Hi everyone, here's a little MGS1 piece I did that gives a bit of backstory to Snake's life in Alaska. Hope you enjoy it.
It was sunset, and the cold was sinking into David's fingers. He was having trouble driving, the ice was not welcoming the battered tyres of his 1998 Jeep Cherokee. It this time of the day, he was tired and homesick. Looking in the rear view mirror, he saw a red-eyed man, with a long, unkempt jet-black beard and a mane of hair, tied into a ponytail. He could barely recognise the face staring back, but that's what he liked about life in The Lakes. He was free to be nobody. Not a legend, not a hero, just nobody.
He wound down the window and lit a Moslem. The air was frigid, but he was used to it. The sun was out, and he could enjoy the warmth as he drove. Electric heater and cool air? Whatever makes you happy, Dave.
What does make me happy?
He parked the Cherokee at the foot of Hungry Creek, a small supply village lined by dirt roads and even dirtier people. With a population of less than 100, he was the only person here who didn't belong to either the local fishing or hunting group. He made small talk with the locals, but even after 5 years he still didn't feel like one. He guessed the kinds of questions and answers the talkative denizens traded. Who's that guy, again. Oh, that's Dave, Doggy Dave. That retired soldier. We call him no-shave Dave. How's he earning his keep? Living off VA allowance, no doubt. What's he like? Dunno, don't talk too much. He go hunting? Nah, don't think he's the hunting type. Where was he? He was in Iraq, wasn't he Trevor? Probably had his fair share of holding a gun.
I've had my fair share of life.
Fair share of death.
There was, however, one group of people that Dave did enjoy at Hungry Creek - his fellow dog mushers. There were three - Mark, Jay and 'Chicken George', as we called him, because of that time a Moss, a chocolate brown huskie with rabies, chased him near up a tree, clawing at his feet, making George jump like a chicken. These were the only people David could bond with. Men can't bond directly, he reasoned. Unlike women, who seek to form instant connections, men have a tendency to bond through things. Men stand side by side, observing things, connecting through a shared love of those things. For David, it had been the battlefield. Those where his old friends were. When he first moved to Twin Lakes, around 5 years ago, he tried to get himself involved in the hunting community. That's where the friendships happened, and god damn it, he needed a friend at that point. But for the life of him, David couldn't get into hunting. He couldn't take any pleasure from killing a defenceless animal. If the fellas can, all power to them. Pleasure is a commodity these days, you gotta take it where you can find it. But hell, hunting was not his thing. You blew your paycheck on bullets, beer and bacon. David killed to get paid. He didn't pay to kill. Besides, the hunting clubs could tell something was up with this guy. Looking back, he didn't seem like the kinda guy fit to carry a gun. Gosh, I was a mess back then. A creepy, twitching mess. Only in America would they have invited a guy like me out shooting.
Then there was fishing. Master tried to get him into fishing, said "this is your new thing. This is where you wanna be", but again, David couldn't get into it. Fishing was a meditative sport. It wasn't the fish you were battling, it was the silence. It was yourself. David didn't like being alone with his own thoughts, a fact he had comfortably accepted. He would fall asleep with the TV running, he would cook breakfast with the TV running. He would
come to think of it, when do I not have the TV running? He had considering buying an iPod, but didn't like messing around with computer screens. Last month, they released a version without a screen - you push one button and it plays the song. He liked that, so he took a special trip out to Anchorage to buy it. They even put some music onto it. They asked what music would you like? David said, whatever's good. He didn't care about music, and had no real preferences. The purpose of music is simply to block noise. It brings order to the chaos of the real world - storms, gusts of wind, howls of wolves, chirping birds, the screech of car tires. When music plays, the noise is demolished in favor of something with order and precision. David drove back to Twin Lakes, listening to his new iPod the whole way through. When he's not outside, and when he's not blasting local radio in his jeep, he's got his music player in his jeans, always ready.
The goal of fishing, Master explained, is to be in sync with the noises. To be completely present in your moment. To become Zen, or something like that. It's not about the fish, it's about the journey. The inexperienced fisherman thinks only of the fish, of catching it, gutting it and frying it in lemon and pepper.
David's stomach growled.
The wise fisherman thinks of the sea, the air, the breeze, the temperature. They think of the journey, which is, a great journey within. The real journeys, Master had said, are not be found in foreign nations, but rather, within ourselves.
Real rich, coming from a guy who grew up in both Japan and the old U.S of A and had an eclectic mercenary career in Colombia, Costa Rica, Afghanistan and South Africa before becoming an elite survival expert. Did that guy even have time for inner journeys? David dragged his cigarette.
