[ NapoWriMo 2020 Collection ] Survival

Qinghai,Tibetan Plateau
Guliya Ice Cap, 12,979 BC

ForewardRoof of the World

On margins of the plateau
repeated glaciations were abating;
a Pleistocene Epoch, surrendering
to the Holocene, sacrificed its own
venerable mass to swelling sea levels—
save bodies, containers
for microscopic parasites
dormant in permafrost soil

Homo sapien rule had evolved—
rooting all cornerstones of earth;
a near-extinct Denisovan hunting party
tracked yak across the mesa—
its high altitude buffeting lungs;
thoughts fueling their drive:
insulated fur, rich, red meat
and the smell of blood—

needed to survive

Part I—Existence

A knot of three mammoth psyches—
two-hundred pounds or more,
transversed the frozen tundra;
flakable stone-carved tools
weighting thick, animal skin bags
like testicles upon their backs

The tracks were fresh—split hooves
separated from the herd,
heading southwest
toward the plateau's edge;
sporadic carcasses dotted the path—

bloody dysentery solidified in ice;
its pale crimson stark in comparison
to the expanse of endless white crystals

Griffon vultures, mangled flesh
compressed betwixt beaks,
glared at the trio, plodding
dangerously adjacent to their banquet—

the bleak topography
of bespeckled cadavers
prompted confused bewilderment
between the triad, who glanced
wordlessly toward the other

Gurgled hisses and tonal shrieks
ensued their footsteps—
piercing expressions
against an unwelcome presence

In the expanse, movement
caught their disorienting arc eye—

as stalking fatigue and hunger
shadowed their footfalls  

the majestic yak inhaled the air;
his nostrils flaring from each scent:
death, dysentery, vulture, blood—
and something else. . .

Edging the Garuda Valley
the bovid native blended
with dampened boughs
of its forested gorge; fatigued
from infection, its death walk
all but complete. . .

A snap startled his measured path—
one of the Denisovan's emerged
from the treeline in a cooperative ambush;  
the yak lunged sideways, escaping
into the sharp tip of a spear
before calving from strength

Its yellow eyes spread wide—
dark pupil absorbing three giant masses;
then, glassing grey, became static
exhaling its final breath—
body fluid, blood, and diarrhea
spreading carmine from its carcass

A crude sawing sound
permeated valley echoes—
 stone-carved knives flayed
 meat from skin and bone, severing
organs from arteries, now defunct
of supply and demand—
their purpose spent
as collapsed walls

The triad was meticulous
despite nauseating hunger
and physical exhaustion—
two chiseled monotonously
while the other shaved
chunks into broad strips

Daylight dissolved;
wolves navigated between
  scarce winter wood
thick with scents of kill—

a hand ax repeatedly struck
pyrite to produce sparks;
fire defining life—
or death  

Twigs, old bones, dry grass ignited—
constructing dark distentions
from the hearth's abdomen
—swelling in warmth  

Fully energized, the yak's bones
were added atop—their fat
melting, fueling the element

Reflective eyes floated
as sparks around flames—
snarls measuring distance
to bloody cartilage

Animism dictated balance
essential for survival
as food, clothing, and shelter—

A Denisovan offered chunks
of slaughter to encroaching wolves—
who quickly sprinted back
toward their warm dens—

grisly kills clinched between jaws

Hungering, the men quickly
assembled a primitive shelter
constructed from animal skins
and surrounding debri:
  dead leaves, pine branches
  and downed tree logs

Its slingback faced woods
while open to the forest-line fire—
yak bones, bract, dried fragments
would fuel through cold temperatures

Their butchery now complete—
strips of charred, bloody meat
were hastily consumed by the trio  

Remaining provision packed deep
under snow—freezing both content
and smell for tomorrow's journey home

Debilitated, the hunters collapsed—
rotating watch to observe shadowy form
and sound only produced by nightfall

Crannied mountains, shimmering
in the watery sediment
of morning eyes—sunrise
smoldering fire; bedraggled
bodies coming to life

Days of taxing terrain were charted
toward Baishiya Karst Cave—
its northeastern edge of plateau
home to tribal clans;

families awaiting their return
along with nutrient-rich
meat, pelts, and assorted bone
to last them through winter

Griffon descended, foraged
on scattered scraps—
gimlet eyes on three figures
diminishing into the light

Part II—Denisovans

Baishiya Karst Cave
10,761 ft above sea level  
Ganjia Basin, 12,979 BC

Flames engulfed lumped charcoal—
spitting, smoking, crawling
across a rock ceiling, dissipating
down the high altitude's throat

