Disclaimer: All recognizable characters belong to their respective owners.
Many thanks to PTB for their awesome help.
The only thing spoiling the beautiful day is fear. It keeps coming in waves, the epicenter being two yards below my feet.
The sky is clear; it's nice change after yesterday's storm. The snow is pristine, and small snowballs are still rolling down the slope.
I tear my eyes away from the view and head down the mountain. I am not surprised by the direction the fear keeps coming from. I knew he would end up there. There is no reason to dig him out though. There is no food, no warm place, and no medical treatment around. The nearest town is fifty miles away. If I dig him out, I will only prolong his suffering. With things being what they are, he will be dead in less than half an hour… which is precisely as it should be.
I am already halfway down the hill when the panic disappears, replaced by an emotion that makes me stop. The fear has changed to happiness and amusement.
I can't remember the last time when I felt emotions this soothing. My feet move on their own, carrying me back to the source. As I sink onto my knees above his grave, I smell blood. Joyful emotions and blood — two of my favorite things irresistibly joined together. I lie down on the ground, bathing in his joyful feelings and listening to his heartbeat.
If I get him out, will he stay this happy?
I knew it was coming. The roar was rolling down the hill, and the ground was shivering. Unfortunately, I also knew I could do nothing to prevent it. I took off my backpack to reduce my weight, and as I was throwing it away, I was hit in my chest, and the ground was ripped out from under me. Seconds later, I was a hundred yards down the hill.
I felt like a puppet in a washing machine. There was no way to fight it, and I was tumbling, rolling and flying down the hill. Backwards, head down, sideways, my position kept changing as quickly as my surroundings. I was wrapped by darkness one second and saw a light in the next one. I could breathe freely one moment and was out of air the next. The noise was deafening…a wall of sound attacked my senses, scaring me more than the fall itself, making me tiny and vulnerable. I lost track of time; I was hoping for the flight to end, as much as I feared it.
Falling down, I kept my arms as close to my head as I could manage, trying to create a safe space around my face and hoping I can manage to increase the amount of air in my soon-to-be prison.
And after a while, the flight is over.
The impact is as hard as I feared it would be. Every muscle in my body is beaten; every bone aches like it's broken. The word gravitation has lost its meaning. I can't tell which way's up and which is down; the pressure is coming equally as strong from all directions.
The avalanche has stopped. The last crunching sounds of moving snow die away, and my heart is furiously pumping blood into all parts of my beaten body. The sound of the blood, humming in my head, is deafening, and my whole body is pulsing along with my heart.
Everything around me is dark, tight, and silent.
It's not a prison. It's more like a grave.
I am totally encased in snow, trapped in the clenched fist of a giant. The pressure is strong, but I am afraid of exploding from fear. All that terror that keeps coming from my racing heart craves to leave my body, and I feel like screaming my lungs off. Only, I can't — my mouth is full of snow, and the only things I can move are my eyes behind my eyelids. Go to hell with all those damn ideas of how to swim in an avalanche; how to make an air pocket around your face. How to spit to find out where the sky is. Damn you!
I managed to take a deep breath and hold it just as the avalanche was stopping. It has given me a slight free space around my chest now, some breathing room. I try to move with all my strength, and my terror increases when absolutely nothing happens. Over-pressurized steam boiler, that's me. I am sure the fear is leaking from every pore of my body.
Snow is melting under my clothes and on my cheeks. One side of my face is on fire, the other is freezing. My right hand is somewhere near my back, hurting more than the rest of my body. I try to push the snow from my mouth with my tongue, but I can't do it. So, I try to eat it.
It felt different during our training.
I remember I was afraid the guys would leave me buried for more minutes than we agreed to — just to make it more memorable for me. I remember hearing their voices and laughter. And I also remember the relief when I felt the tip of a probe poking my neck.
I try to slow down my breathing, but it isn't working. The tight space around my face is filling with carbon dioxide, and it doesn't matter how deep a breath I take, the amount of oxygen is decreasing. Snow that has melted around my face is re-freezing again, creating an icy, airtight mask around my face. My muscles are working overtime to pump the air into my lungs, but it's not enough. I am close to hyperventilation.
I remember Mark hadn't been happy about my joining the Alaska mountain rescue group two years ago. He tried to stay close, but I kept selfishly going farther away from him all the time, preferring the time in the mountains to the time in town. I used to tell him I was much safer as a member of the team than as a tourist wandering around alone. I never told him, though that I loved wandering alone even as a member of the team.
Jack dropped me off at my cabin six days ago. The guys know where I am. Well, with the accuracy of a few ten miles anyway. I don't carry an avalanche transceiver on me. It is irresponsible and childish, but I hate being tied to civilization that way. I never carry a cell in the town either. The reason I keep leaving civilization and spend as much time in the wilderness as I can, is to break all the ties. There is an ancient radio in the cabin, but other than that, I am free.
Well, as free as a man under several tons of snow can get anyway.
Maybe they will search for my body in spring. Will Mark want to bury my corpse after the shit I pulled on him? I should have called him months ago. Gone bowling again. I would have kicked his ass just like I used to. He would have thrown my irresponsibility and recklessness in my face, and everything would have been fine. Not like being in this cold, dark, and sleepy place. Funny, how a thing so white can get so dark.
As I slip into unconsciousness, thinking about Mark, I feel him near, almost hearing his footsteps somewhere above me.
I close my eyes as I feel his happiness fading away, his heartbeat slowing down. Just several more minutes and I will be alone again.
My fingers bury in the snow, even before the possible loss can register in my brain.
Waist-deep in snow, I relish his fragrant scent; the smell of his blood is getting stronger with every handful. When the snow under my hands turns pink, I stop. The snow around his body has already melted, and now drops of pink water are rolling down my fingers. Ever so slowly, I bring my hand to my face, and close my eyes as I take a deep breath.
I help myself to another scoop. My tongue darts out before I can reconsider. When the first drop touches the tip of my tongue, electricity runs through my whole body. Never have I tasted anything like this before. I start to dig frantically, my fingers sinking into the snow mass like claws. Every cell in my body screams at me to get him out, to touch him, to taste him, to drain him.
My nails suddenly sink into his flesh. Beautiful ruby drops are sparkling on the tips of my fingers; the contrast of the red blood and white snow makes them even more appealing.
I free his motionless upper torso from the snow. My eyes don't leave the crimson drops sparkling on his face. His right temple and cheek are harshly grazed from the fall, and the three scratches my nails have left on his cheek help the blood come to the surface even better.
Air in our deep crevice in the snow becomes potent, and I am lightheaded.
I put my hand on his chest for support and lean closer to smell, to feel, to taste again. His heart is thumping under my hand, and the smell of his blood is intoxicating. Never in my existence have I met anyone who smelled and tasted so delicious. He has me under his spell, and I couldn't leave even if I wanted to. And I don't.
I watch his face getting better color from the oxygen — alluring.
Leaning even closer, I smell his fragrant scent — captivating.
I trace his temple with the tip of my tongue — irresistible.
