By the time Hutch reached the first set of caves tucked up high in the serrated Scoriah Mountains, his hands were cracked and bleeding and his nose was runny from the cold air. Half the day had passed while he struggled to climb over the foothills and smaller peaks in search of a safe place to sleep for the night. More times than he could count, his footing slipped and the jagged point of the rocky outcrops dug into his shins, arms and chest like shards of glass. Without sustenance he couldn’t heal as quickly as his body allowed.
He hated the place.
Even the caves provided little solace. The largest one he could find was barely deep enough to stretch out in, with only enough height for sitting up. The view overlooked the terrain he had just scrambled over, which was a disappointment as he wanted to see what was beyond the mountain range – not what he already conquered.
And there was something terribly wrong with the air. “What the hell is that stink?”
A gag-worthy odor leaked through the cracked walls of the cave and with the light fading faster than he thought possible, he couldn’t see around his sleeping space to identify the source.
“Smells like curdled milk and dog-shit in here,” he murmured to himself.
The walls felt dry closest to him, so he assumed the rotten smell came from gasses inside the mountain. There wasn’t enough time to look for an odor-free shelter, so he curled up on his side, hoping the breeze would blow hard enough on his face to mask some of the smell. It would take more than luck to survive the night without puking – even more luck to survive the cold.
His last thought of the day wasn’t a pleasant one. I’m screwed completely.
(The Dry Lands, Hutch & A’ris)