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My feet slugged into the wet ground as I approached the opening of the tent. The moon glanced off of my darkened shelter, and all I could see were the ripples of white light against the synthetic fabric. Outside, winter was thick and menacing. Snow was piled on the frozen lake, but it was muddied from animals and shoes. I had never experienced snow before. I thought it was supposed to be beautiful and calming: now it was just cold and in the way.
I trembled as my tent zippered open, and let a gust of frigid air breeze through. I heard a sharp squeal that was high-pitched and loud.
“India Jean Lor, stay in that tent!” There was an old lady outside my tent, making sure I didn’t run off. She was just as strict as a guard. I was the only child on this trip, and my guard turned out to be a round, old lady with horrifying features. I found her to be very obnoxious in a perky way, except for when she scowled and got angry. I tried to ignore her, and shuffled down the rest of the tent opening so I could get outside.
“Did you hear me? No one goes out here except us adults.”
“You can’t keep me prisoner, I just need to find someone.” I noticed that I had said more than necessary, but this old lady would never get off my back.
“India, you better get back in that tent and stop trying to escape. We would’ve noticed if someone went missing.” I shuddered as she called me India. Everyone called me Jeanie; it had always been that way. The old lady just didn’t get it. I stayed where I was, glancing around the busy campsite on the frozen lake.
“Exactly,” I whispered, knowing I shouldn’t have said that either.
“Excuse me?” She said briskly.
“Of course you wouldn’t have noticed, and I can’t explain it, but someone is lost!” I shouted, feeling power in my voice for the first time in awhile.
“You don’t make any sense child.”
“My name is Jeanie, and I have to find Jasper!”
It didn’t make any sense. Why couldn’t I go outside? I’m sure no one dangerous could be out there. We were stranded in the middle of nowhere. When I told Mother that I wanted to travel, I didn’t expect a frozen lake in the dead of winter. This was only one of Mother’s free painting adventures. She worked as a painter, and got money for traveling with groups around the world, painting what they saw. Mother was always busy though, and had no time for me. The old lady had tried to act like a babysitter before, but, being twelve, I hardly needed one anymore. Mother never pays attention to me.
Just as things started to plummet downward, I had been separated from Jasper, my wolf. My invisible wolf.
“Well Jeanie, no one wants to hear your childish stories. I’m sure Jasper is just an imaginary friend.” She chuckled, showing her grimy, yellow teeth.
“He’s not imaginary!” I spat.
“Fine, but you’re getting back in that tent and you will stay there.” She was a witch, and not the nice kind. I’m sure she had more evil in her than was healthy.
“I need to find him. Please; I just need to find him.” My voice was uncontrollably shaking, and soon, my frustration would bring on the hot, salty liquid that would stain my golden cheeks. The lady noticed, and put a firm, wrinkled hand on my shoulder, squeezing it slightly too hard.
“Come on child, you’re tired. Why don’t we warm up in the tent?” She tried getting me inside, but I flailed about. I couldn’t just sit around and do nothing while Jasper was wandering lost in an unfamiliar place. My hand jabbed into her cheek, sending the oversized glasses across the small space. I slipped from her grasp but went to the muddy ground with a thump.
“No one will hit me,” she wailed over and over again with the same expression as the last. It looked like she was having a seizure.
“I didn’t mean it, I’m sorry, but I just have to find Jasper!” I backed away from her as she regained balance on her thick, stumpy legs, but now her look was malicious. I turned to run, but I felt a sharp tug on my scalp. The guard’s hand had become entangled in my auburn hair, and she twisted it around and around as if it were a leash.
“Let go of me!” I shrieked, hearing the sounds reverberate from the enclosed fabric.
“You will not disobey me child,” she whispered, her tongue slithering in and out from behind her braced jaw. I caught her blinking repeatedly, her deep black irises wandering in no particular direction. There was only heavy breathing now, and I managed to twist from her loosened grip once again.
I found her glasses, and threw them against the back part of the tent where they hit and crashed to the ground. She pounced at the sound, thinking it was me, and I bolted outside, feeling a sting of severe cold. I knew I could run. Jasper said I could run as fast as a cheetah in a rush. My arms steadied my movement, and I sped through the wind as my legs flew from behind me, only my bare toes reaching the bitter ground. I heard yells and frantic shrieks from the campsite, and possibly faint footsteps. I knew I could outrun them; I just had to push myself farther, farther into the black night with the depths of an arctic lake beneath me.
I couldn’t stop running. My fear was mixed with determination, carrying me through mounds of snow and leading me through touch, rather than sight. Soon, my breathing was heavy, and I could feel my lungs tightening up. I prayed that I could hold on and make it until I found Jasper, then I knew I would be alright. I slowed, pacing myself for a long night of traveling.
My eyes drooped and I could suddenly feel a numbing sensation against my feet. Nothing had ever bothered them before. They were as hard as stone, but I feared they would soon turn black with frostbite. I rubbed my hands together, creating warmth from friction and feeling a liquid drip down my face.
The moon, I found, was a good guide, even though I wasn’t sure what it meant. It laid a small, silver path and I hoped that it was the same path Jasper had continued to follow, whatever state he was in. That thought triggered a worrying sensation. What if he was hurt? What if he had been attacked and couldn’t move? What if he had gone hungry or was lost or even sightless? I tried to push those thoughts away, but every once in awhile, they popped up, refusing to be let go.
Suddenly, an abrupt sound jerked me to full awareness. I was no longer frightened, even if I should have been. The sound made my ears perk, or they would have perked if I were some kind of animal with perkable ears. A howling sound whizzed past my ears, and it was unmistakable. I was close to him. I could feel it. A dizzy feeling passed through me, and my mind seemed to be moving to the far corners, away from my control. It was almost as if I was subconsciously making room for something else, or maybe someone else.
The distinct voice echoed in my mind, yet now I was familiar with it. This was not the first time Jasper had tried to contact me.
“Yes,” I breathed into the night, confident that he would be able to hear me.
Jeanie, I am close, just past the trail of the moon. Come to me Jeanie, I need you.
That was surprising. Jasper hardly ever needed me, it was usually reversed. My stomach knotted again. He must be in trouble. I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t want to worry him, although my fear was taking me over. Now all I could hear was my wolf saying my name over and over again, moaning, grieving. I started running again, forgetting the cold. Jasper was near, and I had to help him.