safety of my knee. I didn't want to sprout another public erection in front of so many naked women. Exhibitionism isn't my thing, as I said.
The gathering's primary agenda item was the question of work assignments. The concept was simple: Many hands make light work. Maintaining the colony required a lot of effort and every member of the community had at least one assigned chore or duty. The colony ran as smoothly as a Swiss watch when everyone pitched in.
I was the only person without anything to do after the sisters had divvied up the chores. Lisa called on me when I raised my hand.
"Freeloading is not my style; I need a chore. How can I contribute to our community?" I asked.
"You are my guest until your status here at Liberty Mountain is established. Feel free to help out wherever you can," Lisa said.
"Does anyone need a helping hand?" I said, as I turned to face the gathering.
Silence answered my inquiry until Alice spoke, "Our sensors have picked up a deer herd about ten miles out. Lucia and I are on the schedule to go hunting this afternoon but she isn't in any condition to do anything until she sleeps it off. You can tag along in her place."
"I've never been hunting before," I pointed out.
"Do you know how to shoot?" Alice asked.
"Sure. I took basic training and qualified as an expert marksman," I replied.
"Are you a member of PETA?" Lisa inquired.
"If you mean "People Eating Tasty Animals," then the answer is yes," I said amid chuckles and laughter from the sisters.
"Then it's about time you learn the manly art of hunting. Alice is extremely skilled and she'll make sure you have all the appropriate gear. You two leave in an hour. Meeting adjourned, good luck," Lisa said.
"These mountains are as dangerous as they are beautiful. They might appear to be lovely and majestic but don't let 'em fool you. The beauty hides the heart of a killer," Brenda explained as she dug through her inventory looking for a pair of gloves in my size.
"Got 'em!" She yelled as she held aloft the object of her search, a pair of insulated gloves joined the rest of my new wardrobe.
A slim and attractive woman in her mid-thirties, Brenda served as the colony's quartermaster. Medium sized, well-tanned breasts protruded from her chest and a pageboy haircut framed her freckled face. The dented circular scar of a long healed bullet wound adorned her left breast, a few inches below her collarbone.
One wall of the armory displayed her honorable discharge from the US Army along with a citation awarding her the Army Commendation Medal for heroism, a Purple Heart for wounds received in combat, and an Iraq Campaign Medal. Ex-army and combat tested, she was the real deal.
The brand new garments still carried tags from LL Bean. I let out a long whistle when I did a tally in my head. The camouflage Gore-Tex hunting jacket and matching tactical cargo pants carried a hefty price north of $800. Gore-Tex is some amazing shit. The fabric is a lightweight, waterproof, and breathable membrane that repels liquid water while allowing moisture and vapor to pass through.
A pair of Gore-Tex lined winter hiking boots I had brought with me turned out to be the only article of my clothing which passed muster with Brenda. "The secret of staying alive in the wilderness is to stay warm and dry and the proper clothing is your first defense," Brenda commented as she rummaged around for headgear.
I must have dozed off for a few moments when I became aware that something had changed. The effortless exchange of carbon dioxide for oxygen became a long labored sobbing, which shook her whole body. I could feel her tears trickling down my neck.
"I'm so sorry Dennis. This is entirely my fault. We're going to die and I'll never see my daughter again. I should have heeded the storm warning on the radio, I'm so terribly sorry," she cried as her words gave voice to the fear I felt.
Turning over to face her, I touched her face with my fingertips and brushed her tears away as I whispered, "You are right. We, and the emphases is on we, should have listened to the warning. This is not all your fault. It is our fault. You made a bad call and I let it stand. I also own this blunder. I was your partner and junior member of this hunting party and I failed to speak up," I kissed her cheek, tasting the salt of her tears.
"We're not dead yet. We got into this mess together and we'll get out of this mess together," I held her to my body and caressed her hair as sleep slowed her breathing. Far away at the edge of hearing, the muffled lullaby of the wind became a song of despair.
The gentle nudge of Alice's hands dragged me out of my sleep, "Dennis, I'm sorry to wake you but I've got to piss so badly I can taste it. I need your help," she said as she pulled me into a sitting position. Our warm and cozy tent had turned into an icebox.
"You gotta be kidding, since when do you need help taking a piss?" Reaching under my makeshift pillow, I fished out my light and turned it on. In front of me, a naked Alice sat huddled, her breath streaming like smoke from her mouth, and nipples hardening like pebbles in the chill air.
"I need your help. I don't want to go outside, by myself, in the dark. Not with all those fucking snakes," Alice said with a shudder.
"Then don't go outside, use the chamber pot," I glanced at my wristwatch, we had been asleep about six hours and sunrise was still an hour away.
