The dogs could not continue. Their boots were riddled with holes and every attempt to encourage them was disheartening. The lonesome crags to the east were foreboding while the sky to the west served as a warning. A frothing blizzard gathered in the distance. I had one hour, maybe two, before we would be lost in the snow and ice.
I leapt off of the sled and untethered the dogs. Taking their abandoned leads, I began to pull. The ice coated ground maintained an impressive grip on the skids. As I gained traction, the sled inched forward. I sighed and continued to haul the sled. My celebration was short-lived; the air temperature was rapidly plummeting. I brought the sledge towards a snow drift and began to dig out a cavern.
The dogs circled the sled as if to form a protective barrier. As I carved out our crude shelter, ice clung to my mittens and slowed my progress. I threw them aside and continued. The snow resting on top of the ice began to vibrate as the fast approaching storm unleashed its fury. The huskies began to whimper, but Akiak lovingly peered in on the contents of sled’s animal skin covering. I had no such pleasure. I had no time to spare. I pawed away at the layers of snow and ice until the front of the storm was a hundred yards out.
I peeked into the sled covering and saw my wife fast asleep. Her vibrant face was overpowered by the red of her fever. Her hands rested on her belly, always protecting our child. I shoved the sled into the cavern while Akiak led the anxious team into the shelter. I scooped snow around the opening so that we would be as enclosed as possible. I shimmied out of my seal-skin coat and placed it over the hole so that none of the storm’s hells could persecute us.
I curled up against Akiak’s warm fur and took the sewing kit from the provisions sack that dangled between the sled’s handles. I set to work patching the dogs’ boots by taking material from the ankles of my pants. We had to make it to Nome once the storm had passed and the sun started it ascent.