Ray woke up hot. He’d been cold for weeks, bone-deep Arctic cold, but now he was sweating, trying to unzip his sleeping bag with hands that wouldn’t work.
“Ray?” Fraser said from his sleeping bag on the other side of the tent, sounding wide awake in the black dark. “What’s wrong?”
“Hot,” Ray muttered. “Can’t – ”
Fraser was at his side, hands moving along the bag and then touching Ray’s forehead with cool fingers. “You’re burning up,” he said, calmly, and Ray wondered dizzily if Fraser would throw him in the snow to put out the fire. Fraser fumbled around the tent, rushing to get the camp stove going. Finally it caught, and Ray squinted up at Fraser.
“I need to examine you, Ray. It might be a bit chilly.”
Fraser unzipped the sleeping bag and opened it up. He took off Ray's hat and ran his hands through his hair, down his neck, and then Fraser sat Ray up and took off his shirts. Ray kept still as Fraser peeled him out of his sweat-soaked layers. He tried to apologize, remembering that sweating in your clothes was dangerous up here. Fraser paused and cleared his throat.
“I’m afraid that bite you got from Pierre while breaking up his fight with Diefenbaker the other day has become infected, Ray. It’s rather serious, and we’ll need to get you some medical attention as quickly as possible.”
“No problem,” Ray said, cackling. “Just call 911; they’ll have me at UCH in no time.”
Fraser tried to smile.
“Just kidding, Frase, I know we’re … what … 3 days out from the nearest town?”
Fraser nodded distractedly, pulling off the rest of Ray’s clothes and putting him into dry ones before zipping him back into his sleeping bag, snug as a bug in a rug. It would’ve been nice, if Fraser hadn’t looked so freaked out. Finally, Fraser pulled the map out from his pack and spread it out on the floor of the tent.
“There’s nothing closer,” Ray said. He was a little fuzzy, but he knew that. They’d been real careful stocking up in supplies this time, because they wouldn’t see another town for a week.
“There’s a settlement just upriver from here,” Fraser said abruptly. “It’s not on the map, but I can find it easily enough.”
Ray tried to think that through. “You been there before?”
“Yes,” Fraser said quickly, in that way he had when he wasn’t mentioning something important. Ray glared at him. “Thirty years ago,” he amended. “But I’m sure I can find it.”
“You must’ve been just a kid,” Ray said through chattering teeth, feeling the cold again.
Fraser nodded, unzipping his own sleeping bag and laying it over Ray. “My mother’s people. They don’t ... welcome outsiders.”
“Fraser, you got family up here? Not just Maggie? That’s great, buddy! Let’s go visit,” Ray said muzzily, and then the tent went dark.
I need people to express some enthusiasm about this, so I can get off my ass and actually finish this draft this weekend. Any takers? I'm going to go to bed and hope that someone leaves me messages of encouragement so when I get up I can get myself in gear.