Brian is awakened in the middle of the night by a low growl accompanied by a terrible smell. Although he can see nothing in the impenetrable darkness, a stench of rot permeates the shelter. Brian then hears a slithering sound near his feet. Terrified, he throws his hatchet at the source of the sound and kicks out as hard as he can. The hatchet misses its target and instead strikes the rock wall, inducing a shower of sparks; Brian’s leg is simultaneously “torn with pain.”
Screaming and backing against the wall, Brian thinks he can make out a “bulk in the darkness” moving away from him and back out through the door of the shelter. When it is clear that the creature is not going to return, Brian examines the source of pain in his leg and discovers
a group of needles that have been driven through his pants and into the fleshy part of his calf.
Understanding that his attacker must have been a porcupine, Brian notes how situations can change quickly. He had just gone to sleep with a sense of satisfaction and peace, and now, a few short hours later, everything is different. Brian hardens his resolve and begins the odious but necessary task of removing the painful quills. There are eight embedded in his leg, and he bravely jerks them out, one by one.
When the job is done, Brian’s leg throbs with an intense, aching pain, and he is overcome once again by waves of self-pity. He begins to cry. This time, when he is all cried out, he looks back on the time wasted and realizes “the most important rule of survival.” Brian understands that feeling sorry for his self just does not work; after he had finished crying, not one thing about his situation had changed.
Brian finds that his physical patterns are already being altered as he adapts to the requirements of his new environment. He falls into a light sleep, not dreaming until right before daylight. In the initial segment of his dream, he sees his father, who is trying to tell him something, but Brian cannot comprehend his message. He...
(The entire section contains 569 words.)
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