I press my lips to his cheek where my fingernails have left their marks. When the first sip reaches my throat, I almost collapse on top of him. Sheer joy is spreading through my body, making my knees weak. My own blood starts to pulse through my veins again, and I need more — like every drop his body will be able to give me.
When my teeth pierce the white fragile skin of his neck, and the first gulp is flowing down my throat followed by another and another, I actually do collapse on his chest.
And then he comes to life. Instantly, I am exposed to his pain, panic and horror. It is like an alarm goes off in my head. I stop, painfully aware of the sharp difference between his happy feelings when he was close to death because of the nature, and his current horror caused by me. I know people actually care about how their lives will end; it shouldn't have taken me by surprise. However, his spell over me is broken, and I manage to take myself out of the crevice and away in seconds.
Lightheaded. Beaten and drained. My face is killing me, and when I try to check how bad it is, a sharp pain bolts through my right hand. Everything is hazy. I don't remember hitting my head, but apparently I have, because I can't think of another reason to feel what I am feeling. I remember waking up from a peaceful dream to a frightening reality. I couldn't breathe. It was worse than before, and I panicked, thinking what could be worse than being buried alive under several tons of snow. I wriggled, and the weight from my chest and stomach was suddenly gone.
I open my eyes now and shut them again immediately. I am facing a bright cloudless sky. I am too tired to figure out how this could have happened. I am lying in a deep hole with steep snow walls, my face burning, my hand aching, and I have no desire to get out. Just let me lie motionless, fall asleep, and don't wake me up.
When I open my eyes again, the sky is dark, and it is freezing.
I am staring up at heavy clouds and listening to a howling wind. The moon comes up and, for a second, lights up the walls of my prison. It's like I am in an empty swimming pool with no ladder attached to its wall. I sit up and scramble around with my right hand. Shit. I have lost my glove, and my fingers are already numb. I carefully pull the glove off my uninjured hand and put it on my freezing one. I try to flex my fingers, but the pain in my wrist is unbearable. My legs are still buried deep under the snow, and I am so cold I can hardly move.
I need to get out of here and start a fire. The temperature is dropping; it could easily get as low as minus four degrees Fahrenheit during the night.
My right hand hurts like hell every time I move, and I have nothing to make an arm sling from. I should get used to the pain; there will be a lot of moving in the next few days. I sigh and start my way up. The walls are steep with nothing to hold on to, and I keep kicking my toes in the snow all the way up to get out. When I finally reach the edge, hundreds of needles attack every inch of my exposed skin.
The wind is carrying frozen snow crystals, trying to stuff them into my sleeves, under my hood and into my eyes, robbing me of my breath. The heat of my body caused the snow on and under my clothes to melt earlier, but now the water is re-freezing again. If I don't get a fire going, I'll be dead before morning.
The avalanche debris field is huge and difficult to walk on. The forest is relatively close, but it's dark already. If clouds hide the moon, I'll never find any wood and tinder.
When I reach the forest edge, I fight the urge to vomit from exhaustion. The cold wind causes throbbing pain in the back of my head, and the impulses that my brain is sending to my hands take a long way around. Like to L.A. and back. It takes me an insanely long time to get my knife out of my waist holster using just my left hand, and when I finally manage to do it, I can just stare at the eight-inch long, heavily shaking blade.
Who am I trying to kid? I am dead already. I'll never make it to my cabin. Hell, I'll never make it until morning. I helplessly look around, searching for dead branches and something I could use as tinder. There is nothing. Nothing at all. I wander along the edge of the forest, shielding my face against the gusting wind, hoping for a miracle. I can't go too far into the forest without a light. I need to stick to the edge and hope the moon helps me find what I am so desperately seeking.
The uprooted tree I find after several unbearably long minutes is too small to keep me warm for the whole night, but it takes me forever to drag it back to my swimming pool. It is the only place sheltered from freezing wind. I find some dead grass on my way back and stuff it under my parka to keep me warm and to use later as tinder.
I want to climb down to my crevice, but it is more like a free fall in the end. I definitely shouldn't have tried to slow down the fall. I shouldn't have used my right hand either. Sharp pain bolts from the wrist to my elbow and back when my hand makes contact with the ground, and my body collapses on top of it. I can't remember the last time I felt the need to curse this much. Every time I try to move my hand or my fingers, I think my whole arm will fall off. I sit on the ground, rocking, taking deep breaths to calm down and overcome the pain. If it wasn't broken by the avalanche, it is now.
Several days walking back to my cabin. No food, no equipment, useless hand. I am not going to make it.
I come back in the evening and warily move closer to the edge of the hole.
I need to bite my lip not to burst out into laughter. It's been quite a while since I heard someone swearing in such an earthy way. Maybe letting him live wasn't such a bad thing after all.
The truth is I am bored to death.
I have been in towns around here about a million times already. I know every rabbit hole in this park. I already started mentally debating with myself if I should find some other place to live. It would be nice to argue with someone else for a change. I can't stand the towns around here — too many people and too much noise. I always run away, sated for some time. Sated by the presence of humans and by their blood. I guess my eye color alternates between red and ochre, depending on how lonely I feel.
The only funny things around are bears. And… avalanches.
I knew this one was ripe, and it took just one jump to get the ground moving. I had learned about this adrenaline craziness by accident when I was swept away, and within several moments, I was digging my way out several hundred yards farther down the hill. Until then, I had never experienced something so thrilling. It was so much fun! I finally found a worthy opponent.
Judging from this guy's profanities, it wasn't so much fun for him. I sigh. Seriously, what were you doing there? Fifty miles from the nearest town? Maybe I shouldn't have dug him out. His happiness is gone, and I don't like this new cocktail of his emotions at all — pain, panic, self-pity, and desperation. Give me a break! I don't need this. I am out of here.
And without looking back, I leave.
I am freezing. I search my pockets for the chocolate bar and take a bite. I am terribly thirsty. Knowing that eating snow is not a good option, I scoop just a small snowball, and let the snow melt on my tongue.
I mentally go through the contents of my pockets. Two, no one and a half chocolate bars, a box of matches, and a knife. Nothing more.
I guess Rambo would build a supermarket in the wilderness with this. I have twenty miles in tough terrain to get to the cabin. With no equipment and an injured hand, it will be a piece of cake.
When the first sunrays light up the sky, I scramble to my feet. My legs are trembling, and I keep my teeth clenched, so that they won't clatter.
I stare at the walls of my bunker. There are no visible shovel marks. The short lines all over the walls look like… I definitely hit my head hard. Nobody would be able to dig a hole this deep with their bare hands. I take off my glove and trace the lines with my own fingers. A mild concussion, definitely. That explains the dizziness I felt earlier and the fingerprints I see now.
My way up is even slower and more painful than it was yesterday. When I finally swing my legs over the edge, I know I lost the battle. Those twenty miles to my cabin are definitely an unreachable goal.
The avalanche debris field is huge. I can hardly recognize where I stood when the snow wall hit me. I am taken aback by the distance I was forced to cover.