Below, the Ganjia Basin—
salt marshes, deposits
and sparse desert vegetation
covered in ice, gave rise
to extended hunting parties

Positioned on a goa skin
a woman threads a red deer
tooth pendant with a bone needle—
while an adolescent girl carves
a chloritolite bracelet
with a flint bladelet

White-bellied rats could be heard
above the crackling fire—
their foraging sound echoing
from the cave's stony bowels  

The Baishiya Karst Cave is located
at the lower half of a 100m
limestone mountain,
40m above the Jiangla river—
one of the only remaining
food supply sources in the basin

Its cavernous oval opening
measures 5m high x 7m wide
with a relatively flat entrance
gently sloping upward

Positioned roughly 6m inward
sits a large boulder—its surface hewn
flat; bone fragments, stone tools
pigments, and ochres
lie scattered across the top

Bloody remnants discolor  
its abrasively ashen skin

From outer darkness
echoed crushed gravel—
footsteps up the passageway
to the cave's mouth

A dark-skinned boy
appeared in the entrance
carrying a string of fish
in lengthy fingers—
he was burly, robust
with a broad, projecting face
and large teeth

His forehead somewhat sloped
over a slightly protruding jaw
beneath his sizable nose
and widened chest

Breathing was mechanical—
designed for high-altitude;
a way of life on the plateau

Two beveled stones were placed
adjacent the fire before the woman
balanced a thin slate slab,
its surface rubbed with animal fat
inches above the flames—
the small catch set atop  

The girl gathered crude baskets
of cord woven from plant fibers
containing meager amounts
of goji berries, grass seeds
tubers, and roots

The boy set a wet-skinned sack
of water between them—
each glanced wordlessly at the other;
reading thought without sound;
it had been weeks—
weather was coming in;

would their family return;
and, if not . . .would they
themselves survive winter

Part III—Ritual

Somewhere Southwest  
of the Baishiya Karst Cave
Ganjia Basin, 12,979 BC

Blindsided by an early
October blizzard;  
entropic south westerlies
shifted late Asian monsoons
across the plateau
inhaled snowfall as air—
exhaled whirlwinds of chaos

Visibility was virtually zero
forcing a freezing trio to seek refuge
in nearby mountain ranges—
a cave less than 3m high
provided adequate shelter

The entrance was small
measuring 2m high by 1m wide;
inside was an ample 12m high
by 15m wide; a dry channel
carved by old water flow
nestled against the left wall

It smelled of mold
and accumulated guano

Stacking their heavy gear
within the opening prevented
gusts stirring up the dirty domain;
they'd trekked for days
stopping only to sleep—

now belayed. . .
they could only wait

A fire melted the glacier
of his body's natural resistance—
running as streams
down his face and neck

He shook like tectonic plates
shifting continents of bowel;
mountains convulsed, upended
from their abdominal walls

Volcanic waves of dry heaves
and dysentery drained from his orifices—
bathing the cave in stench

One Denisovan scooped
discharge with slates of rock
dumping it in the trench—

the other gathered snow
from the entrance
to reduce the fever

But, come morning,
he was gone

He was buried in the trench
along with stone tools
and animal bones—
a rock laid at his head;

carved out just enough
with crude implements
and blistered hands
to barely cover flesh

Exhaustion reigned—
night had been endless;
half light brought no promises

The storm thrashed against
their stacked equipment;
a meager supply of wood
was all but depleted

They had not eaten
since the morning before—
yet opted for rest instead

Another day delayed—
winter nipping exposed skin;
perhaps tomorrow, they thought
—giving way to sleep

Part IV: Classified

Institute of International Rivers  
and Eco-security Research,  
Yunnan University, China
 December, 2015


TO: Lide Tian, PhD
Institute of International Rivers
and Eco-security Research,
Yunnan University, China

FROM: Christine McEntee
Executive Director, Chief Executive Officer
Washington, DC, USA

DATE:  December 17, 2015

SUBJECT: Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus
Climate information from
hundreds-thousands of years
is provided by study and exploration
of our planet's glacier ice cores

Beside the polar regions
the oldest ice known to earth
lies at the bottom of China's Guliya ice cap
located on the Tibetan Plateau

In 1992, a scientific team drilled
attempting to date the ice cap's core;
initial results dated it 500,000 years old
placing it in the late Pleistocene Epoch

Potential microbe existence
was detected; however, failure
to secure the sterility of specimens
let to their ultimate contamination

