The rain and gray sky make it difficult to mark time, but Cole knows that he’s going to die. He tries not to think about it as he gets weaker and cries. Cole doesn’t think anyone cares about him, so it doesn’t matter anyway. He watches a sparrow feed babies in its nest and finds the whole thing irritating. If he weren’t hurt, he’d knock the nest down. He also thinks that if he were the mother bird, he’d leave the babies to die—she owes them nothing. He feels like he doesn’t owe anyone anything either; if it weren’t for other people, he wouldn’t be here. Thinking these bitter thoughts helps Cole focus, but it does nothing for the pain. Exhausted, he finally falls asleep and dreams of the at.óow.
When the narrator notes that thinking bitter thoughts helps Cole focus, it suggests that his entire thought process and worldview revolves around being angry and bitter. It’s a habit, in other words; he doesn’t know any other way to look at the world around him. His thoughts on the bird’s nest reiterate how entrenched he is in the cycle of violence. He wants the birds to suffer the same emotional and physical pain that he has, for no other reason than because he thinks that hurting others might make him feel better.
Cole wakes in the middle of the night to thunder and lightning. When lightning flashes, Cole sees the Spirit Bear about 50 feet away. He’s terrified, but when lightning flashes again, the animal is gone. Cole thinks the bear is a coward—it’s just waiting to kill him until Cole is too weak to fight back. The storm picks up, and Cole curls into a ball to try to protect himself—but it hurts too much. He cries for help, but no one comes. Suddenly, he feels a prickling sensation and then hears an explosion next to him. Cole can smell something burning and feels as though he’s never been so exposed and vulnerable. He realizes that he’s always been this weak. Eventually, the storm blows itself out, and Cole falls back asleep.
Amid the thunderstorm, Cole finally has to confront the inarguable fact that he can’t control anything right now. He survives this storm thanks to sheer luck; he’s too injured to even do anything to protect himself. However, Cole continues to think mean, angry thoughts at the Spirit Bear because he still doesn’t understand how any being could not be afraid of him. It doesn’t make sense to Cole, and therefore, he can’t describe it in neutral terms.
When Cole wakes up, he confusedly looks around and sees that lightning hit a nearby spruce tree. The tree is now on its side mere feet from him. Cole focuses on the full moon and wonders whether he wants to live or die. He remembers that Garvey and Edwin had both said something about a circle, but he can’t remember what. Cole looks around for the Spirit Bear and then remembers the baby birds—their nest was in the fallen tree. He weakly calls out to ask if they’re okay.
Because Cole is so afraid right now, he naturally looks for other beings who might also be afraid and struggling. This is why he thinks of the baby birds. He recognizes that these tiny creatures aren’t all that different from him right now—they just happen to have a mother who cares about them. Recognizing this is a first step to developing empathy.