I hopelessly scan the vast area. I am determined to search at least half of the debris field along the line of my fall. The chance of finding the backpack is slim, but I need to do everything I can. It takes me a better part of two hours to move fifty yards up. Exhausted from the climbing, I drop to my knees, wincing when my right hand touches the ground. The wrist is red and swollen.
"Damn! Where are you?" I am lying on my back kicking the snow with the heel of my boot and yelling at the top of my lungs. I am exhausted, aching and hungry. My mood is darkening with every yard of my fruitless search. I'll never make it without the equipment and food I have in my backpack.
The sunset is at about four o'clock. I need to get up. Cut some branches, make a fire and build a shelter. Everything with my left hand. Great, I can't wait.
The temperature is dropping. I get a fire going and make it big, so that I can spread the live coals along the side of my makeshift bed to keep me warm. It annoys me to no end that I have no cup for melting snow for a drink. I try to ignore my growling stomach. I have eaten the other half of the chocolate bar already, and I need the last bar for later.
If there is a later.
Just one drop. My throat is on fire. One gulp — I can't think about anything else. I want his blood on my fingers again, and I am about to get it.
He is sleeping. The closer I get, the more appealing his scent becomes. Carefully avoiding the flames of his campfire, I kneel above him, shivering with anticipation and prolonging the moment before I taste his blood again. His eyes are moving rapidly, and his emotions are all over the place.
What is he dreaming about? I miss the human ability to sleep and dream. I move my nose along his face. People so fragrant shouldn't leave their houses for their own safety. He stirs, and I freeze on the spot. His movement swirls up the air, his enhanced scent assaults every cell in my body, and I stagger. Can I get drunk from his scent? My lips curl up, baring my teeth.
He has too many clothes on. All I can see are his flushed cheeks, his parted lips. I can feel his hot breath on my face. I can hear blood rushing through his body, humming and pulsing, calling to me. I would trade all my future lonely days for one drop. I was proud of my self-control, of my carefully built resistance and my independence. Who is he to take all of this away from me? Oh, he will so pay for it. Thoughts are flying through my brain, my teeth already above his exposed cheek. My fingers are clutching the collar of his parka, ready to rip the clothes off him to have free access to his throat.
Suddenly, his heartbeat picks up, and I am hit by a strong wave of lust. My eyes widen. Well, I did ask what he dreamed about.
I am still just an inch above him, ready to attack, caught off guard by the way my body reacts to him. This needs to stop. He is sort of my play toy. I keep him alive to have some fun. But the things he is doing to me… Every time I get close, I am under his spell.
Who is the cat, and who is the mouse in this game?
I am used to be a predator, and he is turning my world upside down. I need to get out of here. Somewhere far away from him. I need to think it through — right now.
And yet, I can't move; my body is caught in the middle of the fight. I want to stay, but I am not so sure why. To kill him? To keep him? Can I have him both ways? If I make him my friend, will he let me drink from him occasionally?
He moves again, his hand missing my chest by an inch. Out. Now.
I bolt away from his shelter and keep running. I don't pay attention where I am going. Anywhere is fine if it is far away from him.
I walked for whole day, and with every step my mood darkened. It's evening now, and I can't even remember why I felt optimistic in the morning. I tie new splints to my arm and then clutch freezing fingers to my bare stomach. I eat the whole chocolate bar, not caring about tomorrow. There is no chance I will get up tomorrow anyway. Even now when I am lying, I am dizzy. No point in getting up. I will never reach the cabin. It's just too far away. You were right, Mark; I should have stayed with you. Even close to the fire, my whole body shakes from cold and exhaustion.
It's just a matter of time until I start seeing things that don't exist.
The weather has worsened during night, and the wind is blowing in the morning, making the temperature even lower. I am staying put. This place is as good for dying as anywhere else. The last thing I will do is get more wood for my fire.
I stand up and almost collapse back on the ground. I need to eat. And drink. Something to stop that spinning and dizziness. Everything around is blurred. This is not good. How long… am I on my way back? Two days? A week? A month? I need to eat. And drink. That dizziness is killing me.
Cutting a large enough piece of birch bark is an almost impossible thing for me to do. I need to lean against the tree for support.
They say you can eat the inner bark of white birch just like that, raw. I say no. My parched mouth ached when I tried. I bring the small pieces of the inner bark and the large piece of the outer bark to my fire. I want to melt snow over the fire in that outer bark. I need to make four small holes into it, so that I could hang it on a string above the fire. It takes me incredible amount of time and effort. There, I am almost done…
I stare at the blood oozing from my right hand. I didn't feel anything. I still don't feel anything. It is like the palm is not mine.
My heart drops when I hear it. Growling. God, no… I am on the verge of tears. I am too exhausted for adrenaline to provoke any better activity.
"You should've let me die days ago! I dreamed a really nice dream, you know?" Not like bears wandering around in the freezing forest. A loud crack is echoing through the forest after the echo of my yell dies away, and I take a step backwards. I need more wood. Much more. It's the beginning of December. Bears should be asleep already. Why is he not sleeping? I need more wood.
The growling came from a distance, but still made my hands shake. Blood is dripping from my hand onto white snow. I must not cut myself again… I must not cut my fingers. Not now, not again.
I hold the knife as far from my body as I can. Every once in a while I stop, and with my heart pounding, listen to the sounds of the forest. My nerves are jangles, and even the tiniest noises of the forest are playing tricks with my mind. Maybe I imagined it? Maybe I am hearing voices already?
I hide between the rock and my fire. My body is shaking violently from exhaustion. I hardly manage to thread the string from my parka through the holes I have previously made in the birch bark.
I make sort of a sack, fill it with snow and hang it on a stick above the fire. I throw all small pieces of the inner bark into the vessel and lean against the rock clutching a snowball in my bleeding hand.
Everything is making me sorrowful. I am hearing voices, imagining things that never existed. I fear to leave the fire but crave for quick death. I never imagined several days without food and hope would shatter my world to the ground. I rest my forehead on my knees.
"Kill me. If you are out there, just kill me." I hope the bear will hear me, even though I am afraid to say it too loudly.
I am ten yards closer to him in seconds, my teeth bared, violent growling and snarling coming out of my mouth.
Fresh, warm, a lot of it, wasted.
Dripping on white snow.
Get him. Kill him. Drain him. Every cell in my body screams at me, pushing me closer to him, and I need to swallow the venom that is filling my mouth. I clutch my fingers into the bark of the tree I am holding onto.
And then he yells, "You should have let me die days ago..."
He knows I am here. He hates me. The tree in my hands doesn't stand a chance. I let it fall, and then I take off. His terror and his fragrant blood are keeping me company on my gutless retreat.
I can never have him. I am too weak to kill him, too weak to keep him. He hates me already, and he has never even seen me. He fears me, and he doesn't even know the truth.
I stop about a mile away where I can't feel him anymore. I sit down on the ground and let the storm cover me with snow. I never knew jumping in the snow and triggering an avalanche would bury the old me. Everything was easier back then.