Your task is to independently
survey the Guliya ice cap's age scale
using advanced technology;
also to preserve the integrity
and transport measures  
of extracted specimens
to designated labs in Beijing
and the United States  

Your goal is to retrieve the oldest
bottom ice expected to resurface
in the midst of global warming—

releasing unknown microbes
we as a species will fail to control

Washington, DC, USA
January, 2015


TO: Christine McEntee
Executive Director, Chief Executive Officer
Washington, DC, USA

FROM: Lide Tian, PhD
Institute of International Rivers
and Eco-security Research,
Yunnan University, China

SUBJECT: Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus
ResearchGate is committed
to the dedicated and acquisition
of knowledge—

preliminary excursion results
revealed an increased vegetation
growth over three decades
labeled “Greening”

Greening may slow rapid rises
in temperature due to CO2 fertilization;
however, global warming
remains the leading contributor to greening—

its projected continuance
at the “Third Pole” is attributed
to the optimum temperature
required for ecosystem productivity
being well below present-day
growing-season temperature

It is still too early to ascertain
if greening will produce
a positive outcome—

a potential negative would be water loss
through evapotranspiration—
causing drier soils extending
into the northern hemispheres
producing increased heat waves

resulting in diminishing permafrost
at a rate accelerating our capacity
to retrieve specimens and analyze data
in an expedient manner required
to prepare and combat global outcomes
contributed to the coronavirus affect

Part V – Passage

Baishiya Karst Cave
10,761 ft above sea level  
Ganjia Basin, 12,979 BC

She was a quiet girl—
observed more than spoke;
skilled in gathering goji berries
date palms, tubers, and roots
from isolated spots
unabsorbed by permafrost;

stealth-like in movement—
she was able to snare a lone perdix
seeking asylum from the harsh winter
of its higher elevation—

It was patience
that brought the reward—
her ability, despite gnawing hunger
or glacial temperature to trust her gut
when foraging for sustenance
—to steadfastly wait it out

Day to day, with constant work
they'd been able to eat—
meager as it was;  
it was, at least, something

She missed her father
and eldest brothers;
the remaining sibling—
her twin, sensed trouble;
left to look for them
— days ago

and now her mother
had taken ill

Somewhere Southwest
of Baishiya Karst Cave
Ganjia Basin, 12,979 BC

He was opposite his twin—
loud, boisterous, unafraid
of conflict or terrain

Impatient, he discovered
new ways to forge needs—
large rocks from higher elevations
could maim, if not kill game
when dropped precisely;

rutting out river trenches
rerouted fish into narrow channels

But, this was a different trek—
one born of necessity over absence;
his father and two brothers
were long overdue from hunting

The weather had been erratic—
if they didn't settle soon
with ample provision
they wouldn't survive winter

He crossed the basin
to the Hengduan Mountains—
separating it from the south eastern plateau

Through the range path
would be as far as he could go—
any further alone would risk
non-return to the cave

He would hunt what sparse game
might be left from migratory herds
while searching for his family;

knowing it would be the last hunt
before a deadly winter—
ignoring it would barely be enough

Part VI—Excavation

Parlung No. 94 Glacier
Southwest Tibetan Plateau
Spring, 2015


B-Team base-camp—
Northeastern Hengduan Mountains
Parlung No. 94
Glacier ablation zone

The intricate grid
of glacial ablation staking
will begin at daybreak
the following morning

The designated four-member
decoy-team will be deployed
to perform typical measurements—
a task proving arduous
and logistically challenging;
however, necessary
for outward appearance

The designated three-member team  
will remain at the ablation zone—
recovering specimens
within cylindrical drills 10 cm
in diameter to extract cores

Scheduled transports by unmarked
refrigeration trucks will deliver
samples to freezers in Lhasa
upon successful extraction

The Guliya ice cap
Western Kunlun Mountains
Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau
Autumn, 2015


A-Team, lower base-camp—
top of the glacian morane;
midpoint station 5800 m—
19,028 ft above sea level;

upper base-camp: lower
drillsite, 61,00 m—20,013

Guliya, her cap housing
historical mysteries
one frozen layer upon another

800,000 year old air
particles as inhaled
centuries ago—encased
by 30-40 meter walls of ice

We successfully extracted
a 308.6-meter ice core
from the heart
of the Guliya cap

Transport to Lhasa
is complete—specimen
A will be flown to DC;
specimen B to Beijing
for comprehensive analysis

