I watched the helicopter disappear into the gray horizon. Wonderful, I thought sardonically. A week in the wilderness, precisely how I wanted to spend my winter break. Exactly how I was expected to entertain myself I wasn't certain. I'd been here ten minutes and I was already bored as hell.
I was born in San Francisco—had lived there all my life. Wilderness adventure is not my style at all. There was a reason why I was preparing to attend the space academy at Port Vancouver.
I hopped over the fence—and by fence I mean rough rectangle of mostly-rotten rotten wood that I probably shouldn't have been leaning against. I decided not to do that again lest the wormy crud-thing collapse on me.
When my parents had said 'Wilderness vacation in a cozy little mountain cabin' I had pictured a rather larger building than this. Mistakenly I thought that cabin couldn't possibly have been worse than the fence; which was, in fact, positively modern in comparison to the slate-roofed shed. At least the roof didn't have any obvious holes, although it did have a disgustingly prolific amount of moss. I stood there, ankle deep in fresh snow glaring in utter revulsion at the "house" where I'd be spending the next five days.
Oh this is lovely.
An icy wind jabbed me in the small of my back where it crept in under my jacket.
"I hate you both." I grumbled, the sound of my own voice blending strangely with the groaning of the wind. "This can't possibly get any worse." As if to remind me that life can always get worse the fence behind me gave an ominous groan and a resounding crack. I glanced over my shoulder just in time to see a pile of firewood collapse in the snow where the fence had once been. Lovely.
I decided that it probably wasn't the best idea to be standing out in the cold.
Not that it would be much warmer inside.
T To say that it wasn't much warmer inside was an understatement of grotesque proportions. There was a pot in a corner obviously placed there to collect drips by the last inhabitant. It was frozen. Solid.
"Lovely." I hissed under my breath, not that it mattered, I could have screamed—I certainly felt like it—and not a soul would have heard it. I could die up here and no one would know until Friday. A chill that had nothing to do with the ice on the floor riveted my heart in my throat. On the other hand, I tried to cheer myself, there was a good possibility I could do whatever I wanted over the next four days and no one would ever find out. The one problem with that was the fact that there was nothing that I wanted to do. Aside from nailing that bloody door shut. It had just blown open with a spooky—here I write 'spooky' but my brain says 'overused', 'irritating' and downright cliché—creak. All right, sure it was cliché but it still creped me out and froze my ass. I walked around the 'cozy'—read cramped—cabin. Both of the windows were frosted over and the door between the front room and the bedroom refused to open. I hauled on the handle and shoved hard with my shoulder. The door groaned. I glared at it rubbing my smarting shoulder;
" "You have no right to groan; I'm the one whose shoulder hurts." I grumbled. "Great, not even two hours and I'm already talking to inanimate objects" The 'bed room' was an even worse disaster than the front room. One corner held a rickety cot with springs sticking out in directions they really shouldn't have been; the other held a rusted woodstove and a cupboard. The cupboard door creaked when I open it revealing a cast iron saucepan with only a flat metal handle, a large pot with a hole near the top, and a frying pan that had obviously never been washed. The plate sitting on top of it was in much the same condition. I made a mental note; first item of entertainment for tomorrow morning, clean the 'dishes'. Tossing my backpack on the miserable cot I unpacked my things, the sleeping bag on the bed, and the axe in the corner by the woodstove. My beautiful hunting knife I left in its sheath atop the folded pile of my cloths. I had a few other inconsequential items that were disposed of in their proper places. Except for the books that I left in my bag, a couple large tombs and the obligatory teen pervert magazine that one of my idiot friends had given me in a lame attempt to 'straighten me out'. I sat down on the bed and leaned against the wall tapping my pencil on my notepad and staring out the window. My forlorn gaze was met by a calm peridot visage.
"Go ahead," I told her. "Eat the damn chickens! See if I care!" The bobcat blinked her heavenly eyes once and turned and vanished in a single swift flash of snowflake sparks. Sighing heavily and pushing myself up off the bed I decided that I ought to brave the driving snow long enough to get some firewood from the shed. Not surprisingly—considering my current predicament—the wind blew the outside door shut behind me as soon as I set foot beyond the threshold. This elicited another pointless round of grumbling from me. "Stupid wind! Blows the door open when I'm inside and blows it shut when I need it open!" I kicked a mound of snow only to stub my toe on a rock. Not that I ought to have worried there was no spectacular amount of wood contained in the dank, rundown shed. Enough to last the week yes, just not enough to do it in any semblance of comfort. Not that there was anything even remotely comfortable about this gods-forsaken place.