White or black. Let live or kill. Nothing in between. No keep. No friends.
I am missing the old me.
I wake up, my heart racing. My dream was beautiful. About Mark, a beach, warm sand. And strange black eyes. It takes me a while to register that cold has replaced the warmth. My body is too heavy. My heartbeat picks up even more when I realize those eyes somehow made it out of my dream too, and they are staring at me.
How has he done it? How could he get from my dream to this freezing forest? He isn't even properly dressed. His semi-long wavy hair is covered by snow, and his skin is pale from the coldness. Suddenly, relief washes over me. I must still be dreaming. That's why he is still here. I close my eyes, trying to get to the beach again.
When I look around a minute later, he is gone. I am not sure how I feel about it. Disappointed? Relieved? It would be nicer if I was gone from this forest. The fire almost burned out during the night, allowing the cold to get into my body and make itself really comfortable in there. Sleep, sleep, sleep. And wake up at the beach again. Or never.
No such luck. When a sound wakes me up later, there are no waves, warmth, nor Mark around. I am partly covered by a snowdrift. And the noise that has woken me up was caused by him. I watch him feed the fire and then lean against a tree trunk.
I am apparently still asleep. Well, it'll be nice to talk to someone again. I don't mind that he is not real.
"You've lost your gloves," I say.
He looks at his white hands and with a shrug shoves them into his pockets.
I take the glove off my hand. "You can keep mine."
He doesn't move.
"Really, I won't need it," I say with a sigh, closing my eyes, desperately trying to get back to the beach.
"How come?" his smooth voice asks.
My eyes shot open. I thought I was dreaming, but he feels so real. I have never heard a voice like his. His voice is just… different. Maybe I am imagining things. I sigh and close my eyes again. "I am going to the beach… Mark is waiting for me." Somewhere in the back of my mind, I register growling. "Did you hear that? Why is he not sleeping?"
"The bear," I reply.
"There is no bear around."
"So, why is he growling?"
I am not at the beach; the water is too hot. Hot springs, maybe? Heat is spreading into my body, melting it. My feet feel like they're on fire. I try to pull them away from the hot water, but it doesn't help.
I wake up smelling burned rubber; my soles are almost melting from the heat of the fire. Damn! Only me — no one else would die in fire in a place where all others die from cold.
He is nowhere to be seen. I am losing my grip on reality. There is no chance he would have been here for real. I have heard of those kinds of things. And now I have a hallucination of my own. My brain is working in slow motion, and I lose track of time. I am even not hungry anymore.
My body has switched into emergency mode, saving energy, shutting down. Waiting for the inevitable.
In a blink of an eye, my hallucination is standing just several yards from me. And I smile. Suddenly, I know exactly who he is. He is my Little Prince. And he is lucky — I actually can draw a sheep.
"Do you want me to draw a sheep? I can do it, you know? No boxes, the real thing!"
His eyes widen in surprise.
Oh boy, I started with the wrong question. "Where have you been?" I try again.
"Just looking for… something to eat."
The corners of my lips turn upward at his optimism. "Have you found anything?" I can't take my eyes off his tongue licking his lips.
"Maybe? You are not sure?" Is my brain too slow, or does he really not know?
"Are you hungry?" he asks.
"I don't know."
"You are not sure either?"
The talk is too exhausting for me. Why are we even having this conversation? He couldn't have found anything. And even if he could, he couldn't have killed it. Not with his bare hands. "It's complicated," I reply.
"I think I can keep up…"
"For me. To eat."
"You are funny."
I close my eyes and sigh. "No, I am tired."
When I wake up again, I am not feeling well. My stomach rumbles. The sleep hasn't made me stronger, hasn't made the pain from my hand go away, and hasn't brightened my mood. I am pissed off.
He is the first thing I lay my eyes on. Who is he anyway? How come he is not as cold and exhausted as I am? This isn't fair. He doesn't seem to be real. Who is he? And why does he keep coming back? Nobody asked him.
And then a thought flashes through my hooded mind. Maybe he is the one? Is he here to take me…. there? But I have always pictured angels with blond curls. He has dark hair brightened up by snowflakes that don't melt. And I am sure angels in my dreams never had pitch black piercing eyes. Does he have wings? I haven't seen any. He can't be an angel.
But he doesn't wear warm clothes in freezing weather. He can appear and disappear in an instant, without actually coming or going. He can enter my dreams. His voice is not from this world. And he is so inhumanly beautiful. His face is so delicate, feminine almost…
And then it clicks.
"Oh my God." Sharp pain of shock bolts through my exhausted body. He is the one. Gabriel. The messenger from God, the angel of death. Oh, no… I wrap my left hand around my legs, holding tight, scared like I have never felt before. I asked for death, and it was so wrong. My wish has been answered, and I desperately want to take it back. My body shivers in sheer panic. "Please don't," I whisper into my arm, shielding my face. My back is pressed against the rock behind me, and I feel vulnerable and trapped. Fear is ripping me into tiny little pieces.
"I didn't mean it, I am sorry, it was wrong, please don't…" I am whispering frantically, covering my head with my uninjured arm. I am about to implode from fear.
This guy will be the death of me. His mood changes so quickly, always catching me off guard. I can't remember the last time I was hit by horror like this. It has brought me to my knees in seconds.
Maybe he isn't a human. There is no way a human could do this to me. He looks like one, but he smells better and tastes much, much better than any human I have ever approached. Maybe he is here to punish me for everything I have done in my second life. I can't decide though, if he came from Heaven or Hell.
All went well during the night before and during the day. What did I just do that made him unleash his dogs on me? Horror from him keeps coming in waves, hurting me like nothing I have experienced before.
The day was fun. I refused to think about him being rescued and taken away from me. The thought of me taking him back to the town flashed through my mind, and I rejected it just as quickly as it appeared.
No way. I would be alone again. I am keeping him.
The thing was, I had no clue how to keep him alive. I knew it was too cold for humans around here. So I kept the fire burning while he was asleep during night. I asked about food in the morning, but he refused to eat. I didn't get his reasons, but that was fine. I saw him eating something yesterday; he was probably not hungry yet. But I ran out of ideas.
He fell asleep again, his heartbeat slower than it was the first time I met him. I stood above him, not sure what to do.
Then I picked up an animal scent, and I bolted away, not caring about him anymore. The thrill of the hunt, the rush, the speed, the victory, and satisfaction. That was what I liked. Not being clueless and helpless facing the sick guy, not knowing what to do with him. I should leave him. I would be much happier without worrying about him.
The last drop of the Dall sheep touched my lips. I wasn't hungry before the hunt but I felt better now. I grabbed the curled horn and dragged the sheep back, thinking he might feel better after having some food as well. I dropped the sheep and came closer to look at him.
And moments after he woke up, here I am, kneeling on the ground just next to my prey. I am not sure anymore who the predator in this game is. I pick myself up from the ground, as soon as he blacks out.
