Intercosmic - Chapter 47 - Snowfall

The boys joke around, playing in the snow as they march ahead of Martin and I. Part of me wants to join them, I’ve never seen snow like this before. It’s light, flakey and pure white. It’s a foreign feeling to me. Every time I’ve seen snow, it’s been heavy and various shades of tan, brown or yellow. Usually, it falls hard and fast, but this is almost floating down. Martin sticks his tongue out, occasionally catching a snow flake, something I’d never do. I suppose there’s no fear of this snow being toxic.

“You never seen snow before,” Martin asks.

“No. Yes. I’ve seen snow, just not like this.”

“It used to fall like this all the time on Earth. Falls like this on Nyame too, only a few times a year, and never this much. That’s why I love this place so much. It’s not just falling, but you can feel it, really feel it in the air. It’s almost like being a kid again. I could sit around here all day if my feet wouldn’t get cold.”

“I know what you mean, that sense of finding something new. I didn’t know snow could be like this.”

“That’s not what I meant,” Martin laughs. “I grew up on Mars, when the terraforming was just starting, it would snow there for most of the year. Now it never snows at all, I wonder why they went so far in the opposite direction. You can put more clothes on if you’re cold. Can only get so naked if you’re hot. Now I’m lucky if I get a full month of snow Nyame.”

The boys run wild, tell the same dirty jokes I told when I was their age and throw snow at each other. But, when Martin gives the signal, they line up like his own little military regimen. We’ve reached the location that we’re camping in tonight. He waits on the boys to point out the perfect location. A small clearing in a group of trees, enough space for three tents and a fire. I prepare to make camp but Martin stops me.

“The boys are going to set up all the tents. We’re just here to supervise and make sure nobody dies.”

“Why are we setting up his tent,” David asks. “We didn’t know you were chaperoning him too.”

“Because he knows how to set up a tent already and if you’ve got some idiot taking over the troop when I’m done, I want to make sure you can do it. There’s three of you, and three tents, should go by pretty quick.”

Despite the jokes, laughing and smiling Martin knows when to be stern and it seems like they respect him for it. Martin and I dig out a few loose sticks, some stones and prepare a few objects for a campfire. The boys hustle to get the tents up, racing to see who can do it the fastest. Each one stands in front of a completed tent in thirty minutes or less. Martin walks through and inspects the tents, two single tents for us and a large one for the boys. He comes back to me and looks disappointed.

“What’s wrong with the tents Efrem,” he asks.

“How would he know, he didn’t even look,” Jacob scoffs.

“But he’s experienced, and watched you set up the tents,” Martin responds. “Go ahead, tell them.”

“Alright, well, the first thing is you didn’t pack down the snow. When you’re camping in the winter packed down snow can provide some insulation. On the floor of the tents, I would have put down an extra blanket or something just insulation, but it’s not required. Some of the spikes aren't in particularly good spots. When camping in snow, or any terrain that can shift it’s alright to tie a post to a tree or stone for sturdiness. Lastly, it’s not really required, but I would build a snow wall, just to block some of the wind,” I shrug after my evaluation.

“Like I said, experienced,” Martin “So, let’s break it down, and do it all again.” The boys begin to groan and complain about how this isn’t fair but Martin has them straighten up. “Efrem is going to take charge, and show you how to do it.”

Suddenly I’m bonding with the boys as I feel like I’m being punished too. I came prepared to set up my own tent, but not three tents. The boys whisper a few more jokes about my robot arm taking over my mind. I’m glad I’m meeting these kids now, and not when I first lost my arm. I might have ended up on the news for a triple homicide if I had met them back then. I still hate these kids. Despite the jokes, they take instruction well and we’re able to get everything done in about forty-five minutes.

Martin leads a short lesson how to start a campfire in the snow. He digs out a circle all the way to the ground and arranges some of the drier sticks we got earlier before pulling out a lighter. Next he reaches for a small prescription bottle filled with a synthetic gel and scraps of fabric.

“I thought we needed to know how to make a fire without a lighter,” David asks and gets some giggles.

“That’s kind of hard in the snow,” I respond.

Martin lights the contents of the pill bottle and throws the bottle onto his little pile causing it to light in just a few moments. The boys rush in to warm their hands, amazed by his fire in a bottle. It’s simple, but they’re amazed by the old man’s ingenuity.

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