The branch was low, brittle, as she pushed her way past it. Everywhere the thin and barren trees reached out with clawlike extremities, pulling and tugging at her jacket and hair as Susan weaved her way between them. Evergreen stood before her as though a sentry intent upon keeping the land beyond themselves secret, safe from her prying eyes and clumsy footsteps. The light was dim, a barely perceptible navy blue tinge upon the snow as she pushed into a more forrested area. There were no footprints she could see, tracks of what appeared to be animals were all around her, but the trail she had been following disappeared.
It was impossible, she thought, for a man to disappear like that. To vanish without a trace was something only contained within mystery or science fiction stories. It didn’t happen in real life. Not her life. Still, she looked over her shoulder as though some sort of alien life form would be standing there waiting to take her to its home, to where Christopher probably was. Shaking her head she began to retrace her steps, hoping she would be able to find where his had diverged.
For several yards, within the confines of the coniferous semi-circle she scoured the ground. She rubbed her hands together, breathing on them in turn to keep some semblance of feeling in the almost stark white appendages. How could one even begin to survive out here, out in this freezing cold? He had done so before, she was sure, but she still doubted that had been his intent when he came here. No, she thought, this was a place someone would come to die- not to live. Never to live.
Susan recalled a time not long after that fatal dose of pain medication she had administered to her husband when she looked in the mirror. The slack muscles in the face, the pinched look about the mouth, and pain and lifelessness taking up joint residence in her eyes. It was the image she had of herself when she had woken in the hospital; when she was surrounded by her fatherless children; when the doctor told her she had to stay for further evaluation- that she had no choice. Her fingers traced where the scars lay, beneath several layers of cloth, and pushed past the exhaustion now hovering over her. She had been given a second chance. Her, a murderer, had been given a second chance by shear serendipity and she desperately wanted Christopher to have that now.
At the edge of the evergreens she paused, wracking her brain she thought of where he might go, where she would have gone had she thought of this abandonment as her path to freedom instead of in a razor’s edge, and realized it was here. Methodically she began parting the branches before her, moving around the vast circumference as quickly as she dared. Seeing no sign of him, she moved on to the next tree. Then the next.
Her mind was getting sluggish now, gears moving slowly and muddled as she tried to focus her energy and eyes under the fourth tree. She was about to move away when she saw something. It was a strange color, a pattern that did not belong in nature lying upon the ground in a heap. Of their own accord her arms reached out before her and grasped the bundle feeling muscle and flesh beneath the heavy layers.
Be sure to tune in on Thursday!