Wind and snow chased each other, not caring what or whom they jostled along the way, and Sylvie was not dressed for the occasion. She pulled the light cloak tighter around her shoulders, giving up on the idea of keeping her hood up. Eyes tearing up in the freezing wind, she squinted, trying to find shelter in the winter-dead woods, never questioning where she was or how she had arrived there without any gear.
The dense snow blurred the black brush strokes of tree trunks. Sylvie knew that fresh snow should crunch underfoot, but she wasn’t sure if she could not hear it due to the wind whistling in her ears, or if the snow swirled away before she set foot on it. She could not see her feet, and she was not sure she could feel her ears any more.
Walking downhill, she found a hollow at the base of a tree, framed by roots. It lay in the lee of the trunk, and the roots cupped it in ways that kept most of the snow out of it.
Figuring this was as good as it was going to get, Sylvie crawled inside, pulling her long legs to her chest. It reduced the area of skin exposed to the cold, but anyway, there was not much more room there.
Her body shivering wretchedly, she turned her thoughts inwards, trying to find enough focus to do something useful. She held out her hands palms together, touching her lips with her first two fingers, and breathed. Her fingers tingled and stung, which was better than being numb, but not good, but training and practice shored up by energy lent by fear enabled her to work something. When she turned her palms outward, she spun a cocoon of air around herself. It could not stop passage of air completely, or she would suffocate, but if it slowed down air exchange further, the warmth seeping from her body would gather in the hollow, and hopefully keep her alive through the snow storm.
It seemed to work. The wind stopped probing her hiding spot with fingers so cold they felt like knives.
Sylvie curled up as tightly as she could, tucked her woefully inadequate cloak around her, and concentrated on keeping her cocoon nearly a perfect barrier.
What’s out there will kill me. I need to keep it away from me.
With the wind howling and the sound of ice crystals grinding each other to dust reinforcing this idea, Sylvie fell into a deeper trance, away from sensing the world around her, barely feeling her body any more. She was only vaguely aware of the cold, and the muscle cramps it caused.
“What’s out there will kill me” became the only thought left she might have been able to put in words, a truth vast as a glacier, unmovable as the polar star.
When another presence entered her hiding place she adjusted her cocoon in an attempt to push it away. She tried to shake off a touch, but when intent turned to movement, it was a barely perceptible shake of her head, and a hum quiet as a breath.
The intruder wrapped around her back.
She remembered what warmth was as is seeped through her skin and into her bones, relaxing her muscles and ending pain she had gotten used to. Someone lay behind her, arm wrapped around her to pull her towards him. His chest rose and fell with slow breaths that tickled her neck and ear. Someone familiar.
“Mhhhh?” Sylvie drifted back to wakefulness, slowly. There was orange-tinted sunlight, and faint city sounds. The air was a pleasant temperature, but cold seemed to cling to her fingers and feet yet.
“Good morning, love.” Sammeh kissed the back of her neck. The shiver down her spine was pleasant, this time. “You looked like you had a bad dream.”
“Yes. Nothing important. But thanks for waking me.” Sylvie reached for his hand and intertwined their fingers before turning to share a kiss.
The day held separate obligations for each of them, but there had to be some time to enjoy being together.