Disclaimer: Not mine...Cameron and Eglee...etc. Consider the relative material officially disclaimed.
Feedback: please E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Archive: anybody at the X-5 list if they actually want it. Anybody else, just ask.
Author's Note: I got the idea for this, somehow, after reading Frost's "Birches" for the first time in ages. It isn't really similar to that poem, but I thought I'd mention it anyhow. I hope y'all like this. Very short, but maybe it makes sense. Let me know :)
Her first recollection, when she looks back at this time, will be of the cold.
She will remember the cold, nearly unbearable. Not the guns or the dogs or the screams, hot on her heels. She who is too terrified to look back, knowing what she will see. No, they have always been there - the guards and their guns, the dogs. The screams, if only in her head, but the cold...
She's never been this cold. She's trained in the cold, and in the heat. Hungry and thirsty and dirty. She's been chained under water and made to hold her breath until the world becomes many-colored and misty. But she's never been cold like this - bare feet in the snow, a thin nightgown. And the realization, suddenly, that if she wants anything more substantial she will have to get it for herself.
The trees grab her attention next. Tall, dead things with no leaves, only branches covered with yet more snow. Towering above her. Dispassionate as they watch her run and her brothers and sisters scatter or fall and bleed and die. She hates them. And then she doesn't, because if not for the trees then where would she be? Caught. Caught in the middle of nowhere with nowhere to hide, and they'd have her. They'd take her back to that place where her TAC leader would tower over her. Tall, forbidding; with dead eyes and no compassion for small things that run away in the night.
Jondy has always been small. Smaller than all the others. She's been towered over all of her life. And when she no longer needs them - the trees - when the guards are behind her, and the guns and the screams, and she's off again, trudging through white powder with toes gone numb, Jondy hates the trees once more. Because they tower over her. Because they're cold and dead, and she's had enough of that. Because she wants to break them. She wants to bend their boughs beneath her feet and walk on top.
She wants to be them.
Jondy wants to be tall. Maybe she wants to be dead. Dead to the cold and the pain and the fear nearly making her mindless as she races through the woods. She wants to ascend to their heights, so she races faster. Faster and faster towards the edge of the woods where the trees grow ever slightly shorter. And she's totally forgotten direction, discretion. She doesn't care that she's breathing hard enough to be heard or that the occasional twig snaps beneath her step. All Jondy sees is the trees; all she feels is cold. Cold and nothing else; nothingness and cold. Alone.
And she's nearly dead by the time she reaches a town, nearly a day and two blackouts later. Sick and shivering and blue all over, but she does it. She's done it. She's dragging herself into an abandoned barn to rest and recover; burrowing under a pile of hay that scratches her skin like the tree bark had before. And not caring because she's warm and she's in the loft. There's a crack in a wall nearby and through it Jondy can see the horizon, and the treetops, so far behind and below her.
And her first recollection, when she looks back at that time now, is of the cold. Her second is of the trees. She lights a fire to warm herself by, looking out the window to the trees swaying in the cold, winter wind. The sound of; boots, and barks, and bullets have receded over time, and beneath the crackle of flames coming from a chimney or a trash can or whatever else she's made available to herself. And Jondy thinks of trees and cold and wonders how it is that she lived through those first, frightening days of freedom. She remembers the times when she's wished that she hadn't.
Then she throws another log on the fire.
And decides that life will do.