This article is part of the Fur Trapper Saga series.
I awoke in the darkness, partially covered in stones and suffering from extensive breakage of the limbs and trunk. A great stone lay atop my shattered ankles, and another upon my right arm. After an hour of experimentation, I learned that my left arm had some measure of freedom below the elbow, though not enough to remove the stones that weighed me down.
It was clear to me that I would be trapped in the hole for some long while, though I felt no fear or bitterness. I had escaped many hopeless situations in my years, and I will escape many more; even to call my predicament in the well an inconvenience would have been an unwarranted and cowardly complaint. Years of rough living had equipped me well for survival, and I knew that my first priority would be to find a source of water. It would be many months before the rains visited my estate, but my bladder was host to an unlikely stroke of luck: mere moments before the assault, I had imbibed three quarts of Oxenbrew, a concoction of my own devising (I shall not bore you with the recipe, but it contains mostly fermented ox blood and Chinese tea).
And in another bit of good fortune, I was quite naked from the waist down, as I often am. Though I was unable to look down far enough to see my fleshy hose, I attempted to release a bit of urine to determine its orientation- unlucky! The urine passed uselessly down my leg, and I was unable to move my arm far enough to aim it properly. Disappointed, I found myself slipping into a daydream. I thought of rain, and how convenient it would be to let the drops fall in my mouth; I thought of a greasy rain of blood, pouring from the sky and drowning me in its pungent, coppery richness. I thought of the many animals and men I had killed, and how the blood poured from their necks like a crimson geyser.
And what was this? As I thought of blood washing over me, I had my third bit of luck: my urinary hose, quite on its own, was becoming turgid and upright! Quickly, I unclenched my bladder once more, but this time the golden, hydrating sustenance sailed right over my head. I braked hard on the torrent, disappointed again. But wait! In my disappointment, the hose had diminished to a merely half-tumid state! Once again I released my bladder, and this time, as if guided by God himself, the urine sailed in a perfect arc straight into my waiting mouth.
Though days of careful calculation, I found a perfect system by which I could control my own biology: thoughts of murder to increase the rigidity, and thoughts of professional failure to reduce it. By the end of the first week, I could reliably preserve every drop of my bitter fluids.
I thought often of my Lord God during my confinement. Were I a weaker man, I may have appealed to him through prayer to deliver me from my situation. By my calculation, though, God had thrown me in the well for a reason, and he might think me a weakling if I required his help to get out of it again. If this was his test, I would see to it that I passed.
By the ninth day of my confinement, I began to fancy the notion of a meal. Since my assailant hadn't seen fit to throw a ham down the well with me, I knew that I had to take an inventory of the victuals within my limited reach. Though I could nearly reach my mouth, I ruled out the possibility of eating my left hand, for I knew that I would later need it to pen the Swanton Fur Company Catalogue, and the expectations of my loyal customers far outweigh my own petty comforts. I hadn't the strength or mobility to tear off an ear and guide it to my teeth, though the prospect was quite mouth-watering. I considered eating my tongue, but I found that my vanity would not allow it, for my gift for oratory is one of the few areas in which I indulge my pride.
After much consideration, I decided that I was willing to part with my lips. I took an exploratory nibble of my bottom lip and found that the taste was quite pleasing to me. Though want of water had made my body hard and leathery, the flesh of the lip remained quite supple and appetizing. The meat of my face was salty but delicate, with a texture not unlike raw veal. Before I knew it, I had hungrily devoured my entire lower lip, beard and all, and I found myself raking my teeth across the furthest reachable parts of my chin, shearing off delicious morsels of lip, gum and cheek. It took great willpower to save my top lip for another day, but I knew I must ration my face carefully.
‘Toad coin?’ wondered the traveler as he examined the pebble. It did not look all that different from any other pebble, and certainly nothing like a coin. ‘What manner of coin has no head or tail, and bears no seal or flag? Who backs this toad coin, the toad bank? The toad treasury!?’ The traveler laughed, but the toads croaked sternly back at him.
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