The pull of the thaw was compelling me to step forwards, out, away. I wanted to breathe the fresh wet air, to be shrouded by sky. To leave behind staleness, cold, fear and most of all, hunger.
I forced myself to turn. Jed’s eyes were hollowed in his bearded face. His nose scaled and raw. The bruise on his head was still a lurid purple. Now he was trying to sit up. His breath rasped out of his throat.
“Wait” he said, “please wait.”
He was shaking the sleeping bag next to him. I heard Theresa moan and the cry of her hungry baby. I knew I should feel pleased she had made it through the night, but now there were four of us. I could make it alone, but with injured Jed and exhausted Theresa, with her new baby son? But if I left them, I knew they’d be dead by the time I returned.
I was half out into the cool wetness. Everything glistened. Clean. Fresh.
I was facing a new fear – the fear of living with myself if I left them now.
“I’ll be back” I said, without looking at them.
By angela h, on Blogspot
I walked out.
And I kept walking, though the snow was packed tight, dragging at me, and the pain was back. Yet everywhere, the world went on melting, dazzling. The wind slid softly through the trees and the sound of falling water became a pattering, as of tiny, hidden feet. I watched a bird rise from the branches and scratch a russet line across the sky. The day shouldn’t have been so beautiful . . .
I was determined I wouldn’t turn back. I wouldn’t even glance over my shoulder, not once. I tasted rotting wood beneath the sweet, hard tang of ice.
When the trees stepped closer and the snow began to thin a little, and to darken beneath my boots, I made my strides longer, faster. I broke into a clumsy jog, and then a run.
I let the branches whip at me, I welcomed the brief turn of my ankle against a frozen log - but it was no good. The thought of them kept pace with me. All that had happened was right there, in my tangled breath and jolting steps. There was no out-running it. The memories pressed in on me, bright and close.
Your turn . . .