by Marsha Steed
The snow glistened outside for the first time in a week. "Finally!"
she reflected, as she looked out the window. "The clouds have found
a tear to let the warmth through." Cerisha wrapped her arms around
herself in a hug and all but giggled, the giddy mood descending on her
like the sun on the sparkling snow." A slow rumbling began that caused
her to pause in the enjoyment of the moment. Looking outward through
the branches of the ice laden trees, she could barely discern movement.
A shock of red, and the it was gone as the silence once again fall over
her winter wonder scape.
"What in the world . . . " Her voice trailed off even as she
turned to snatch up the thick leather gloves and parka. Her customary
red woolen scarf already tossed around her neck and over one shoulder.
The door closed with a audible click behind her. Thinking it probably
unwise to explore alone, she knocked rapidly on the next door. "Kristoph,
come quickly, and grab your rifle". Cerisha hissed through the small
opening that the chain lock allowed.
"Cheri? What is going on?" Kristoph, a tall man with tousled
hair peered through the crack incredulously.
"It was that noise, I heard it again. This time I think I saw
someone. Hurry!" Keeping her voice low, she was still able
to portray her urgency at the request.
"Alright, alright woman, I'll be right there!" He turned and once
again the door was silent. She figured he was probably not even dressed
yet, after all, they had been up late the evening before. Cerisha
smiled to herself just briefly as a flash vision of him in the thick forest
green and teal robe came back to mind. Roused from her muse, Kristoph
opened the door, letting the chain sway back and forth like some pendulum
on a grandfather clock.
"Nice sweater." Cheri touched the thick pile briefly letting her
fingers trail down his chest in what she hoped was a nonchalant manner.
"Thanks." Kristoph smiled that toothy grin that so enchanted her,
and then quickly pulled up the zipper on the thick black jacket.
"So, what's the plan then?" He turned his attentions away from her
to the activity at hand. It always amazed her how easily men could
do that. . . switch gears from one emotion to the next, or even remain
oblivious to the obvious.
"I thought if we hurried, we could check the tracks. I know exactly
where I saw him, and it isn't snowing for the first time in weeks."
Cerisha's voice gave away her slight annoyance at the less than helpful
contributions of the weather of late.
"I'll give you an hour beautiful, . . ." Kristoph's eyes always twinkled
when he called her that, and it annoyed her that she could feel the heat
rising in her cheeks involuntarily responding. ". . .then it's back upstairs
for some hot cocoa and a rub down." He slipped his arm around her
shoulders in a friendly gesture that she was never sure was intended to
be platonic. He squeezed just a tad too much, and the look on his
face never seemed to quite go along with his words.
"Alright, an hour, and you'll be the one giving the rub down, if I am
right!" Slipping out of his hold, she led out from the warm hallway,
opening the door to the stream of sunlight. It surely felt good on
her face after the last few days of biting cold. "Hurry, while we
have this window of calm before the next storm hits!" Cerisha didn't
really think that there was a need to hurry, not with the blue skies overhead,
but she was somewhat uncomfortable in the odd tenderness and sought to
escape with the guise of pursuit.
The two walked quickly for about ten minutes without conversing.
Cerisha looked from time to time over her shoulder to make sure Kristoph
was still following. The anxiety took over the odd sensation she
always had around him, and she looked carefully at the snowscape before
them. Pulling up to an abrupt halt, Kristoph nearly knocked her into
the snowbank as he tried to be both graceful and quiet in the surprise
"There..." She whispered. The red scarf her mother gave
her for Christmas last month hardly did much to camouflaged their presence,
and a squirrel cocked its head before scampering away and up a tall cedar.
"It was just a squirrel, I really think that you are seeing things again
lamb." Kristoph brushed a clump of snow from her scarf, which only
served to enhance the blood rushing to her cheeks. His pet name for her
always brought a flutter that she wished she could ignore, but somehow
found it impossible to do so.
"Not the squirrel, over there." Cerisha pointed her gloved finger
just beyond the indentation in the snow where the creature had just vacated.
Upon the jutted stone, piercing the snow with it's sharp peak, was a fallen
branch. The branch however looked odd there, seeing as they were
surrounded by tall cedar and it was a spindly pine. The needles made
an odd brushlike pattern in the surrounding snow.
Kristoph was impressed now, and grabbing her hand, scurried up the embankment,
taking the lead and pulling her after him. As they came upon the
place in the snow, a thin red thread was found attatched to the branch.
It appeared as if it had gotten caught there, and roughly pulled away from
the frayed end. Cherisha exchanged a glance with Kristoph just as
he pulled her further over the crest. There, thick trails in the
snow told the story of whoever... or whatever... had been there before
them. The odd thing about it was that there was only that large disturbed
place, and then nothing. No trail leading away, no body, no creature...
just ... the circular indentation about the size of a man lying down and
spreading out both arms and legs. It was odd indeed.