Description: A dark and haunting tale of a young girl trapped in Winter, longing to be free. When Rose and her sister are left to fend for themselves and an ailing mother, they must fight both nature and the darkness of the soul to survive.
"I was taken aback by this piece. It was beautifully written, the rhythm and language of the author's word choice was something akin to a stake being pounded into your heart. And yet through the pain, you love it." ~ Kenneth Kao
"The timber and fiber of this book is remarkable. The characters are real and become even more so with each word. There is light and gentleness in the writing style. While the story is as old as time, the writer ensures it feels like the first time it's ever been written or read." ~ Leslie
I check the traps every day and watch for signs of life, in case they need to be moved.
For three frustrating weeks they remain empty.
Then, one day, just when I decide I’m a fool and don’t have a clue what I’m doing, I find magic when I go check, spotting through the trees and underbrush, a dark heap lying in the snow.
Excitement fills me and I can’t help smiling in satisfaction. My first catch. And whatever it is, it’s huge. A deer.
No, maybe an elk.
It’s a dark mound against the white ground, blood splattered around it like red rain fell in the night. I move closer, through the brush, and see a piece of my rope, tugged out and taut, across a fallen tree, like the beast tried to get away. I push aside a hanging branch.
A boot. A cloak.
A lock of brown hair curls over a pale brow.
It’s not a deer. It’s a man.
My heart lurches at the site of his strong hands, clutching the snow. His back, broad inside his coat.
Fear laces through me.
I can’t tell what I’m afraid of. He could hurt me. He could be dead. I don’t have a clue which idea scares me more.
His skin is pale and tinted blue at the fingertips, the lips. Tiny puffs of air emerge from his nose, slow, slow, and slower, like he’s fading away.
I move around his head, to his legs, and try to get a better view of his foot. It looks like the knife I tied to my string trap impaled his calf. There’s swaths of blood in the snow and on his pant leg. The flesh that’s around the wound is dark and swollen—a sign he’s been here for most of the morning, a sign he might be past fixing. But it’s the cold that’ll kill him first.
He moans, and I jump back, pulse quickening.
His face turns and I see now, he’s covered in mountain dust, his flesh smeared with black.
From the mines.
I move back another step and have to clench my leg muscles to keep from kicking him. I consider pulling my knife from his leg and walking away, letting him freeze to death in the snow. It won’t take much longer.
He’s a miner. He’s stains and soot and the smell of sweat in my lungs—
“Help,” comes a scratchy voice. His violet lips barely move. His eyes crack open, revealing green. Shimmery green, like summer.
I stare at him in wonder and shame. He looks so young. No more than seventeen or eighteen. He’s bleeding at my feet, and all I can think of is how I might make him suffer when he’s already in Hell.
I take in a deep breath and then kneel at his side.
I study the wound more carefully. I tear his pants and look for embedded dirt or sticks. I touch around the area, checking for places gone hard with ice. His eyes follow every one of my movements, wide and watchful. His brow is tight with worry. It could be my imagination, but he seems frightened of me.
He jerks back when I look straight at him, and then I remember. My eyes. They give me away for the witch I’ve become.
“Just be still,” I say, a little too rough. “We’ve gotta get that blade out and tie a tourniquet on the leg to stop the bleeding.”
“You’re just…a kid,” he mutters. “Don’t touch me.”
“Oh, and you’re an old man. Well, I guess I’ll just let you lie here, then. That is, until a pack of wolves come by to help you out of your predicament.” I take off my overcoat to free my arms up to work. “It’s me who set that trap and it’ll be me who gets you out.” I study him. “What’re you doing out here, anyway?”
He shakes his head, like he doesn’t know the answer to my question—or maybe he doesn’t want to tell me. “Running. Running away.”
“Running right into my trap,” I say.
He looks like he’s still running in his mind, fear clear in his features. He coughs and clutches his coat closer to his chest. “There was a cave-in. In the mine.”
“Another one?” I ask. When he doesn’t answer, I decide there’ll be time for questions later and say, “The wound doesn’t look too bad, but I’ve got to get the knife out, so sit still and look away.”
He doesn’t look away, but he keeps still as a statue.
I reach for the dagger with purpose and don’t let myself hesitate. I yank before I can think of the consequences or the pain I’m causing.
He hisses through his teeth and his face scrunches tight in agony.
I tear a strip from my skirt and cinch it tight to his leg, just below the knee, trying to stop the blood. Luckily, the flow is slowed from the cold.
“We’re gonna get you somewhere warm,” I say. “But you have to help. Can you move?”
His teeth start to chatter—from cold or from shock—probably both. He stares up at me, brow pinched in doubt and torment, then he mumbles something about witches eating him, before he passes out.
Perfect. Now I’ll have to drag him back to the hut on my own.