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Worst Nightmare: Breathless

A hair-raising tale of wilderness terror that will haunt your backcountry dreams
OCT12_istock_snow14647132XL_445X260.Snow (iStock)

Now, knowing his small palace awaited him, he felt the joy he’d come out here looking for. He took one last look around and crawled through his narrow entry tunnel.

Inside, the shelter was eerily quiet. He had just enough room to sit up, and it was long and wide enough that he could stretch out and have room for his stove next to him. The wind whistled across the entrance, so he stuffed his pack into the doorway, sealing himself in. Next came the finishing touch: He lit a candle and stuck it on a small snow shelf. The light sparkled. It was like being inside a chandelier.

His Whisperlite’s flames made the room shine even brighter. Once the beef stew was in his belly, he felt warm and started to get drowsy. He was like a bear, he thought: holing away for the winter, snug inside his little cocoon. There were no bears in the South Pacific. Of course, in med school he’d probably be too busy to go camping anyway. He sighed. This wasn’t helping.

Maybe a cup of cocoa would revive him. Sleep heavy on his eyes, he fired up the stove again. His head started to ache, so he took a few swigs of water, the trickle cool and soothing on his throat as he watched the stove glow.

By the time he was ready to sip his chocolate, he felt positively lethargic, like the air itself was pressing down. It was a nice feeling.

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