Walking up the snow-covered track, gravel surfacing through the pack and digging into his feet, Henry David took it as a reminder that he needed new boots. He thought of how far a walk it would be to get those boots, and a cold laugh burst from his chapped and broken lips.
"Damnation", he said to the ice-tinged air, "my feet be frozen off 'fore I get to the boot maker." He laughed again, and dissolved into a fit of coughing. The harshness of the air lanced into his lungs; he coughed convulsively, sputtering and retching into the snow at his feet as he doubled over trying to catch his breath.
Stars danced before his eyes, and for a few moments he wondered if it were best to just lay down and sleep.
The wind gusted, a giant's puff blowing snow over his shaking body. The powder drifted down his neck, and the small shock of cold made him grunt. From off in the snow-laden pines, the squeaks of a field mouse drifted to Henry's ears, as the mouse lost its bid for survival to what Henry imagined to be an owl. The sound made him sad, a reminder of his own precarious position. The thought galvanized him and he stood up as fast as he could manage, swaying from the dizziness of hunger and lost blood. He squinted into the sunlight sparkling off the track as it wound its way up a low hill.
"One foot, one foot, in front of the other, Henry" he muttered. He struggled up the hill. To his surprise, the trees abruptly thinned out and Henry found himself in a narrow clearing. Stretched out before him, heading off to disappear into the forest to either side was a set of rails, peeking out from under the snow.
"I'll be goddamned," he swore, "A railroad!". He managed a smile, which quickly faded as it cracked the corners of his mouth. Staring both ways, he began to walk in what he assumed was a southerly course. One direction was just as good as another, he thought, but he had no desire to go farther north.
The light began to fade, a blueness on the air as the sun fell behind the ridge line to the west. A low sound came to Henry's ears, like a saw cutting through wood...or a mountain lion. The thought stopped him in his tracks, ice water seeping through his hollow gut. He held his breath.
The sound came again, and this time he knew for certain it was a mountain lion. It sounded close by.
He was too tired and cold to swear. "Well, I'm for it", he said. He pulled what was left of his coat around his thin and bloodied body, head down as he trudged further into the gloom.