Trapped in 1867
Chapter 6: Onwards
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
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.
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.
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 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
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.
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
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