But David had laid it on straight. He wasn't ready for the fishing. At least, not Master's unique brand of zen-fishing. David knew exactly why he didn't want to be alone with his thoughts, because he had a hell of a lot of them thoughts inside, and a lot of them weren't good. They were waiting to come up. They would eventually, and David was not looking forward to it. He was quite content with leaving them there. For now, at least.
But then he discovered sledding, and the pieces fell into place. There was a local event, a strong looking woman, possibly a ranger, surrounded by lots of people. Mostly kids. Her hands were petting a giant Yukon wolf, its fur golden white under the sun.
The howl is the primary social call for these animals. If you howl, she said, Julia here will howl back. But, she'll only recognise it if it's loud enough, so kids, let's all try a howl.
The ranger howled, a surprisingly dead-on impression of a wolf. The kids seemed shy and nervous to do the same. One grinning, enthusiastic boy let out a massive howl, which was the cue for the other kids to join in. Soon the whole group of children were howling, all in unison. It grew louder and louder, and David was worried it might scare the wolf.
But the children's howls were like gentle whispers compared to the wolf breaking out with a howl of her own. It shattered the air with it's resonance. The children immediately stopped in silence, humbled by the awesome power of this animal's cry. David felt a lump in his throat - he had never heard anything so calming, yet so endearing. It was feminine and soft, yet it reverberated through your bones. It was the expression that David had long wanted to make within himself - a vulnerable cry that could break down this hardened, armoured exterior that the world knew him by.
Later that night, he drove to the mountains near Lake Clark and cried into the night. He screamed from the top of his lungs, until tears ran from his face. He drove him and had the best night sleep he'd had in ten years. Waking up the next day, feeling another 10 years younger, he decided he'd go meet some more dogs.
He fell in love with the animals. They represented some of what he considered his own better qualities. He had always seen himself as loyal, hard-working and disciplined, and he became a dedicated student to the art of positive canine discipline. In 2001, he bought his first dog, a white shepherd he named Ross. He was still basically a puppy, and David raised him almost single handedly. Ross would always greet him by jumping up onto his chest and tapping his paws, as if to do a little dance. Then came the Siberian Huskie, then the Alaskan Huskie, then the German Shepherd. David's family grew.
My only family.
By 2003, he had acquired 12 dogs, enough for him to form a sledding team to compete in the Iditarod. This 1000 mile race ran from Anchorage to Nome, and follows the ancient Native Alaskan Iditarod trail. Mushers from North America and Europe compete to to bring their dogs to the finish line. With some races lasting two weeks, preparing for the Iditarod was a monumental occasion that finally gave David an understanding of what Master had called 'the inner journey'. He had concluded that, although he had found his calling as a musher, he was not ready for the Iditarod. He would, however, sign up for the 2004 event. When meeting with the event organisers, he had to explain that his identity needed to be kept secret, so he couldn't appear on the race results. The event manager suggested he use a pseudonym, but David insisted. They agreed that he wouldn't appear on any of the publicity.
'But what if you win?'
'Oh, I'm not planning to win. I just want to be there.'
As his study of canines and mushing continued, he revamped his property to properly accommodate the dogs. His log cabin home was really just an outpost for the alpine doggy day care he was building. Animal training became an all-consuming livelihood, and his mind was kept pleasantly occupied. His thoughts were with his dogs - their pain was his pain, their pleasure was his pleasure, their pride was his pride.
When March 2004 came, he was ready, and so were his dogs. On March 6th, he drove a truck into downtown Anchorage to begin the race. The first 18 miles was nerve-racking, and the checkpoint was a welcome site. They arrived at a plot of council-managed land, before continuing onto Willow, where they reached their next checkpoint. Miller was there to welcome him and give him an encouraging pat on the back. After they reached Nome, David felt nothing but calm. He didn't listen to which position he finished at, although he knew it was somewhere in the top 30.
It had been 10 days of sledding. And now, there were no thoughts, just clarity. He stared at the sky and felt a moment of peace. He didn't join in on the celebrations, the cracking of champagne or dancing. He just sat with his dogs, smoked a Lucky Strike and concluded to himself: this was it. The best thing he ever accomplished in his life was competing in the 2004 Iditarod.
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MGS1 fanfiction: The Drive to Hungry Creek
- Joined: May 11th, 2018, 6:04 am
Snake turned the polished brass knob and slid the door open with a loud creak. He was hit with a revolting stench of alcohol, ash and sweat and the site of a destroyed office, with smashed decorations, upturned furniture and torn papers. Emerging from the desk was an absolute wreck of a man, with a shimmer of liquid dripping from his crusted lips. His eyes were red and out of focus, his hair in random, whispy knots. His three piece suit was stained with streaks of water and his vest buttoned in the wrong places. His tie was undone, thrown over his neck like a noose in the gallows.
Did you know I'm novelising Snake Eater? Check out my progress here.
Did you know I'm novelising Snake Eater? Check out my progress here.
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