Ice-cold fingers that no longer shivered reached out to touch the tree. The bark must have been rough, but I did not feel it. I leaned back, resting my head against the hard stability of the trunk. The ground, covered with a thin layer of brittle snow, stretched away into the woods, but my feet did not seem to touch it. I could feel nothing below the soles of my shoes. My face was a frozen mask of dull pretense. Even here, so far from home, I heard their voices in my head. Even here I saw them before my eyes, taunting me, beckoning me to follow. Even here, alone in the woods, they found me. The cold could not freeze their hearts as it did mine. They shouted, laughing in my face, their breath like fire on my skin. I backed away, tripping over feet I could not feel and falling on the coverlet of snow. I took some in my bare hands, and it felt warm. I pushed it crunching against my face. The fire of their breath grew hotter. More, more, I scooped the snow into a pile. Frenzied hands, shaking with hate instead of cold, blew the snow onto my face, my neck, my hair. I saw them, but they were not mine. I could not feel them. The laughter, the cries of scorn, must be stopped. My mind must be stopped. The memories must be stopped. They swam before my eyes, dazzling like the snow, dancing like they who surrounded me. The door, thundering closed again and again. The memories hurt like the cold glitter in the bottom of the drawer. I slammed it shut before the light could tempt me. No, I didn’t. I opened it, filled it with snow to freeze the glitter and melt it into fire. It would stop. It didn’t. I opened my mouth to scream, but my voice froze in the air, a floating cloud of ice crystals. They still surrounded me, still hammered my courage. I had to make them stop, but my fingers would no longer move. They lay spread on the ground by my face. My mind said I straightened my arms, and the snow moved further away. I stood, but I did not need to because I floated, disconnected from the earth. I saw my feet stumbling through the snow, but somehow they were not mine. The voices in my head ceased to shout. I stopped, stumbled and fell again. I lay still, and the voices did not yell. Slowly, I pulled myself to the base of a tree, leaned back until my eyes told me I sat against it. The voices only whispered. My lips tried to smile, but something held them still. I drew my hand to my mouth and looked down at the red stain on my fingers. It was cold. But the voices only whispered. The shapes haunting me stopped, held back by the red ring of snow. They could not reach me. But the voices still whispered. I had to stop them too, stop them all the way. I shut my eyes and stood up, reeling backwards. I did not know I had stopped moving until I opened my eyes again and saw I lay in the snow. The tree above me was dripping. The red grew darker. For the third time I sat up. The voices could not reach me now, for I was inside the ring, part of the circle. I looked down and saw the red covering my hands, my shirt. My hair fell in front of my eyes, and it was red too. But there was silence. The voices were gone. I was alone. No more could memories corrode my heart. Safe. So far from home, I could go back now. I could not go back. I did not know the way. But if I did, I could go. If I wanted to. I smiled, and something cracked. My mask broke. A last tired voice whispered from ages away. My eyes told me I leaned back against the tree. I reached up, covered them with my hands. Then I think I let my hands fall back to the snow. My eyes did not tell me. I tried to see, but they did not open. The lonely voice died. The ice cloud of my breath blew away to nothing.
February 5, 2012