They say a man can last about 3 days without water and up to a week without food. Well here in the summer-less North we’re not short of fresh water. There are streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, lochs and puddles everywhere. It’s the food that’s the problem.
There used to be a joke about how the haggis is an animal that lives in the hills of Scotland. If that were the case, I could do with coming across a paddock of them right about now.
I’m pretty much just skin and bones now, and Adam isn’t far off that himself. I make sure he gets as much food as I can, giving him most of my share when he’ll let me get away with it. I don’t know if I’m doing him a favour or a disservice. If I were to waste away and be too weak to fight off an attack he wouldn’t survive much longer than I would, but on the other hand the poor kid is growing and his body needs all the sustenance it can get otherwise he’ll end up some puny midget of a man in later life.
Our target each day is to try and walk about 20 miles – about two finger widths on this old map of the country I carry around. While we walk, we’re constantly scanning ahead and behind for slovs, and seeing if we can spy anything that might lend itself to eating. An apple tree, a house that doesn’t look like it has been too badly raided, hell, an old dog or oh yeah, a wild horse would be a feast for a week or more!
Just yesterday I was daydreaming about burgers. I was about to describe them to Adam who has never seen one in his life when this grey, emaciated hand shot out from a storm drain I was walking past and made a grab at my leg. At first I thought it was a slov that had been in there hunting rats and I was about to lop off its limb with my handy dandy machete I found in a green grocer’s until it spoke.
“Food?” it croaked. “Got any food?” Of course I had some food, but I wasn’t about to tell her, him, it anything. When it came out into the light I saw it was a wizened up old lady. How she had survived this long I wouldn’t know (she would probably tell me it was from not smoking, regular exercise and that a rat a day keeps the doctor away).
Adam was pretty intrigued that we’d found another Living that we could talk to, but he stood warily on watch while I dealt with the situation.
Seems she had been living in the storm drain most of the last few years – that is except for when there were big rains and her home was busy being a – well, storm drain. She mostly ate, much as I had already guessed, rats. But also various mosses and plants she had found to be edible. We couldn’t spare any of our food but I left her with a handful of mixed nuts that were in the cupboard of a house a few days walk back, and went on our way. She begged to come with us, but all three of us knew she would be a burden on us. She would slow us down, couldn’t fight even as well as Adam the five year old could, and would need just as much food, though this last part she argued against.
In the end we left her to her drain, promising to stop in on our way back in a few months. I marked this spot on our map too, and after finding out she knew nothing about a research facility, we headed onwards.