"Who are you?" My fists are clenched, and I am close to snapping, but I keep the distance just to be sure. "Why are you doing this to me?" I like him in his sleep, and I fear him when he is awake. He is so unpredictable, so unreal.
He is not moving, and his skin is as white as mine. Humans. They are so much trouble. Maybe if I take care of him, he will be nicer to me. I stop, horrified by the thought. I want a human to be nice to me?
I sit down next to him, devastated by the idea of a human having this power over me. Is he a human? Has he some special ability? The pull I feel to him, the need to take care of him… Every day is a constant battle. "I hate it!"
He doesn't even wake up when I am searching his clothes for the knife I saw in his hand earlier. The one he has pierced his palm with. I swallow when I remember the smell of his blood in the air.
I skin the sheep partly to cut off a small piece of meat, and I hate the job all the way. I am sure he wouldn't eat it raw. I know I wouldn't. Well, I wouldn't eat it at all.
I sit down by the fire and watch with distaste how the color of the piece of meat starts to change in flames.
I am so lost in my thoughts that it takes me a while to realize that his eyes are not closed anymore.
My dreams start annoying me. Every time I wake up, something from my dream stays with me. It was him before, now it's the smell of food. I wish it was real.
And he is just too close for me to be comfortable. He is at the fire, in my personal space.
"Gabriel?" I ask in a shaky voice. "What are you doing?" I am afraid to move. Either I will be dead in the next minute, or I am already insane. I am not sure what to fear more. There is no way an archangel would barbecue. So, either he isn't what he seemed to be, or I am going crazy.
"I thought you might be hungry. Are you?" he asks.
"Who are you?"
"Want some meat?"
And I forget about the absurdity of the situation and accept the offered food. "What is it?"
So much for Little Prince, I guess.
My mouth is aching from dehydration, but I couldn't care less. I eagerly grab the piece of meat he is offering, and I eat it in seconds. I need more. I walk over to the sheep lying in the snow. It is just several yards, but I almost don't make it. The snow is knee deep, and my legs are still shaking.
I am stunned. The ram is two hundred pounds, at least.
"How have you managed to drag him over here? And how have you killed him?"
He is sitting with his back to me, and he doesn't acknowledge he has heard me.
I return to the fire. "You won't eat?"
"I… already have."
I hang the bark vessel filled with snow over the fire, push more pieces of meat onto the end of the stick and put it over the fire too. I lean against the rock. I am exhausted. I can't describe the feelings of hope that flooded me when I realized I had something to eat. But physically, my body is as beaten as it was an hour ago.
Questions are whirling in my head, and all of them are about him. I am not sure if I really want to know all the answers though. I just want him to stay. I feel like a human again, not like a helpless prey for wild animals that wander around.
"Where is all your stuff?" I ask.
I sigh. Can't he just answer for a change? "Buried in an avalanche. Several days that way." I wave in the direction of my missing backpack.
He nods but doesn't say a thing. If I learned anything from the people living most of the year outdoors, it's the need to keep the distance. To give a space. If we liked company and hundred-question quizzes, we would have stayed in towns.
I hide my hands under my parka again. My right hand doesn't ache anymore. I almost can't feel it at all. I forgot about it when I thought I was close to death, but after the hope his successful hunt gave me, I worry about my hand again. The past days proved that I could do without it, but…
There are so many things that I would miss.
I bite my lip hard to stop tears that are threatening to brim over. My dried skin gives up, and I taste copper on my tongue.
I am startled by his quick movement. He is up and away in seconds, and his I have to go still lingers in the air long after he is gone. My heart is thumping hard from the shock.
I jump up and look in the direction he has disappeared. It is getting dark, and he has no equipment, no proper clothes, and no weapon. I don't want to lose him the day I met him.
"Gabriel!" Whatever I said or did that made him leave was wrong. I need to find him and bring him back. I pull a long resinous pine branch out of the fire to have some light and protection from animals I may come across, check the knife, and with my legs still shaking, I step into the forest.
Shit! Everything was good. Until he bit himself. I stayed the whole day. I fought the displeasing smell of human food. I fought my dislike for flames. Shit! I even managed to prepare his food over the flames.
And then he bit his lip. I could hear the teeth piercing his skin. I could see how the skin parted to make room for the drop of blood. I could smell it in the air even before it reached the surface of his parched lips. I could hear it coming up from the little wound.
I am out of here.
I had an extraordinary day. It was fun. He left me puzzled many times, but I liked his company. But there are some limits. Even for me. No, especially for me. This relationship won't work. He has more food now than he can eat; he will be fine.
I turn around when I hear his voice. Gabriel? Why does he keep calling me that? I've heard him mentioning just two names. Gabriel and Mark. Mark is waiting for me. I snarl at the thought. Well, he can keep waiting. Where is this Mark now, anyway? Why doesn't he look for him? Look after him? I dug him from the snow, I fed him today, I kept him warm. And if this Mark comes near my guy, I will kill him.
It doesn't escape my notice that I am running away from him and claiming him at the same time.
I don't have much. These clothes and freedom limited by my secret.
And now this guy.
He is mine.
I stop farther up on the hill and watch him wandering through the dark forest beneath me, calling for his Gabriel. It wouldn't be hard to keep any human where I wanted him to be. The thing is, I need to be careful with this particular one.
My gift is my weak spot regarding this guy. His happiness makes my dead heart soar. His horror brings me to my knees. Not many things can harm my body. This guy can harm my … what? My heart that doesn't beat anymore? My soul that many suspect we don't have? All I know is he can hurt me hard.
I sigh. Does it mean I need to keep him happy?
Is he mine, or am I his?
Humans. They are so much trouble. And this particular one... I should have let him die under the avalanche; he makes my head spin. I have never tried to understand how human relationships work. I have forgotten almost everything from the years before my change, and I have no interest to studying human behavior. I know how to find the one with the good scent, and that was about all I needed.
Until now. I actually have the one with the best scent I have ever found. He is right there sitting in the snow, radiating sorrow and longing. The thing is, he has something more that ties me to him and doesn't make it possible for me to kill him. Someone has a nice sense of humor… But I can't find it in me to enjoy the joke. I stand up and turn around to go up the hill and away, when I suddenly sense his fear.
"Gabriel! Damn, where are you? You'll freeze to death during the night!"
The snow is deep, and every step is a massive effort. I probably shouldn't talk like that to an angel. Or whatever he is. I stay within sight of the fire, so I won't get lost, but he isn't here. The footprints he has left in the snow are shallower than mine, and judging from the length of his steps, he was running like mad.
"What have I said?" I listen to echo of my scream and sit down on the ground, tired and disappointed. I can hardly see the light of the fire burning in my provisory camp. I can't follow him deeper into the forest. If the branch I have burns out, I will never find my way back. I rest my forehead on my knees. I doubt I will ever see him alive again. I don't know when he lost all his belongings, or how long he wandered through the forest before I met him, but I doubt it was for more than one day. He has no gloves, no hat; he actually looks like he has just stepped out of the Seattle subway.
