This story is by Tommy Stewart, who was part of Write Summer camp for young writers. You can find all the stories by Write Summer writers here. If you’re a young write age 7 to 14 and would like to participate in Write Summer camp, you can find out all the details here.
“Mush!” I say along with 98 other people. I take first place quickly. My team of eight dogs are fast and strong. “Mush, mush!” I continue to say as the woman in second place gains on me. Second and third place pass then I get ahead, it goes on like this till we make it to the first checkpoint. “It’s getting dark.” I say to no one in particular. I start to slow down so that I can make camp. I notice that my opponents aren’t. If I want to get some sleep I need to get ahead somehow but how. I think to myself. I look down and see the mangled shadow on the ground in front of me. I look back up and see the dark forest in front of me, I get an idea, I’ll use it as a shortcut. I make a sharp turn and head toward the woods. It’s dark and hard to control the dogs through the branches. I hear a whine and feel the sleigh stop. I get off of the sleigh and walk towards the front of the sleigh and see my front dog on the ground whimpering. There’s a trickle of blood running down Naomi’s leg. I go back to my bag and get a bandage for her wound. I realize that I have to make camp, I know that she can’t carry on like this. I put my sleeping bag under a large pine and fall asleep.
I wake up to the sound of tearing. I sit up and see the white snow drenched in red. “Oh no, my dogs!” I cry. But I hear a joyful bark coming from behind me and see that the blood isn’t coming from a dog, it’s coming from a rabbit that they must have caught in the middle of the night. I check on Naomi and she seems to be walking okay. She’ll be strong enough to run. While hooking up the dogs I realize that I’m not sure where I am. I begin to panic, It’s okay Nick It’s okay I think to myself. I take a compass out of my parka’s pocket. I find north and head that way.
“Whoa.” I say to the dogs after a couple of miles. They stop, and I check my compass. It says that I’m going a little too far east. Snap! I see a bough fall from a large spruce tree and hit my sled. I jump out of the way as splinters fly into the air and hit me all over. I ignore the pain and check on my dogs. They seem ok but probably a little shaken up. I detach their harnesses from the broken sleigh and say in disbelief “I’m lost in the woods, oh my god, I’m lost in the woods.” I wander around with the dogs as we look for somewhere warm to make camp. We walk for about 15 miles before we find a small cave in the side of a large snowy hill. There is another one farther down but I’m tired and I don’t want to walk anymore than I have to. As the snow begins to fall I start to make a fire and cook the cold jerky from my backpack. I eat like a wolf, tearing the warm soft jerky to shreds with my teeth. I gave each of the dogs 3 pieces to tide them over. I go to sleep with the warm smell of meat filling up the small and moist cave.
I wake up early that morning. I’m not exactly sure what wakes me, maybe it’s the hot dog breath in my face or maybe it is the loud owl’s hooting, but I think that it’s he cold. Overnight a blizzard had erupted. I’m barely staying warm even with all of the dogs next to me, I attempt to start a fire but are unsuccessful. The dogs are shivering next to me. I have to think quickly, because the snow is starting to pile up outside of the small mouth of the cave. That’s it, the day before I saw a cave a little farther ahead. But the other cave may be the exact same. I look at my dogs, shivering and wet. “Well what do I have to lose.” I say. I tell the dogs to follow me and we are there in 10 minutes because of the snow, it’s hard to walk in and. I sighed in relief when I saw the cave, it seems large enough to fit 4 large grizzly bears inside of it. The cave was warm and I was able to start a fire. I feel relaxed and safe. I use my small pot to scoop up some snow and then melt it over the fire, I let it cool off by putting the pot back in the snow and enjoy my ice cold water. I take the last of my packet of beef jerky and heat it up with the fire, again I eat like an animal. I also heat some water up for my dogs. They drink quickly, I take each one outside to use the bathroom. While I’m taking Dakota out, my youngest and fastest dog I notice something. There are pawprints, big ones not from me or from a dog but what looks like a bear print.
“Oh dear god.” I say. I begin to run inside the cave and get the dogs out of there but are stopped by a large paw knocking me off my feet, the blow makes me a little dizzy. I see the bear walk into the cave and roar in pain. I stagger back onto my feet and walk drunkenly towards my dogs. I see through my impaired vision the bear closing in on Naomi, I also see blood coming from the bear’s leg. I know that Naomi is strong but she’s not strong enough to beat a bear, I grab the bear’s injured back leg, the bear turns around and looks me in the face. She takes her paw and attempts to slash my face. I shield my face with my arm and feel the claws cut into my soft arm. I scream and fall to the ground clutching my arm. The bear turns back to Naomi and takes a slash at her, she dodges it but isn’t so lucky the next time. I see a large slash appear on her side, she falls down and the bear sees weakness in her and begins to slash one last time. Just before she kills Naomi though I get up, grab some snow and throw it right at the back of the bears head. Again the bear turns around and slashes at me but I dodge her and take a lighter out of my parka, I wave it in the bears face she feels the heat coming from it and backs away from me I slowly walk backwards toward the lip of the cave, I look behind the bear I see Naomi lying there. I check behind me and see three baby bear cubs. This is a mama bear protecting her cubs, this is bad. I calm down by taking a deep breath. The mama bear still seems wary of the lighter. I start to make a wide circle towards Naomi. She is lying on the ground with a bleeding belly, I continue to wave the lighter around my head as me and the bear switch places.
When I start to see the bear turn away and leave, I put the lighter down beside me as I am checking on Naomi and my other dogs. Naomi had suffered multiple slashes to the belly, Dakota looked sore but ok. Mya my oldest dog had been knocked into the side of the cave several times and had multiple broken bones. Just as I was checking on Tate my most energetic dog, the mother bear began charging in, the dogs ran/limped out of the cave, she saw that I didn’t have my lighter in my hand so she went for me first I just barely limped out of the way of her, she whipped around with incredible speed and ran at me again this time she got me, she bit down on to my left leg. I kicked her in the muzzle and she let me go. The second I fell to the ground she started to slash and tear at every piece of me she could find. All I could do was curl up in a ball and protect my neck the pain was unbearable. Again I started to kick at her. When my healthy dogs saw that I hadn’t followed them out of the cave they jumped on the bear and distracted her for a moment long, enough for me to get up on my feet and find my lighter. This time I found a large branch in the cave and lit it on fire when the bear had chasen off my dogs she turned back to face me. Except she didn’t expect to have fire waved in her face she reared on to her back legs and walked backwards toward the exit.
I lay on the hard cold ground for a while. I can feel the blood coming out of me, I am in pain but I have screamed all that I could. My dogs were beside me the whole time. I start to feel lightheaded. I was losing so much blood, too much blood. I know that I wasn’t going to make it out of that cave. So I fought through the pain and bandaged up my dogs. I treat their wounds and give them the rest of my food. With my last moments I feel my dogs beside me and I am at peace with myself.