SciFi Author and Rogue Time Pirate
Ice Age Paradox
The Ice Age Paradox
On the trip of a lifetime, big game hunter, Jack Hampton, quietly moves through the lush green landscape stalking the monstrous beasts of the Pleistocene. As he raises his rifle and places his sights on one of the most dominating predators that ever walked the planet, another shot rings out and hits the tree inches from his head. It wasn’t a stray bullet, someone just took a shot him. His suspicions of the past few days have come to realization, someone in his hunting party has been tracking him. Only seven people took this trip back to the last ice age and now one of them is trying to kill him.
The words of his good friend Ben ran through his mind. “Do not get eaten alive, it won’t help you in any way.”
Four days ago, he sat in a bar drinking beer with his friends and taking bets on whether or not he would make it back alive. Those conversations lingered in the back of his mind while Jack listened to the sound of the encrusted snow crunch beneath his boots as he traversed the frozen Arctic terrain. He watched his partner Walt, the elder of the two hunters whose experience and wisdom showed in every wrinkle on his weathered face, check the tracks.
“DAMN!” Walt yelled out and dropped to his knees.
Without waiting to ascertain what spooked the veteran hunter, Jack mimicked his guide as fear balled up in the base of his stomach and made his knees go weak. Concern sat heavy on his chest while he panned across the vast monotone landscape. “What’s wrong?” Jack asked with a slight shiver in his voice.
Walt pointed to the snow just to their side. “Look at the tracks!” With anxious movements, he continued to investigate the horizon as Jack glanced down.
Instead of one set of polar bear tracks, he saw two sets of the dinner plate sized prints and with caution he asked, “You mean-”
“Yeah, the bastard’s circled around behind us.” Walt interrupted “The bear’s turned the table and we’re the hunted. We need to split up and force him to track only one of us. I’ll head off behind that ridge and watch for him to stalk you.”
“There’s no time for rookie mistakes, Jack. I’m gonna watch your back and you’ll watch mine.”
Jack stayed the course with the tracks to act as bait while Walt ventured to the south behind a snow ridge to watch the unseen predator stalk his partner.
Within a few minutes, he completely lost sight of his friend and guide as if the white landscape had swallowed him up. Jack decided to take a break. The stress of the situation had built up fatigue in his muscles and spirit. He situated his rifle down into the snow and patted around in his pockets for a candy bar that he always carried on hunting trips. As he pulled his hood off for better vision, he felt the frozen air chill the beads of sweat on top of his head. While he searched through his parka, the gentle wind, that had filled his ears, ceased and the land fell silent as if he became trapped in a white void.
He gnawed his teeth into his frozen O’Henry bar that he pulled from his pocket. As it gradually softened in his mouth, he heard a deep grunt and glanced up to see an enormous polar bear in the distance bounce up and down on its front paws. Jack stopped chewing the candy bar and quickly eyed his rifle lying in the snow at the tip of his feet. He focused back on the menacing animal. For a brief second, beast and hunter stared directly into each other’s eyes when the bear flinched. Jack crashed down to the frozen ground and grabbed his Winchester.
Through his scope, he watched the quick-footed animal scamper to the South when it disappeared behind the snow ridge. Fear and adrenaline throbbed through his body and took control of his actions. He suddenly realized the creature’s intent.
“WALT!” Jack screamed as he pushed himself up and ran. He knew the bear approached his friend from behind in ambush.
He pushed his muscles with all the strength he could summon as panic pulsed through his veins. His heavy winter clothing made Jack feel like he traveled in slow motion. The three hundred yards between him and the ridge seemed like miles.
Suddenly, the snow beneath his feet gave way and he fell into a shallow crevasse. Stuck waist deep in the fissure with his boots wedged into the v-shaped depression, his rifle sat in the snow just out of reach. He pulled up hard on his boots but could not get free from the icy vice that held him in place.
He reached down, struggled to untie his wet laces and finally jerked his feet free which allowed the empty Sorels to collapse. Jack pulled them out of the crevasse. He shored his feet back inside, grabbed his rifle and continued to run.
“No time for rookie mistakes Jack.” He said in a breathless voice.
When he rounded the opposite side of the ridge his fears had come true. A ten-foot circle of blood and matted snow made his heart skip a beat. In the center lay the partial shredded remains of Walt and no sign of the predator anywhere. “Aww crap!” he yelled and slammed the end of his Winchester into the snow.
He ran back around the ridge and saw the white bear investigate the crevasse where only moments before he had been trapped. Jack snuggled the butt of his rifle into his shoulder and centered the cross hairs on the distant animal. The bear stopped his investigation and pondered up at the weaker creature.
Through the scope, Jack saw where Walt’s blood had stained the fur around the bear’s snout and paws. A burning fire of anger poured through his veins that almost made him hesitate. Slowly, he squeezed the trigger on his Winchester but nothing happened. A quick glance and he saw ice had built up around the mechanism making it useless. The bear charged its defenseless prey.
As Jack ran, he took off his right glove and wrapped his bare hand around the trigger allowing his body heat to melt the ice. He ran until his lungs burned and stopped to glance back at his deadly adversary. The bear continued to chase him but didn’t close very fast. Jack knew it only pursued at a slight trot to allow its prey to run himself into exhaustion. A common hunting tactic used by bears.
He ran until he arrived where the white ice shelf met with the deep blue ocean. Jack had no choice but confront his pursuer. Near the edge, he skidded to a stop and turned to face the beast that converted him into the hunted.
The bear narrowed the distance between them while Jack scrambled down onto his stomach and concentrated all his energy on defeating his hunter. His heavy breathing made it difficult to keep the cross hairs steady. When the beast closed to sixty yards, he pulled the trigger.
An echo from the explosion reverberated and bounced across the ice shelf. The instant he fired he noticed the bear disappear in a cloud of snow. “That’s not right. I couldn’t have dropped him with just one shot.”
The white bear had vanished into the bleached landscape as Jack slid the frozen bolt of his Winchester back and positioned his last cartridge in the smoke filled chamber. “Where’d you go, you bastard?”
He jumped to his feet as his finger maintained pressure on the warm trigger with no indication or sign of the bear anywhere.
Jack scanned the landscape as he guardedly backed toward the edge of the ice shelf. With caution in each step that slowly crunched down on the snow, he moved closer to the ocean. His veins throbbed with fear.
A loud crash to his right startled him and he almost dropped his weapon. He turned as the angry polar bear fell through the ice into the frigid water.
The ice below Jack’s boots cracked and separated the section that supported him. It tossed him off his feet onto his back. The concussion jerked his finger, and inadvertently fired his last round.
Jack sat up in time to see the predator climb out of the sea and back onto the ice shelf. Gallons of water poured from its heavy coat as it paced along the edge.
The ocean current carried the ice section farther away as Jack stood and stared at the bear. The two adversaries shared an intense gaze directly in each other’s eyes as Jack drifted out to sea.