We exchanged only a dozen sentences, but I kind of liked him. He looked much younger than me, eighteen tops, but sometimes I wondered if I wasn't wrong. He was just too somber, like he was experiencing some inner battle all the time.
I stick the torch into the snow, so that he could follow the light more easily if he decides to come back, and I head back to the fire. When I glance in the direction of our camp, my heart skips a beat. He is already there, walking around. After I take two more steps, I stop again. There are more shadows moving around the camp…
Oh my, I forgot about the sheep… I should have made a fire near to it to scare wolves off. I run back to the torch and frantically look around. When my torch burns out, I am in so much trouble.
"Gabriel, don't! STOP!" Damn, he doesn't know.
He is walking down the hill, heading right to the camp. His silhouette is clearly visible against the light from the fire.
I can't just stand here and watch. But as soon as I move, his shriek stops me. "Stay there!"
I have never heard a voice so chilling. The knife I pulled out earlier falls out of my hand, and my knees are suddenly weak. This can't be happening. I feared for his life just seconds ago, and now I fear him.
He steps closer to the pack. They are very aware of his presence, and all I can hear is growling. My breath hitches when the leading wolf attacks, and my stomach almost heaves.
We are all on the ground—the wolves and my angel because of the fight, and me because of my weak knees.
I came over here to have some quiet time away from people and towns. And I've become a wreck in just several days. My torch is burning out in the snow, but I don't care. I can't take my eyes off the scene far away from me.
I am stunned when I see that he is chasing them. They all run out of the camp and disappear into the night. I am sitting in the darkness, waiting. Eternity passed by and he hasn't returned yet. Can an angel get killed? Can a dream get hurt by wolves?
Because after what I have just seen, I know that he is not real.
But I would miss him anyway.
I drag my feet back to the camp. The fire almost burned out; I need to take care of that. I feed the fire and hide in my shelter, trying to ignore the dead wolf lying just twenty feet from me.
Morning finds me alone. He never came back. I need to move away from this place.
I keep walking for several hours until I come across a rock overhang. The exhaustion and the heat from my fire make me sleepy. The moment before I close my eyes, I see him. He is leaning against a tree, hands in his pockets, snow in his hair. He couldn't look more beautiful.
"Don't go." I wish the dream lasted until morning.
I am not used to sharing. And they were about to claim what was mine.
Wolves were not the problem. My greater concern was him. Not only could he see me, he wanted to help me, too. Foolish, selfless guy. I would have killed him in seconds if he came closer to our fight. Even talking to him while I fought the wolves was one of the hardest things I have ever done. The last remains of my humanity vanished every time I hunted or fought. There was no place for friendly chatter. And yet, I had to find it in me. To save him from me.
I didn't come back when the fight was over. I couldn't face him or his emotions. If there was anything between us before, I broke it with my rash decision to defend him. He couldn't have possibly liked what he saw.
I am hiding near his shelter now, replaying the day in my head, watching him get ready for sleep. And the sleepier he becomes, the closer to him I get.
"Don't go." The sweetest words he could have said.
I am not going anywhere. I sit down next to him and stay all night.
I have been on my way for about twenty minutes when I notice something is not right. The forest is strangely quiet. Is a storm coming again? Is there another danger that I can't see just yet? I keep looking over my shoulder but never see a thing.
And then it hits me. It's me who is unusually quiet. The ever present rattle sound of matches is gone. I search through every pocket I have. Damn!
How could I? It's not that I have so many things for Christ's sake. Exactly what I needed. Shit! I drag my feet back. I have wasted so much energy just because of my slowly working brain.
I am so mad at myself and my insane behavior that has cost me one hour of my precious time. I keep stepping in my own footprints trying to clear my mind. The beeline of my footprints is like a zen garden stone path on my laptop screensaver. They say if you focus just on the next step, all your other worries will disappear. I do exactly that and within some time, all my rage slowly dissipates, leaving my head clear, almost empty.
Two more steps and I will step out of the thicket and see the matches lying next to the fire pit.
When I make those two footsteps though, I hit the back of my head hard, and my heart stops beating from shock. Something has hit my chest and knocked me down, pinning me to the ground, and now it's growling above me.
I am officially a dead man.
When I still feel alive after a few seconds, I dare to open my eyes.
"Ga…" My voice dies in my throat.
I forget the weight of his knee on my chest or his crushing grip on my wrists. All I can think about is his face — the face of the devil. If it wasn't for his grip, I would have been a hundred yards away already. I am drowning in those strange black eyes, unable to say more, unable to move. He is bending down to my face, his gaze focused on something other than my eyes. I turn my head away trying to get as far as from him as his grip allows me. When his hair touches my face, I freeze.
Never, ever have I expected… his smell, his weight on my chest, the danger he suddenly presents, the pain his grip sends to my right wrist… I can't help it. I inhale deeply, trying to find the inner balance again. He drops my wrists like they are on fire, leaving me there with my heart beating frantically, out of my breath and confused.
"Gabriel, what ar…"
"Stop calling me that!" His voice sounds like creaking.
He is standing several yards from me, his back pressed to the rock beneath the overhang, his pointer finger raised to keep me from moving. Well, he doesn't need to do that, because I am not able to get up anyway. He closes his eyes and just stands there. His hands are pale from frost; I can still feel the coldness of his grip on my wrists. Where has he been? How did he manage to fight the wolves? Apart from two ripped holes in his coat, he seems to be okay.
He straightens up. "Never do that again."
"Sneaking up on me like that."
"I wasn't…what are you doing here anyway? How did you handle those wolves? How did you kill that one? And why didn't you come back?" I forget about politeness, and I bark one question after another, not waiting for his answers. It's no surprise I don't get any. I get up to approach him, but as soon as I make the first step, he raises his palm again.
"Don't come any closer."
"You know, I don't want to hurt you."
God knows why he laughs at my words. I step back and sit down next to the cold fire pit. I reach for the forgotten matches and put them back to my pocket.
"I was worried about you, you know? I thought you had lost the fight." I mindlessly draw shapes in the cold ash with a twig.
"Where are you heading?" he asks.
"To my cabin, two days' walk I guess. Want to join me?"
Did he actually ever answer any of my questions?
"I can start a fire if you want. Your hands must be freezing," I try again.
He hides his hands in his pockets and shrugs. "You should go."
"I'll be fine."
"Bullshit. Come with me, there is a radio in my cabin; we'll call the rescue group." I notice he is watching me mindlessly rub my right wrist. "It doesn't even hurt anymore. I guess that's a really bad sign. I need a doctor to see it. So, are you coming with me?"
We are both quiet, waiting. But when he doesn't say anything more, I stand up.
"If you change your mind, try to keep north, and when you reach a river, follow it downstream. No need to cross it." I pause, not knowing how to persuade him to come with me. It is against everything I was taught — to leave him here. On the other hand, he seems to be pretty sure what he is doing. Well, I guess dreams can be pretty confident and stubborn too. "Do you want me to make a fire before I go?"
He shakes his head and I sigh.
