Freshly fallen snow blankets the land, creating a calming silence broken only by the sound of snow crunching underneath me as I move. Trees dot the landscape. Not quite a forest, but still a rather significant part of the landscape. A river, long frozen over, swerves to the east along the landscape, eventually descending down to a valley off in the distance. If it is any consolation, at least I picked a beautiful place to get lost.
My car had stalled out, probably from the blizzard, and I turned it off and went out to check the problem. I couldn't even see a foot ahead of myself, and the moment my hand got away from the car, I was blind. It should have been right there. I should have been able to just step forward to get back to the car, but there was nothing there. I kept reaching out, trying to touch the car, but with no success. I began walking through the wind and snow beating against me, hoping to find anything to grab onto. I think I might have gone over a hill—maybe two, I don't know for sure. Finally, I managed to find this tree through the storm and have been sitting at the base of it since.
I know I shouldn't have gone away from the road, but that doesn't matter much at this point. I'm already out here and have no idea which way it is back to the road. My friends know that I came out this way, so they should call for help when they don't hear from me, but how long is that going to take? There's no way I can just wait here for that. Luckily, the blizzard has since passed and the sun has broken through the clouds in several places.
Struggling to my feet, I brace my arm against the tree to help myself up. I get a solid footing and begin walking off to find something. Where to go, though, is the question. The river is a noticeable landmark, so following it should make sure I'm not just wandering around in circles.
The trail of footprints behind me keeps growing. At least a mile long, if not two at this point. My body won't stop shaking, and my eyelids keep growing heavier. I cross my arms in a desperate attempt to conserve warmth, but it has little effect. I can't last out here much longer.
Wait, what's that? There's something moving off in the distance. It's a little hard to make out, but it has to be a woman standing there. Thank heavens, I'm saved! If it wasn't for her black hair she'd be unnoticeable, her white clothes and pale skin blending in with the snow.
“H-hey!” I shout out. The woman just stands there, unmoving. She must not have heard me. “Hello!” I shout again while holding my arms outstretched. Still nothing. My legs buckle underneath me as I hurry over to her. Upon approach, the details of her clothes come into view. She wears nothing but a white kimono—not even a winter one, but a light summer kimono. Despite that, she stands firm, seemingly unaffected by the cold.
“H-h-hello. I-I'm so glad to s-see you. I'm lost out here and need to go warm up i-inside,” I manage to say through my chattering teeth. Slightly taller than me, she looks down at me with an indifferent expression. I clutch her bare hand and find it noticeably cold to the touch, even through my mittens. “Y-you're so c-cold, you need to get inside too." Maintaining her silence, she continues to focus on me. “P-p-please say s-something,” I plea. She breaks her gaze and looks off into the distance while raising her arm to point at something. Looking over, I see a small cabin nestled into the snow-covered hillside where she is pointing.
A wave of relief washes over me. Finally, a way out of the cold. “Is that y-your house?” I ask. Again, nothing but her piercing gaze. “L-let's hurry back th-there and out of the c-cold.” I let go of her hand and begin heading off toward the cabin. Looking back, I see her following behind slowly. We walk together over the half-mile or so to the cabin in silence. Who is this mysterious woman? What is she doing out here anyways, and why is she silent? She must be able to understand me. Maybe she's just doing what anyone would do if they found someone freezing. She could even just be mute.
As we approach, the shivering in my body slowly decreases to the point that it stops completely. At least there's that until we make it to the cabin. Unfortunately, despite my protests, my legs find it harder and harder to press onwards. I have to fight every step to just keep going. Despite my own difficulty, the woman is keeping a steady pace, not showing any weakness.
Swinging the door open, the interior of the cabin comes into view. Though it's small and lacks many modern amenities, the quaint one room of the cabin is still a sight for sore eyes. Unfortunately, it's not much warmer than outside. I rush in and collapse to my knees in front of the hearth in the center of the cabin. No fire burns, yet wood shavings and charcoal already sit ready to be lit.
After taking off my mittens, I grab the piece of quartz and a steel tool sitting beside the fire pit. The steel glances off of the quartz as I bring my arm down to strike it. I need to do better than that to start a fire. Once again I try to strike the rock with the steel, but this time I miss entirely and the two go sailing by each other. Focus, I just need to focus. One good strike is all I need. Fire is all I that matters, but I can't even feel my arms, let alone control them enough to start a fire. I've always chastised my sister for her smoking habit, but I'd give anything for her lighter right now. Okay, this one is it. The steel clashes with the quartz, yet still fails to produce sparks as I lose my grip on them and they slide out of my hands and into the pit below.
A gust of cold wind blows from the door. Looking over, I see the woman standing there in the door frame. “The fire... it won't light. I can't do it,” I say to her. “Can you light it? Please, you have to.” She gives no answer and floats across the room, stopping in front of a bed. “A bed? That's a great idea, I need to get under the blankets. Sleep is what I need right now, the fire can wait. Thank you.” Unable to stand, I slowly make my way over on all fours and barely manage to pull myself onto the bed and get the sheets over me.
She disrobes her kimono, revealing the entirety of her pale porcelain skin and lies down on top of the bed beside me. From the window of the cabin, I see snowflakes falling outside, each a beacon of light like the stars in the sky. “It's started snowing. Isn't it beautiful?” I say to her. A delicate, gentle smile grows across her face and is the final thing I see before closing my eyes to sleep.