Remains of an Ember
Felipe Feldmar

A flameless ember lay between them. John stared at it slowly fading from fire to black. The setting sun was giving way to a long winter night. Jill lay on the other side of the fire. She wasn't looking at it but up to the sky. One, then another star came into view. The cold made them look so close she felt she could touch them. I haven't seen such a wonderful sky since I was a child, she thought.

"Well hon, I guess this is it," Jill said. She tried to scratch her nose but a striking pain ran through her fingers. They as well as her toes were frostbitten. She had pneumonia, her breath a chorus of raspy notes. It was the only sound in a forlorn snowy plain in Antarctica.

John looked up at her briefly and glanced away. He was at a loss for words. He looked back at the dying ember and hoped that somehow he would get them back to camp.

The two huskies whined. They were the remnant of a pack of eight. They hadn't been fed for two days. They were three days away from base camp, with one day's ration of food for him and Jill, and none for the dogs.

"Answer me, damn it!" Jill cried.

John couldn't bear to prolong his wife's misery. He stood up and went to the sled. He opened a canvas bag and pulled out his pistol. He checked to see if it was loaded. Once confirmed, he turned and went back to Jill.

She opened her eyes and saw John standing over her.

"Hey, Johnny, is it time to go?" she asked.

He looked at her face. He bent down and touched her forehead. She was burning with fever. He stood up and cocked the gun.

The click from the hammer brought Jill back from her delirium. She saw John and the pistol, and beckoned him closer. "Please, do it as fast as you can."

A tear streamed down John's cheek and froze next to his lips.

"Do it John. Do it!" she pleaded.

The rapport traveled across the plain. A penguin wiggled of a ledge and jumped into the freezing water. One of the dogs barked. The other one lay on the ground, motionless. They ate one of the huskies that night and left for base camp the next morning. The search party found Jill and John a week later. They lay frozen, holding hands. John had dropped next to them the remains of an ember.

First published: February, 2003