Part VII—Recovery

Somewhere Southwest  
of the Baishiya Karst Cave
Ganjia Basin, 12,979 BC

They'd slept for days—
exhaustion tolled reserves;
dehydration stiffened muscles
and strained nerves

The cavern reeked of death;
prevalent disorientation
gripped the two remaining
Denisovans in a confused state  

Hunger was an adversary
gnawing at their instinct
to survive —
fire was a necessity
neither could afford to forsake

The blizzard had abated
leaving a domelike gap
at the entrance when equipment
was retracted—

There was ample meat
from the kill, and enough
twigs, dead leaves, and bone
for flames

Both stared at the trench
in shock and disbelief—
but mourning would have to wait

Muscles they didn't know they possessed
ached with each stretch—
dragging frozen bags
off flesh, pelt, and bone
from the cavern's mouth

One extracted a sack
containing few remaining
leaves and twigs—
the other chiseled
marbled blocks of fat
from iced counterparts

Three were barely able
to haul kills;
now two were left—
every ounce mattered
to survive weather;

they had no idea
how off-course the storm
took their steps

Old wood atop kindling
built the flame's strength
before setting bones to drip  

the aroma of thawing meat
renewed their survival instinct—

a shadow blocked the entrance—
it was their brother;
he'd followed the smell
of smoke and blood
wafting through the pass

They rejoiced—
discovered they were only
a day's walk home
before the younger asked,

"Where is father?"

Part VIII—Transmission

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
395 E St SW, Washington, DC


Date: November, 2015

To: Robert Redfield. Director
CDCP, Washington, DC

From: Xinwen CHEN, Director
Wuhan Institute of Virology

Subject:  Ice Core Live Novel Pathogen

Testing reveals live novel pathogen—
subject matter infected;
I repeat, subject matter infected—
no known antidote; I repeat
no known antidote—
host predictions linked
indicating viral transmission
during abundant microbial testing

Host is a 32 year old male
laboratory researcher
at the Institute of Virology
in Wuhan—currently testing
core ice samples
from the Guliya Ice Cap

Containment recommended—
classification prioritized to level Red

Hospitalization of host
and exposed family quarantined—
wet market visit indicates
close proximity to dozens
potentially hundreds

Host demonstrating fever
dry cough, and difficulty breathing—
unknown pneumonia-like
symptoms permeating lung tissue

Abort ice core testing recommended;
Repeat: Abort ice core testing—
Novel pathogen is live


Wuhan Institute of Virology
Biosafety level-4 (BSL-4) laboratory
Wuhan, China


Date: November, 2015

To:   Xinwen CHEN, Director
Wuhan Institute of Virology

From: Robert Redfield. Director
CDCP, Washington, DC

Subject:  Ice Core Live Novel Pathogen

Confirmation Novel Pathogen Live;
ice core research aborted—
Security Level Red implemented
Laboratories sealed

GSM, Seattle, WA
reporting 33 year old female
laboratory assistant exhibiting
acute respiratory symptoms
from a mysterious pneumonia
of unknown origin—
recent travel documented:
Wuhan Institute of Virology
October, 2015

Potential host visited family
in New York post-assignment—
returned to Washington
end of October with fever
dry cough, and respiratory difficulties

Investigation and quarantine
underway, recommendation

. . .

Part IX: Migrational

Baishiya Karst Cave
10,761 ft above sea level  
Ganjia Basin, 12,979 BC

Her chest had become a tank—
its caterpillar tread crushing
the propulsion of air
attempting to escape

Aa sludged swamp
of thick breath bubbled—
struggled in the throat

The girl could only watch—

Crude language gurgled
from the woman's mouth—
' must. . .move ' [ gasp ]
' promise. . . to go.. .'
[ incoherent ]
' should've. . .' . . .' promise'. . . .
. . .

The girl nodded, continued
wiping her mother's forehead
with a dampened piece
of smooth, lissor-worked leather

She knew—
they should've migrated
with the tribe two years ago;
but her father held out;
he loved the land

But waters were rising
driving herds farther south
from the valley—hunting
had become impossible

It was only a matter of time
before their luck ran out
finding them trapped
in their own tomb for the winter

Three disheveled figures
shadowed the cavern entrance—
the woman, delirious
with fever rambled on

The brothers quickly knelt
beside their mother—
glanced at their sister;
the girl shook her head
looked toward the ground

"Pro . . .mise. . go. .
pro. . .'. . .