"We don't have a chamber pot," Alice scanned the contents of our tent for confirmation.
"Oh, no! Not that, that'll be gross," her eyes widened in alarm as I pointed to the stainless steel cooking pot.
"You have three choices: Pee in the pot, pee in your pants, if you wore any, or go pee with the pythons," I knew her dilemma wasn't funny, but I couldn't keep from chuckling.
Holding the flashlight aloft for illumination, I watched as she straddled our improvised toilet and squatted down. Alice let out a plaintive "yelp!" when her bare bottom made contact with the ice-cold stainless steel rim.
"Squat, don't sit, unless you want a frozen fanny," I let out a sympathetic laugh.
Alice made a face, stuck her tongue out, hunched down, and with a little grunt kicked her sprinkler system into high gear.
I scrambled to get dressed in the near freezing air as my scrotum tried to pull everything inside of me in an effort to keep the family jewels snug and warm.
My nuts were responding to the same instinctive response to the chill air which caused Alice's nipples to become stiff and hard when cold. Her body tried to protect the twin sisters from getting frostbite by increasing the blood supply to her milk outlets.
All of which made summer trips to the frozen food section of supermarkets such an interesting experience for voyeurs. Humans are hardwired to stay sexy and productive for as long as possible. How else could we have managed to survive the ice age? At least, that was my theory.
When I came across something, which sparked my curiosity, I often concocted a theory to answer the question, "Why is this or that like it is?"
I never bothered using Google or Bing to find out if my guesses were correct. If they were? Great. But, if they were wrong it would be proof I needed to get a life and stop wasting my time pretending to be smart.
Frankly, I wasn't eager to find out if I was expending brain cells binging on bullshit.
I was more awake than I wanted to be, so I left Alice to her business, retrieved my clothes, got dressed and headed down to the tunnel entrance. I wanted to check things out and snag some fuel for a hot cup of tea. Memo to self: I want caffeine with attitude. Make sure future survival kits include instant coffee.
The tunnel's entrance was wider and deeper than the rest of the cave and it was a relief to be able to stand upright without banging my head on a rock ceiling. While the air in our cavern was almost freezing, the temperature at the entrance was absolutely arctic. The snow trapped in the crowns of the saplings sparkled and glowed in the light of my torch. The storm had done an excellent job sealing our stone shelter from the weather, maybe too good of a job. The air in the foyer was as still as death. I grabbed the base of one of the smaller saplings, pulled it toward me, and pushed it out in an effort to break open an air passage. I could drag the tree inward without too much effort. But, when I tried to force it outward I could make no headway, even when I pushed with all my might.
It was like trying to push a pillow into a sand dune. I tried another sapling. Second verse same as the first.
I gave the base of each sapling a push. None of them moved. Our shield had become an airless prison. It was unlikely we were in any short-term danger of running out of oxygen. The real threat was being poisoned by carbon dioxide. CO2 becomes mildly toxic at a concentration around a percent or so. Eventually the atmosphere in the cave would go bad and we would die of carbon dioxide poisoning long before we ran out of oxygen. We needed to open an air passage to the outside. Pronto!
"Alice, can you give me a hand down here, I think we have a problem with our air supply," I leaned against the cave walls and used my feet to try to move another small tree. Zilch, Zero. Nada. The damn thing might as well have been a parking meter planted in concrete.
Leaning against the rock wall of the entrance, I caught my breath. My guess? Our sapling shield lay buried under the mother of all snowdrifts.
The dark wall of snow sealing the entrance of the tunnel sparkled and glistened in the moving beams of our flashlights.
Alice paused for a moment to wipe the sweat from her forehead. After digging into the embankment for almost an hour, we had almost nothing to show for our efforts.
Time for a break," Alice leaned her back against the rock wall of the tunnel and rested her head against the stony surface as she pushed several stray strands of blond hair out of her eyes.
"It should be about sunrise," I glanced at my wristwatch and back at the snow, searching for any sign of light from the outside. A faint glow would tell us where the snow cover might be thinner than the rest. No glimmer of light entered.
With a sigh, I leaned against the wall next to Alice and took a deep breath followed by another. My fingertips tingled with the same feeling I got when my arm falls asleep.
The blizzard and the drifting snow did an excellent job blocking the entrance. Digging in the drift would have been easier if it were not for the tangled branches of the young Aspens. The barren foliage and sticks acted like rebar in a reinforced concrete retaining wall. Running the Boston Marathon would have been easier compared to digging an air passage between all the woodwork.
"Dennis, it's getting hard to catch my breath," Alice's chest heaved as she inhaled a long breath. The annoying headache dancing in the shadows stopped hiding and announced its presence in a wave of pulsating pain keeping time with my beating heart.
