Chapter 22:

Sheltering from the Storm, Part 4


To his surprise, Caleb did not awake in heaven.

Instead, his first sight upon waking up was the ceiling of the house he and Hope had been sheltering in for the past two weeks. He was wrapped in multiple blankets, and a crackling fire was burning right beside him. For a moment, he panicked and checked to make sure he hadn't caught fire, but once he realized he was fine, he spun around and looked for Hope.

He found her sitting at a nearby table, cutting up the fox that Caleb had brought back. As Caleb slowly reoriented himself, Hope noticed him get up.

“Oh, so you're finally awake?” she said as she wiped off her hands. “I told you not to go outside. I hope you've learned a lesson.”

“Did you bring me back?” Caleb asked weakly.

“Of course!” Hope answered with a scowl. “I dashed out once the snow started to get heavy! I can't believe how far you wandered out!”

“Wh...where was I?”

“I found you half a mile out from the village! You'd gone off the road and were wandering towards the mountains! If I hadn't had my infrared on, I might have never found you!”

“Is that so?” So he really had lost the way back home. He wasn't surprised, but his survival was a stroke of luck that probably wouldn't happen again. “Sorry about that.”

Hope sighed. “Just rest. You're definitely not all right after being in the snow for that long.”

Caleb nodded and laid down as Hope knelt by the fire with a pan to cook some meat. He was surprised to see her cooking without any complaints. Though he was certain that she had the knowledge to do so programmed into her information banks, she had never shown an inclination to do so before.

Eventually, Hope handed Caleb a piece of cooked fox meat on a plate along with a warm bowl of soup. “You cooked this for me?” he asked curiously.

“Who else? I can't expect you to cook for yourself when you're sick, right?” Hope replied. “Go ahead and eat, then go to sleep. You avoided the worst effects of hypothermia, but that doesn't mean you can't get pneumonia if you're not careful.”

“I'm just surprised to see you caring for me,” Caleb chuckled as he cut into the steak. “I would never have expected you to do this for me before.”

Hope scoffed. “I'd surely get blamed if you died out here with me as your partner. I'm just making sure troubles don't happen, you understand?”

“I get it,” Caleb smirked. He was happy just to see Hope show any concern at all. He bit into the slab of meat and grimaced. Fox meat wasn't the best, but even with that in consideration, this particular piece tasted especially unpleasant.

“Did you put any salt on this at all?” Caleb asked as he chewed through the gamey meat.

“Why would I put salt on it?” Hope seemed genuinely puzzled. “I wasn't planning on preserving it.”

Caleb sighed. He guessed there was still quite a way to go.

The two of them passed the next few days uneventfully. Caleb recovered rather quickly and managed to avoid the worst parts of pneumonia, though he still had a fever for a day. Hope helped nurse him back to health, though by this point Caleb was more than capable of taking care of himself. At the same time, though the snow storm raged for a few more days, it soon started to die out, and within the week the storm had ended.

The end of the storm was hailed by a ray of sunlight bursting through the clouds. It was the first time the two had seen any kind of sun for a few weeks, and it was a heartening vision. Still, they were wary of the weather going bad again, so the two decided to wait at least a couple more days to let the snow melt and make sure that no unannounced storms would come rolling in again.

Thankfully, after another two days of waiting it had become clear that the worst was over. Though the outside was still blanketed in a layer of snow, it had largely melted away to just a few inches, meaning it would not impede their travel much. As such, the two started preparing to leave once again. As Hope gathered up her things, she noticed Caleb cutting into the wooden wall with his knife.

“What are you doing there?” Hope asked, somewhat baffled by his actions. “Is there something on the wall?”

“No. Or rather, there wasn't until I started cutting into it,” Caleb clarified. “I thought I'd just leave a message here, since I doubt we'll be back here anytime soon.”

“A message? For who?”

“No one in particular. However, maybe someday there'll be someone like us who decides to shelter here, and maybe they'll find my message carved on the wall.”

“Seems pointless,” Hope sighed. “Have you been doing that in other places too?”

“Yeah, I have. Not everywhere, but from time to time I get the urge to leave a message like this one behind.”

“What's the point of doing that?” Hope raised a confused eyebrow. “It's not like you'll ever know if someone finds it.”

“It's not really about knowing,” Caleb chuckled as he continued to cut into the wall. “It's just a little message from one remainer to another. It can't do any harm.”

Hope shrugged. It had not been the first time Caleb did something out of the bounds of her usual expectations. It would most definitely not be the last.

Within the hour, the two were standing on the outskirts of the village. Caleb took one last look at the ruins and turned to walk off.

“What did you end up carving into the wall?” Hope asked. She did not want to come off as if she was interested, but curiosity got the best of her.

“Enjoy your stay,” Caleb replied. “Followed by our names.”

“Absolutely pointless,” Hope scoffed. “If you were going to leave a message, couldn't you have left something more useful?”

“Who's going to see that message that doesn't already know how to take care of themselves?” Caleb shot back. “Besides, there's more to that message than what's on the surface.”

“Yeah? Like what?”

“Don't worry about it. One day, you'll understand the meaning without me having to tell you.”

MyAnimeList iconMyAnimeList icon