"So, I guess, that's it… Good luck…"
I almost killed him. Even before I touched him, I knew nothing was going to stop me. He was this close to death, and we both knew it. His fear fed my craving for his life even more.
But as far as I know, he always reacts illogically under stress. He is happy buried under an avalanche. He sees a pack of wolves, and instead of running away, he runs toward them. He knocks me down with his fear when I mean no harm. And in the last seconds of his life, he feels… lust.
He always knows what to do to stop me, to make me do what he wants me to do. And he doesn't even know it.
I stand under the overhang until morning, trying to wrap my head around this guy. What would his reaction be if he knew the truth about me? Which direction would he run? He is like a riddle, hard to solve, always provoking, impossible to abandon.
I was scared to go with him. My throat is on fire every time I inhale. Stopping breathing won't do any good. I would still hear his heart pounding, racing, and tripping. And I would still see… him. I thought it was the blood rushing beneath his paper thin skin. Or the scab on his cheek with the lines of my fingernails still clearly defined. Or his pierced palm. But no. With the dread in my stomach, I realize it is the whole… him. His voice, his amusing comments, his ever-changing and unpredictable emotions.
The forest is waking up to a new day. He is probably on his way already. To the cabin. I know where it is, I have seen it once or twice, but it was empty every time. When he told me about the radio, I planned to run over there and destroy it, so he had to stay with me.
But then I noticed his hand. He tried to find a use for his right hand during the first days, but it's completely useless lately. I can hardly imagine what it is like. Boring probably.
If I let him leave, will he come back? And if he won't… So, can I let him leave? I…can't. I need to destroy the radio.
I bolt away to be at the cabin before him.
I place the last big snowball in the wall and step back to admire my work. The forest is sparse around here, and I couldn't find enough branches and small trees to build a sufficient shelter, so I decided on building an igloo. My glove is soaked wet, and I can't feel my fingers. Two big nasty blisters are on my right frostbitten hand, and the skin is red and white.
I feel lost in this cold world and out of place. I am exhausted, both physically and emotionally.
I wake up from the cold in the middle of the night. The fire has almost burned out, and the only firewood I have left is the two branches I am lying on. That means I am down to one. I watch the pine needles curling up in the heat, and feel a lump in my throat. Nothing is right; I will never make it to the cabin. I will freeze to death here. And even if I make it to the hospital, I will lose my hand. My right hand.
"It will be all right."
"No, it won't," I answer automatically, but then it hits me. "Where are you? Come inside."
"No, I am okay here. You stay there, though."
"That's insane, you can't stay outside."
"I said no."
"Are you always this stubborn?"
He chuckles. His voice is coming from behind the igloo, and it feels like we are sitting inches apart from each other, being separated just by the wall I have built so carefully in the evening.
"How come you are not freezing?"
"I am used to it."
"It's hard to believe, you know… I am glad you came," I add when he doesn't respond.
"How is your hand?"
"Not good. I can't stand it, come inside. You don't have your gloves either. I feel like a jerk sitting here. I am going outside, if you don't come in!"
"And you said I was stubborn? Fine. Wait, I'll be back."
And he is back sooner than I can find words to protest that he ran away. He feeds the fire with the kindling he has brought and sits down in front of the igloo.
"I am staying right here," he says, silencing my protests.
Give him space, give him space, don't push him away again, I keep saying myself, but it just isn't helping.
"I never met anybody like you," I say.
His eyes light up with amusement.
"Will you come with me tomorrow? To the cabin?" I try again.
"You are not much of a talker, are you?"
He shrugs. "What's there to say?"
"I don't know? Maybe 'Oh, that's great! We'll get home at last?'"
"This is my home."
I take a deep breath. We are separated by the fire, but I long to touch him. He feels so out of this world, and I am afraid he will suddenly disappear, and I will be alone again.
"Stay please, don't go." Lying on the last branch I have, I watch him through the flames. The fire colors his eyes, and they are no longer black.
I wake up to daylight and rain. Rain? I wipe the cold drop off my cheek and open my eyes. I can't contain laughter. He has stayed and kept the fire so big, that the igloo is melting.
"What's so funny?"
Happiness must radiate from me like the heat from his fire. All my emotions are doubled. I was depressed yesterday night because of my hand, and I am high now just because he is still here.
"Nothing." I grin at him. "I'll make some tea. I hope we can have dinner at the cabin today."
I follow his gaze and gasp. "Wow, how have you managed to catch it? Jesus, you are good. You could make a living hunting." I sneak around the fire to get out of the igloo and pick the rabbit up from snow. "You know, one day you must show me how you do it."
"One day," I reply, nodding hesitantly, still baffled by his wish. Does it mean he will come back? "You will come back?"
"What do you mean? Oh. Sure, I'll come back. Towns drive me crazy."
Maybe destroying the radio isn't necessary after all…
I couldn't do it yesterday. Getting to the cabin was easy; it was pretty close. Crossing the pristine snow that separated the cabin from the rest of the world was the hard part. I forgot about the last storm that had covered the ground with fresh snow. If I stepped out of the forest, he would know. I punched the nearest tree. Damn it! I wasn't used to looking over my shoulder. I never cared about troubles that my actions caused. I was usually too far away to care. But I wanted him close. And happy. I doubted he would be happy about me breaking his only lifeline. Damn!
I brought the nearest tree down and roared in frustration. Fine! Let him have his radio!
I dragged my feet back to him, taking a long way around. His shelter shone into the night like a lantern. Judging from his emotions, a very depressive lantern. I sat down and leaned against the snow wall, determined not to go inside and watch him sleep again. He wasn't sleeping anyway. I left him alone just for one day, and he was broken. I liked the thought. Maybe he kept thinking about me, as much as I did about him.
I fought the urge to bring the wall down to be closer to him when his depression got almost unbearable. The entrance of the igloo was blocked by waning fire, and I doubted I could be in such a tight space with him anyway.
I liked how quickly his mood changed when I let him know I was near.
And it was nothing compared to his emotions when he woke up in the morning, just moments ago. His happiness felt like a gentle wind caressing my face.
I woke up from my trance. "What?"
"Which part do you want?"
He has a stained knife in his hand, and I fight the urge to grimace in disgust.
"None, thanks. It's yours. I need to go." I stand up and notice that all his insecurities are rushing back like a tidal wave. "I'll just look around, okay?" And I leave him there with the rabbit hanging from his hand.
I head toward the cabin. Walking at human speed in snow is annoying and slow. Good. It will take him a whole day to get there. Days with him are everything but easy, but I don't want him to leave. I am used to taking what I want. My mind works overtime to come up with something, anything to keep him here. I rule out ideas like bringing a doctor to his cabin or knocking him out, so that he can't call for help. Maybe later, if everything else fails.
I turn around after a while and watch him dragging his feet toward me.
"You okay?" I know he is not, but humans ask this question all the time, and I do my best to blend in. I also know that he will lie. They all do.
"Yeah." He bends down and with his hands on his knees tries to catch his breath. "Just thinking about a hot bath and walking barefoot." He straightens up. "What do you miss?"
