When she woke up she had to blink to let her eyes get used to the harsh light. It reflected violently from every direction off the snow. Raising herself up on her elbows she looked around; everywhere, snow – white and shining. Naked trees broke up the monotony of color, but their bony grayness was hardly comforting.
With smoking breath she struggled to her feet. The initial shock having passed, she began to feel the real effects of the situation. Her skin wavered between numbness and sharp pain from prolonged contact with the snow. The cotton pants and shirt did nothing to shield her from the wind; they were damp from the drift she had been lying in. As she wrapped the loose bottoms of her pants around her red toes, tucking the fabric into the straps of her sandals, she tried to force her mind into the present. The past remained a black void – even her own name eluded her.
Shivering, she jogged forwards through the brush, shaking her arms to revive feeling and clenching and unclenching her fists. It wasn't an easy going; every limb was so stiff and cold. The snow and trees seemed to go on forever in every direction. The chill was eerily silent; the frozen ground a static mass of scenery – she felt as though time had stopped for all but her.
Having regained the smallest amount of composure, she began to wander what she was going to do. There didn't seem to be any life anywhere. She pressed forward, hoping that the sustained activity might keep her from becoming a frozen statue in the labyrinth of trees.
When she first saw the black flash some ways ahead she thought she must have been hallucinating. But then there it was again, on the right this time. Both hope and fear took hold of her heart. Was it a man? An animal? Salvation or certain death? Setting her hopes on the former (especially considering certain death awaited anyway if she didn't take any action soon), she ran in the direction of the tree it had disappeared behind. But when she reached it nothing was there. Looking back, she could no longer tell what direction she had come from.
She let out a cry of frustration. Then, out of the corner of her eye, the flash appeared again – closer this time. She turned quickly and ran forward, but her wet sandals slipped out from under her and she fell forward into an unforgiving drift of snow. She picked herself up again with scratched and bleeding hands. Drops of blood barely had time to fall before they froze, leaving little scarlet rubies lying on the pure white ground.
She wrapped her hands in her shirt as she searched right and left for the elusive figure in black. A crack to the left sounded out like a gunshot in the deadly peace of the forest's quiet. She turned and there stood a man, or so she guessed, as a heavy black cloak shielded his face. After a pregnant pause he walked away, the edge of his cloak erasing his footsteps from the snow.
She screamed, "Please…Wait," and tried to follow, but only succeeded in falling again. The exposure was beginning to affect her vision. With a foggy head she managed to get back on her feet. The man had vanished. She wanted to cry out again, but no sound would leave her throat. She covered her face in her hands. How could anyone be so callous? She was going to die here…
Then suddenly there was a warm roughness against her elbow. Lowering her hands she saw the man standing directly before her. His hood was pushed back revealing a well-formed face. A few black hairs strayed over his forehead; they matched his dark eyes, which now searched her features with an intensity equal to her own gaze. He touched her face softly; her numb cheeks hardly felt the black gloves as they traced her jawline.
She couldn't move; both the cold and his gaze had rendered her body immobile. He passed his thumb over her bottom lip, but it didn't even register in her mind; she was already falling back into darkness.
He caught her as her body crumpled and pulled her into the shelter of his cloak.