I pried open the door against the wind's wishes—Damn it Daetrin stop anthropomorphisizing everything! —I berated myself silently and hurried inside, a log by the door should keep it closed. I hoped, placing a particularity moist chunk of wood in at the corner.
"I guess no one thought to put a lock on the door hu?" I mused aloud, the pile of wood still in my arms.
I made a little heap of tinder in the woodstove and struck a match. Sitting back on my haunches admiring the little blaze and feeding it kindling I said;
"I guess it pays to have a pyromaniac for a boyfriend." I blinked in surprise. "Now why did I say that?" I guess that could be what one might call a 'Freudian Slip' because in a way I did like Saeliv, a little. Maybe. It certainly wasn't something I would ever admit aloud. Saeliv was stunning in every way; a spectacular pilot, with the physique of a young god and a stoic personality, highlighted by his sturdy logic and potent subtle wit. He was the perfect friend, not one to waste time on the trivialities of emotions he always had a sound response to every problem. Saeliv was the one person I actually missed up here; over the past few years of knowing him, of bunking with him, he had come to fill my life and my heart so completely. The way no woman ever could. The way no man ever had. He was always the first person to logic one of my latest modifications to death—or at least until it was ready for him to try out on his plane or his car. He let me use his vehicles like a painter would use canvas. Consequently he always won at the racetrack. He had eyes the color of his beloved sky.
No, I might be gay but Saeliv couldn't be—could he? Damn it even if he was he'd never be interested in me. Not with the way I couldn't be logical if my life depended on it, not with the way I could never follow him when he started talking abstract physics. I just wasn't smart enough for him, and I was too gods-be emotional. I was just an ordinary San Francisco gear-head with stupid curly hair.
I'd never be good enough for my Adonis.
With those disturbing thoughts buzzing around my ears I drifted into a fitful sleep.
Blinding sunlight slanted down through the window, stabbing me awake. I went to pull the pillow over my head and realized I didn't have one. Right, craphole in the middle of nowhere; I can't believe I left my pillow back at the 'Academy.
I couldn't quite fathom the scope of my bad luck, but I supposed the pillow thing was my own fault. I sighed and sat up, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes with my palms. I glared at the wall for a time before deciding to crawl out of my sleeping bag. The cold hit me like a six-tone anvil.
"Why is it so gods-be cold in here?" I hugged my self to conserve as much of my body heat as possible. My stomach must have heard my grumbling because it decided to take up the sport itself.
"Right," I muttered. "Helicopters and lunch don't mix." Funny, how I never got motion sickness in the Delta Star; Saeliv's plane…with my modifications. Food…what a pleasant thought, too bad I'd have to deal with the filthy dishes first. I leaned over the side of the bed and gathered up my clothing, braving the outside of my sleeping bag in nothing but a t-shirt and boxers was not something I was about to attempt again. Once I had something approaching fifty layers on I made my move towards the outer room. Theoretically the cabin should have retained some heat. I shuddered and rubbed my arms. Maybe the door had blown open during the storm… No, that wasn't the answer. I sighed; my log was still firmly lodged in the corner, the door just as closed as it had been last night. Wonderful.
I needed to find a bathroom…bath; now that was a nice thought; I hadn't had a shower since yesterday morning. I grabbed my parka from where I'd left it—in a typical teen guy fashion on the floor. Outside it proved to be a rather expensive piece of garbage. It may have been a fashionable 'chick-magnet' but one thing it wasn't was useful.
The clouds had drifted far off into the distance letting the watery early morning sunlight glance sharply off the sculpted alien landscape, casting the woods surrounding the clearing into a surreal shroud of shadow and glamour. As I waded through the knee deep snow the outhouse came into sight. My first response was to groan; it was positively primitive. It even had a little crescent moon carved into the door. Needless to say I was less impressed with this than the cabin. I was surprised to find that it was actually warmer inside than the cabin. It was also bigger than it appeared to be from across the clearing. What amazed me the most was the tiny iron box in the corner with a stovepipe leading up and out—a little woodstove! A heated toilet! Oh ho! Maybe I could live with this after all—stupid thing to think…of course this would me the wood would go twice as fast.
Upon my return to the cabin hunger pangs and the animal growling of my gut again plagued me. Ah yes, the infernal griping of teenaged physiology, reminding me that those scummy, cruddy, revolting dishes needed to be dealt with.