We were on the leading edge of CO2 poisoning and like the canaries in a coalmine; we didn't have any place to go.
I kept pawing at the snow as I removed one handful of white stuff after another. I would dig a little and stop for a minute or two to catch my breath and dig some more.
Somewhere within the recess of my mind alarm bells sounded. A tiny part of my brain jumped up and down trying to get my attention. All rather annoying and I told myself to settle down and take a nap. A nap would be so wonderful right about now.
I rested my head on the arm I used for digging and took another breath. I will just rest here for a moment. Warm and cozy, a snow cocoon surrounded me in my new tunnel. Do butterflies dream when they sleep?
"Dennis! Dennis! Move. I got it," Alice's hands shook my body as she pulled me backwards toward her.
"Whatcha doing? This is no time to cut firewood," I rested against the warm snow as Alice crawled past me with a saw in her hands and took my her place where I had been digging.
"Son of a bitch! Grunt. God damn it! Ugg!" Clumps of snow mixed with twigs, branches and sticks flew out from behind her.
"Whatcha doing?" I asked again. My voice called from a million miles away.
"I'm cutting my way through the fuckin' snow. I'm not, awh fuck it, I'm not, God damn it! digging," she kicked a huge snow block bristling with sticks and branches out of the hole followed by more cursing and more snow and wood.
My field of vision kept getting smaller and narrower. How strange? I found myself in a tunnel looking at myself in a tunnel. I wanted to tell Alice to stop making so much noise and let me sleep but my voice was lost in the fog filling my head.
So warm, so restful. I closed my eyes in a cozy blanket of sleep when a blast of freezing air hit me in the face. What the hell? I inhaled a satisfying breath of fresh freezing air and another. I could feel the fog in my head clearing each time I inhaled.
Son of a bitch, she had done it. She had fucking done it! She opened a passageway to the outside.
Driven by the blizzard's gale force winds, a tsunami of sub-zero temperatures cascaded through the opening carved by Alice. Whatever body heat and warmth we retained under our clothing was swept away like sandcastles in the rising tide of Arctic air.
"We've got to warm, up" I put my arm around Alice's shoulders and pulled her close to me. Her body was shivering and trembling as much as mine.
Prolonged exposure to elevated concentrations of carbon dioxide wrecked havoc with our bodies and our minds. Trying to complete a thought was like wading through an ocean of molasses. I felt like I had been driven over by a Greyhound Bus.
From what I understood about CO2 toxicity, which was almost nothing, it would take Alice and I at least 24 hours for our systems to restore a healthy oxygen balance as we purged the excess carbon dioxide from our bodies.
With each breath we took, our breathing became a little bit easier. Trying to stand up was a different story. I made it to my knees twice before wobbling and falling over. Alice didn't fare much better, she swayed sideways and toppled over like a tree in a hurricane when she tried to rise to her feet. We were a mess.
Finally we got ourselves into sync and helped each other climb to our feet. Like two drunken sailors, we staggered off toward our tent with the beams of our flashlights leading the way.
A fuzzy part of my brain was engaged in trying to do a basic risk assessment. The math was so simple my foggy brain could do the calculations:
Hypothermia + CO2 poisoning = Death
"My God, I'm' freezing," Alice's teeth chattered in time with her shivering body. The sweat, which had drenched us while we were frantically digging ourselves out of the cavern, became a swarm of leeches sucking the heat out of our bodies.
"We gotta lose these wet clothes before we freeze to death," my teeth clattered like an old-fashioned typewriter. I stuttered and stammered so much I had to repeat every word two or three time.
Inside our tent, I ignored the chill as I raced to disrobe. My tee-shirt was drenched. I stripped it off and used it like a towel to dry myself off. I knelt naked next to Alice, removed her clothing, and toweled her shivering body off the best I could. I glanced at my watch; it was a few minutes after nine o'clock in the morning.
Without another word between us we slipped into the frigid sleeping bag and held each other as tightly as we could. For all the warmth we were generating, we might as well have been two ice cubes at the bottom of a martini glass.
Our hands caressed each other's bodies and bare bottoms as we used friction to warm the surface of our skin. After several minutes our shivering abated as we exchanged body heat.
Alice's body relaxed as her tension evaporated. We held each other in our arms as a deep restful calm surrounded us in the warm and comforting cocoon of slumber. I smiled. Butterflies do dream when they sleep.
This distorted writing can be unquestionably seen in the works of Lewis Carroll, namely his world famous pieces, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There (commonly known as "Alice in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass"). In several instances throughout the Alice books,...