It was done; she was gone

Her head rested pillow-like
on one curled arm,
while the other was bent
at the elbow, aromatic stalks
of mint and sage
along with dried flowers
were placed alongside her

Small pebbles
inside a crude ochre pot
sat at her head—
feathers and the needle she loved
were added last

After the ritual, the siblings
conferred around the fire,
taking stock of inventory—
meat was aplenty
for at least two months;
they would ration; berries
roots, and tubers
date palms, legumes,
grass seeds and nuts—
barely enough for two months

Fishing would be possible—
though sparse; perdix
migrating from higher habitat
would be readily available
the first month

However they survived—
if they survived, it was apparent
southern migration come spring
pending no one else succumbed
to the illness which had plagued
their local tribes, and now
their own family

]b]Part X: Pandemic[/b]

Wuhan Central Hospital
December, 2019

I think there should be more
than one voice in a healthy society,
and I don't approve of using
public power for excessive interference.

~ Dr. Li Wenliang, Whistleblower, Covid-19

He was relatively unknown—
even where he worked

A 33 year old Ophthalmologist
serving  at Wuhan Central Hospital

His entire life
had been academic excellence—
praised as honest and diligent
with good judgment

so it was only natural
when he discovered a positive
test result for SARS coronavirus
that he alert his peers—

"Seven confirmed cases of SARS. . .
exact strain being subtyped;
take protective measures, friends"

Reprimanded by his employer
censured and warned by police
labeled a rumormonger
he continued regardless

Exhibiting symptoms of covid-19
Li tested positive in February—
but not before sharing
suppression of free speech publicly—
and vowing to return to the front
lines after recovery

He succumbed six days later
exonerated a martyred hero—
remains on the front lines of history
as covid-19's whistleblower

Jin Yin-tan Hospital
Dongxihu District of Wuhan
Hubei, China, December, 2019

[ . . . ]I had to always wear a mask.
I worked in Wuhan for about a month
alongside many colleagues
whose faces I never saw.

~ Dr. Dongchen Zhou, Cardiologist
Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China

Nurse Xie Jingjing hasn't see her son
for more than ten days—
she is on the front lines of covid-19
with her husband

The female nurses cut their hair
to reduce the risk of infection—
just like concentration camps;
first colleagues, then her own

The mood in the ward is tense
but orderly; in some patient's eyes
young nurses are still children—
but, they battle to save lives
just as an adult
who will only be remembered
by their eyes and voice

Saying goodnight
to a covid-19 patient
means a chance of goodbye;
of never seeing them again—
because it turns on a dime

leaving perhaps an empty bed
or a replacement instead—
It truly is a bellicose battle
those at home cannot understand:

a rancid death wresting a host's  
final breath unwittingly kills itself—
and that is the irony of this virus

Harrodsburg, Kentucky

The pantry was empty;
there was no money—

she was a single mother
with two small children
and nothing to feed them

Her stimulus check was late;
unemployment hadn't started—
there was barely gas in the car

There was a knock at the door;
but, no one there—instead
bags of groceries sat on the porch

She cried; it's all she'd been doing—
crying, and crying more
when her children weren't looking;
unaware they still heard

The power company delayed cutoffs
as did her internet provider—
her landlord was reluctant,
but didn't want to appear an ass

The washer was on the fritz;
she hand-washed in the sink—
hung them over the tub
to save electricity  

She knew there were millions
just like her, sitting on uncertainty
in the bowels of worry and stress

Then there was the virus;
covid-19 shadowing their health
everything they touched—
everywhere they breathed

Despite the gnawing teeth of debt
she knew, as her grandparents
during the 1918 pandemic
that everything would work out—

it always does;
lives would change, no doubt
but, maybe for the better

One should always hope


Despite incidences  
it will work out, regardless  
of doubt; or how many
succumb to death along the route;  
maybe not how we wanted—
or prayed  
it would come about  

On a Universal scale  
we are small, insignificant;  
yet, rare and precious stock—
every trial presented to us  
reveals our level of growth  

We are chaotically imperfect;  
a bit forceful, sometimes cruel;  
set back by circumstance—
yet push through  

In our collective gene
we are millions of years young—
stardust and evolution;
every lesson we learn
every obstacle we overcome  
is recorded in our collective consciousness—  
awakened when time to evolve

We are a part of the living—One
the oldest civilization known to Life;  
here before age after ice age—
genocide, plague, or virus:

We are Human;  
We will Survive—  
Written by Ahavati
Published | Edited 1st May 2020
Author's Note
This is an epic; therefore, I will tag 2020NapoWriMo when I have completed it. I will be updating this post daily throughout April.
All writing remains the property of the author. Don't use it for any purpose without their permission.
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