Estimated reading time — 6 minutes
An icy pain crept through his ungloved hands as he arose from unconsciousness, laid upon a pile of snow. The blizzard had calmed to a lazily falling cascade around him now, a frigid wind picked up the snow and pinched his cheeks, evoking the searing pain in his head. He felt the familiar weight of the gun in his hand and tightened his grip on it as he pulled himself up. Shifting for a second, he regained his balance. His nose was wet above his lip, and every time he inhaled a shaky breath it made a sound like rusted pipes were in his chest.
He raised his hand to touch his nose but quickly recoiled as a withering, intense pain claimed his the features of his face. He glanced at his fingertips now spotted with blood. “Broken.” He whispered thoughtfully to himself. He had felt this kind of pain before. Turning in slow circles, he shivered as the snow soaked through his thin nightwear. The scenery was familiar to him but coated in the black of night, it was hard to comprehend.
Searching through the screen of falling snow, his eyes landed upon a glowing light in the distance between the trees. The orange, slowly dying light reflected off the ice that was frozen to the tree’s thin trunks. As he stared, trying to unpuzzle the pieces of the blur of color, it suddenly dawned on him and his heart sank. The cabin, the only cabin within a 5-mile radius, his cabin was on fire. Without a second thought, he slung the rifle strap across his chest and plunged through the snow with a wobbling stride, his sneakers sinking into the snow with every step. He arrived at the cabin, the heat of the dying flames had melted the snow surrounding it.
The ashes, blown into the air by the icy breeze, mixed eerily with the falling snow as it blackened his white sweater sleeves. It seemed to taunt, to remind him of his unfortunate mistake. He sank to his knees and stared at the horror before him, the snow upon the ground made the flames appear to burn brighter. His family’s small cottage, once luxurious was now shrinking to a pile of ashes. With every step feeling as if needles pierced his body. It took all of his strength to stand up once again on his feet. Fueled by rage, he raised his shaky voice
“Where are you?” Puffs of icy smoke broke from his chapped lips as he shouted into the frozen wind. He received no reply, again and again, he cried out, until his voice was hoarse, his throat scratchy. But the only thing to hear was the soft whistle of the winter’s wind and the low hiss of the now subduing flames. His body felt as though he was floating, the pain was restrained by the rapid adrenaline coursing through his veins. He was enraged, with this anger in his blood, he trudged through the snow with a fierce march to his red SUV parked beside the reminisces of his vacation home. The SUV was mysteriously left untouched, he searched his jean pockets for the keys, but then remember he had left it on the kitchen countertop before him and his fiance made their way to bed.
“Sophia” he mumbled to himself. She must be in the woods, she must be trying to get help. Cursing, he raised the butt of his gun to the window and shattered the glass. He pulled his sweater sleeve over his palm and gingerly stuck his hand through the broken window and unlocked the door from the inside. He threw back the car door and crawled across the driver’s and passenger seat to pull open the glove compartment, where he kept his extra bullets. Fishing through the empty boxes he opened the white container and dumped it his hand. Five brand new, unblemished, silver bullets laid shining in his pale palm. Reloading the gun he glanced out the passenger window, spotting something that made his heart contract.
Blood, it stained the snow, tracing a trail that leads deeper into the woods. He brought the gun to his chest and crawled into the passenger seat. He sat there for a moment. Preparing himself, he inhaled and exhaled slowly. There was no pain in his body now, only numbness. He thought of her then, her red hair like a halo around her head as she slept. She was so calm then, in his last memory of her, he would have mistaken her to be dead if not for the twitch of her lips, as her eyes slowly came open. She stared at him through the dark room for a second before smiling.
“What are you doing?’ she had whispered.
He shook his head violently, he has to stay focused. He threw open the passenger door, making his way to the small trail of blood. He squatted next to it, sliding his fingers through the crimson blotch, it seemed fresh, unfrozen along with the snow. He quickly stood up, wiping his fingers across his sweater where the ashes and blood smeared and mixed across his chest.
He traveled further into the woods, following the trail of splattered blood. He held his gun tightly in front of him. He felt like his senses were heightened, every sound was louder, every smell stronger, every snowflake that grazed his skin seemed colder. The trail continued into the forest for what seemed like hours until the trees opened into what in spring would be a field of flowers, but now laid in front of him as a sea of white, the moonlight lit the field with a heavenly glow. He remembered bringing her here when they were younger before the love’s fire steaded to ember. When he placed that ring upon her finger he had never felt so calm, so content.
As he thought of her he caught a glimpse of red, like the cabin fire, like the blush of blood against the snow. For at first he thought his daze of paranoia had brought his imagination to life, a mirage of his love stood before him, just a few feet away. He stared at her as she raised the bat steadily at her side, the barrel of the bat stained red. Everything raced back to him, knocking him out of his daze.
He remembered approaching her as she slept, when she awakened, asking him to return to bed it made him furious. For her to act as if his feelings were no matter to her. They would call him crazy for not trusting her, for following her to work, watching her sleep. As he stared at her in the dark, he smiled and approached her. She returned his smile sitting up slightly so he could get under the blanket.
“What do you have?” she whispered, noticing his hand laid behind his back.
“Nothing,” he mumbled a reply before pulling the hidden object above his head.
She sucked in a breath when she saw the moonlight from the window glint across the blade. Wriggling away from him, he caught her by her hair, raised the blade, and stabbed her. A deep gash opened up on her side, spilling blood onto her thin nightgown, splattering it onto the sheets. She cried out in pain, before dropping over the side of the bed, gaining her balance and running down the stairs. He strode down as quickly as he could. He heard no sound, saw no movement, smelt no blood. He searched every corner, nook, and niche; but found no trace of her. He threw on his sneakers quickly. He had almost laid his hand on the front door’s knob and into the blizzard before he saw the pistol, ling tauntingly on the door side table. Throwing the pistol into his grasp he pursued her once again. As he opened the cabin door where she stood near the SUV a bat in her hands, a look of fear and bravery lit her green eyes. He approached her, but as he neared her she dashed toward the woods. He chased her nearing with every stride, but he could never quite reach her, as for she turned on her heels, catching him off guard. She raised the bat and swiftly swung it across his head, knocking him out.
He stood now in the falling snow, watching her as she shook. She was scared now, the bravery had settled to terror.
“Eli-” she whispered but he cut her off.
“You hit me, knocked me out,” he said taking on a shocked tone.
“You stabbed me!” she yelled.
“It was for your own good, our own good!” He screamed back hoarsely.
She shuddered, tears welling up in her eyes. “Eli I love you okay, now put down the g-”
He was breathing heavy, trying to keep his emotions from swelling to the surface. “Shut up!” he screamed tears spilling down his cheeks, like ice water burning his skin.
She jumped, dropping the bat and raising her hands. “Eli we can start over, I promise I love you.” she gripped her side, blood staining her palms, spilling onto the snow at her feet.
“There’s nothing to start over from, our fire is ashes,” he whispered, and without hesitation raised the gun, aimed and pulled back the trigger.
She was left alone in the snow, crying gently for the man she had once loved, dropping to her knees beside him, she watched as the light left his eyes.
CREDIT : Grace Smith