Trapped in 1867

Chap­ter 6: On­wards

The Hamilton Spectator - - CLASSIFIED - WRIT­TEN AND IL­LUS­TRATED BY CHRIS FRAN­CIS

Star­tled by the wolf in the trees, the horse pulls Gauri and Ben along the snow and crashes them into the icy wa­ter of Lake On­tario. Nar­rowly es­cap­ing death, Ben pulls Gauri out of the wa­ter only to be shocked by the sounds of gun­fire.

To do list:

1. Find a way to charge my phone us­ing a frozen potato 2. Change into dry and warm clothes 3. Build a fire

Jan­uary 17th, 1867

6:55 PM

The Ir­ish boy stands in the snow with a small curvy pis­tol. He points it to­ward the wolf, but doesn’t try to hit it. He fires yet again. This time the wolf scam­pers off.

8:34 PM

We fi­nally stop to build a fire in a clear­ing by the lake.

“I needa time to eat and sleep,” the Ir­ish boy says fi­nally.

He ties the horse to a tree and pulls out a small can­vas bag from un­der the bench. “I will build a fire. You must be hun­gry.”

I nod and smile. I’m still freez­ing and can’t feel my toes (which is an im­prove­ment from a few hours be­fore).

The moon is high above us now. My breath glows in the white light.

9:42 PM

Ahh. I feel so much bet­ter. The Ir­ish boy boiled us pota­toes and they ac­tu­ally tasted good.

I curl up be­side Ben in the sled and use a thick blan­ket to cover us (it smells like com­post, but I don’t care).

The Ir­ish boy nes­tles in near the front. It’s cramped, but at least we’re warm.

“What’s your name?” I ask him as I watch the fire die down in the snow be­hind us.

“Thomas,” he replies. “Thomas McGre­gor.” “How old are you?” Thomas pulls some sort of an­i­mal fur over his body and sighs. His eyes are puffy and dark. For the first time I see his face clearly. He looks kind, like some­one I would be friends with back home. He has red hair, al­most orange-like (at least it seems that way with the moon and fire glow­ing around us).

“I’m twelve,” Thomas replies. “I’ll ba thir­teen in the summa.”

“Why are you out here?” I ask. “I mean, it’s freez­ing. Why are you trav­el­ing by horse from Burling­ton all the way to Ot­tawa? You’re just a kid.”

Thomas drops his head and lifts the an­i­mal fur closer to his face. “My pa is a post­man. He puts food on my plate and gives me a shel­ter to sleep unda.”

Ben taps on the wooden pan­els and then yanks the smelly blan­ket to­ward him. “You call this a shel­ter?” I el­bow Ben in the ribs. “Ouch!” “My dad is sick,” Thomas con­tin­ues. “He has Tu­ber­cu­lo­sis.” “Tu­ber-cu-what?” Ben mut­ters. I el­bow him again. Thomas’s eyes well up. “He’s sick. He de­liv­ers mail across the Prov­ince of Canada.”

“You mean the Coun­try, right?” I say.

“No, we’re in the Prov­ince of Canada.” Thomas wipes his eyes and looks at me funny. “Are you sure you’re not an alien?” I smile and shake my head. “No.” The light from the fire dims as the still air cools. A shadow moves around the sled. I won­der for a mo­ment if the wolf is re­turn­ing. Only, when I peek through the cracks of the wooden pan­els, I see her again.

The girl.

The girl with the an­i­mal fur bun­dled up around her. This time there is a pat­tern—a sym­bol weaved into her cloth­ing—some kind of bird.

But when I blink—she is gone— yet again.

Jan­uary 21st, 1867

9:32 AM

Pota­toes, pota­toes, and more pota­toes—that is all we’ve been eat­ing. So, it’s of­fi­cial, I now hate pota­toes. I don’t care if they are mashed, boiled, fried, baked, carved up and molded into a pokemon-pikachu-zom­bie, what­ever. I hate them. I re­ally hate them.

The tem­per­a­ture has gone up a bit, which is a huge re­lief. I can fi­nally feel my feet and my butt.

We’ve been fol­low­ing the St. Lawrence River north-east. I barely rec­og­nize the scenery—ev­ery­where is so bar­ren and de­serted com­pared to when I trav­elled up to Kingston with my fam­ily last sum­mer. All the noisy cars, and lit­ter— the tele­phone poles, cell tow­ers— the maze of ca­bles and wires that spread out over the streets like cob­webs—the streaks of jet fumes in the sky—are now all gone. It’s like the fu­ture has stripped the world from its nat­u­ral beauty. Sad. We bumped into some mili­tia near Kingston and they gave us a cooked break­fast. It was soooo good. I never thought I would love corn­bread, stew and boiled eggs so much.

The sol­diers were re­ally nice too, al­though they all looked at me funny.

We reached Kingston yes­ter­day late af­ter­noon which ap­par­ently is the first cap­i­tal of the Prov­ince of Canada. The ar­chi­tec­ture is beau­ti­ful, I can’t be­lieve how new the old build­ings look, if that makes sense.

12:43 PM

We met a man named San­ford Flem­ing as we headed north away from the river to­ward Ot­tawa. He stopped at the same mail of­fice as us. We over­heard him talk­ing to some other men about speed­ing up the postage by de­vel­op­ing in­ter­colo­nial rail­ways.

I can’t be­lieve they don’t even have cars yet. Or planes. As we left, one of the men shook Mr. Flem­ing’s hand and shared how ex­cited he was about the upcoming birth of Canada.

Jan­uary 23rd, 1867

3:35 PM

We made it! We are here in Ot­tawa. Can you be­lieve it?

The sun is out, the weather is cold but ev­ery­thing is so clean and beau­ti­ful. I’ve never seen so many horse and sleighs be­fore in my life. There are peo­ple ev­ery­where walk­ing the icy streets wear­ing big warm hats and heavy black coats. I even had an el­derly man tip his hat to me and say, “Good af­ter­noon Miss.”

There was def­i­nitely an ex­cite­ment in the air about the pos­si­bil­ity of a new coun­try be­ing born.

“We’re nearly there,” says Thomas. He sits up tall on the bench, proudly show­ing off his horse and sled.

“Nearly where?” Ben asks, star­ing wide-eyed out at the bustling new city. “We’re here, aren’t we? I mean, this is Ot­tawa, right?”

Thomas nods, and sips on warm snow-wa­ter we boiled ear­lier in the af­ter­noon. “Yes, we’re in Ot­tawa.”

“Then, what are you talk­ing about?” Ben clears his throat. “Where else are we go­ing?”

Thomas turns back to us, as we bounce up onto a side-road cut­ting through the tow­er­ing brick build­ings, bor­dered by stone walls and gas lamp-posts. “You’ll see.” To be con­tin­ued Wed­nes­day. Next Time: Dark­ness

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