"What do I miss?" I find his cheeks, red from the exertion, pretty distracting.
"Yeah, you don't think about it sometimes?"
Is he for real? How come he always comes up with something that catches me off guard? He has no idea how often I have been thinking about this. Right now I could use some trivial human problems, like being hungry or cold instead of thinking about impossible relationships.
"What's wrong?" he asks.
Everything, you better don't ask though. "How is your hand?" I ask.
"I'd rather not talk about it."
Great, I guess our conversation has just reached its limits.
We keep walking for several hours, painfully slowly and in silence, until he asks for a break. The wind is just moderate, but he has cold written all over his body. I watch him digging a shallow hole in the snow, and then I finally gather up my courage and ask, "Do you believe in mythical creatures?"
He stops what he is doing and eyes me wearily. "Sure."
He collapses into his primitive shelter. When he speaks, it sounds funny, like it is really difficult for him to pronounce correctly. I can hardly understand what he tries to say. "Everyone believes in tooth fairies, you know? You don't?" He leans back and closes his eyes.
"I am serious."
"A serious talk about mythical creatures… Last time I checked, you didn't look like a fairy…"
I am so distracted by his strange answer that it takes me pretty long to notice his slow heartbeat. He has fallen asleep. I don't mind him sleeping, on the contrary actually, but his pulse is just too slow for my liking. Forty-five beats per minute is hardly a human standard. I need to wake him up, before it is too late.
I kneel next to him and hesitantly touch his shoulder. I don't get any response. I lean above him and watch his face. His skin is damaged by frost, and his lips are almost white. How come, I haven't noticed this earlier? Probably because I was too enraptured by his scent. I bury my face in the crook of his neck and inhale. Yes, that's why. I inhale again, relishing his slowly fading scent. Then a thought crosses my mind. When was the last time he inhaled? I eye him warily. Now! Several shallow intakes and then nothing again.
I stand up and look around. Should I make a fire? Bring a doc to him? It would take forever. I watch him inhale and then stop breathing again. The radio? Really? It will be me who will use his radio? All this nonsense because of a human?
I won't do anything like this because of a human. I mean, I don't save humans.
He is so cold. His skin is as white as mine. It suits him. Maybe I could…? Nah, he wouldn't survive, it's too late. But I want him. Damn, I really like him.
I chew my lips. Okay, if I make a wrong decision, there will be a plenty of time to kill him later. I hold my breath and slowly lift him from the snow, careful not to press him to my body. My throat is on fire, and every thought in my head is beating me for my unnatural behavior.
When I reach the cabin several minutes later, he is on forty-one beats per minute. Should I prepare him the hot bath he was talking about earlier? I look around searching for the radio. Oh, no… I guess I've found it: several black devices, a lot of cables and knobs. I have never been a fan of these things. I mean, I know how to destroy it, but … Doesn't he have a cell or something? I start rummaging through all his drawers. Seriously? I glance over my shoulder. You have a yellow cell?
I take it out of the drawer. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like a cell. A beacon? Okay, fine, whatever. I press the ON button once, then again. Before I can press it for the third time, it starts to flash. I turn it around in my hands and find several instructional pictures. I break the seal, pull out the antenna and place it near a window. That's it? This should help him? I wonder how exactly that would be possible.
Staying still, I count again – forty-one.
It takes me forever to make a fire in the old stove. It doesn't help that I hate and fear flames. I cover him with a blanket and that is about everything I can do. I listen to his heartbeat and lean closer to breathe in his scent. Is this the last time I'll see him alive? He isn't getting any better. His skin is bluish-grey, his breathing slowed down to just two breaths per minute. And… thirty-nine damn it!
So much trouble with that damn stove, and he is still dead-cold? You must be kidding me. I get rid of the blanket, reach for the zipper of his parka and rip his clothes open to let the hot air from the stove touch his cold chest.
His scent, his unbelievably fragrant, alluring scent swirls around my head, invading my body, attacking my senses and filling my mind. I clutch the collar of his parka in my fists, trying to get a grip on myself, and I breathe in deeply at the same time, tasting his scent on my tongue.
One drop. Just one, I promise. He won't feel it anyway. I lean closer, slowly giving in to my desire. His blood is getting cold, but the call is as strong as it used to be. And he is dying. I can't waste blood as good as his.
Nobody knows he is still alive.
Nobody knows he is here.
Nobody will miss him.
Nobody… I will miss him. I groan in frustration. I will miss his chuckle, his happiness, the rapid changing of his emotions, his remarks and questions that don't make any sense, his warmth, and his voice.
I hide my face in the crook of his neck, longing for the feel of his pulsing artery under my lips. But I don't feel anything. If I didn't hear his shallow heartbeat, I would assume that he was already dead. His body doesn't even shiver anymore. When was the last time, I have felt his emotions? In the morning. He was so happy. My heart flutters when I remember his "I'll come back."
And now he is dying.
I rest my forehead on his naked chest. The touch feels so good. So right. His skin has almost the same temperature as mine. I wish he would wake up, and I could tell him... what exactly? That I am slowly and dangerously falling for him? That's just pathetic. I've known him like what? Five days? I don't even know his name. And besides, he is almost dead.
"Wake up!" The bare walls of the cabin echo my yell, but he doesn't move. I am about to shake him hard to bring him back, but something stops me. In my emotional state, I would surely kill him.
I close my eyes, concentrating on my own emotion. With everything I have in me I let him know how I feel, and I try to wake him up by my gift. It doesn't work either.
I try to imagine what his face looks like without all the frostbite and scabs. I wish he would open his eyes just one more time.
"Wake up. Please?" I press my cheek to his, whispering in his ear. "You've promised. I was alone for so long. Now, when I've found you, I can't be alone again. Please?" But he doesn't move. I press my eyes shut, trying not to panic. "I need you to wake up. Can't you even hear me?" I notice another blanket hanging directly above the hot stove and bring it back to press it to his chest. And then I hear a roaring engine in the distance.
"You promised you'd come back, remember? I'll wait for you." I close the remaining distance between us and press my lips to his parched ones.
And then for the hundredth time, I have a hard time pulling away.
I have to get out – right now. Or he will have more serious problems than hypothermia.
I bolt from the cabin, shut the door behind me and lean against it. I will never make it. His blood, his… everything is just too appealing. He will be better off without me.
I listen to the roar and look south. The helicopter will fly above us in five minutes if it doesn't change course. I don't feel like meeting other people right now. But he needs them. Despite my reluctance, I walk away from the cabin to the open area, so that they can notice me more easily.
As I watch the helicopter landing, I listen to his heartbeat and count up to forty-two. He is getting better. He will be all right.
And then he'll come back to me.
I bite my lip to stop it from trembling, and I head toward the helicopter.
A/N: Thank you for reading and reviewing. The story was my entry for Hope Springs Eternal Contest. I am currently working on expanded scenes, and I would like to prolong the story to see what will happen with the boys :) I will post it as a new multi chapter story.