Finding water was no big deal, for now, there was the drip-bucket in the corner of the front room. After freeing it from the ice that fused it to the floor with my Zippo and a butter knife I coaxed the embers from last night's fire into a chipper blaze-certainly more chipper than me anyhow. Setting the pot on top of the woodstove I padded across the rough wood floor and sat down on the cot. While I waited for the water to boil I curled up with the sleeping bag wrapped around my shoulders and opened my slightly-abused copy of Peoples of the Indus Valley…Sitting like that I could almost forget I was in a craphole in the middle of nowhere. I heard the pot-lid clatter, a sure sign that the water was boiling, and sulked over to the stove brandishing a pot scrubber I had picked up on the way.
I hated doing dishes, bad memories of a summer wasted. I had worked the dish-pit in an inconvenient restaurant that no one ate at except for crotchety old people. Probably the worst summer of my life. Especially after the rumor got around the some of the more prejudiced regulars that not only was homosexual I also happened to be proud of it. I quit before I could be fired for standing up for myself. Some people may have endless temperance but I sure as hell don't. My hair-trigger temper has gotten me into more fights than I can count over the years…the vast majority of which I won…a good half or more of which were also justified. By the time I finished the dishes I was starving, but it occurred to me that I didn't have anything to cook. Unless of course I went out to the chicken shed and grabbed an egg or two. I tossed on my boots and jacket grabbing the bucket of filthy water to dump outside and headed for the shed. With the sun well above the clearing it was hard to see amid the glaring golden brightness.
"High little chickens, I'm here to steal your eggs." At least I wasn't talking to wildlife this time. Obviously to stupid to understand the thinly veiled threat beneath my jubilant tone, the two hens went on clucking and pecking grain from the full hopper.
I've never been much of a cook, I've never needed to be; at home my mother and sisters cooked for me partly, knowing I was far to lazy to do it myself and partly in return for repairs to whatever broken technology may have been laying around the house. At the academy there was always the choice of the cafeteria's sin-against-nature food or Saeliv's irresistible cuisine.
"And the most wonderful roommate of the year award goes to Saeliv," I smiled softly to myself. Maybe that was part of my downfall.
I've certainly never been at any risk of starving. Nevertheless it's always prudent to at least have a limited skill with food. After scrambling and eating the two eggs I'd abducted from the chickens I felt rather accomplished. After washing and putting away the dishes a nap was in order
Unfortunately said nap never happened. At the precise moment I was about to fall asleep I heard a rather un-serene squeal from above. Opening my now angered purple eyes I stared up into the seemingly empty rafters trying to figure out exactly what had disturbed my sleep—only to feel a strangely warm and odd-smelling liquid trickle onto my face. Oh this is just lovely. I sat up spying a fat rat scampering along the beam.
"That does it!" I leapt up off the bed and made a b-line for the fireplace. Taking a smoking piece of kindling from the blaze I leapt onto the cupboard and clambered into the rafters. Carefully testing the beam before I put my full weight on it I scanned the room for any sign of the rat. It was everywhere especially in the corner where a bundle of stolen objects and lint formed the home of a large family of large rats.
"All right you little beasties! This is my cabin now, get your little asses out!" I waved the stick at them watching the group retreat into the nest, which I prodded with the still-smoking stick. I watched, not fully registering, as a spark fell from the stick to the nest.
"Dear Gods." I swallowed hard and gritted my teeth as the ball of lint burst into flames with an audible 'whumphf'. I dropped the stick in shock and patted the flames out with my sleeve. The fire out I relaxed slightly, only to have one of the rats scurry under my hand. I yowled in panic and jumped loosing my balance and toppling from the beam to the cot.
"Ow…" I groaned winded, that had hurt more than it should have. Papa rat chattered at me. "Damn you rat."
The wind tried to force my hood back from my face, but I stubbornly held it in place with one black-gloved, numb-fingered hand, while I used the other to let the bucket down into the well.
"On the bright side, since there's no pipes they can't exactly freeze over, now can they bobcat?" I commented to the creature watching me with curiosity shimmering in her large green eyes, from a fork in the branches above me. She offered no reply—not that I had expected her to. The rope on he winch ran out and the bucket hit the ice at the bottom of the well with a clunk. I dropped my shoulders in reluctant surrender. "On the other hand, the well is perfectly capable of freezing." I grumbled wryly. The watcher seemed to be laughing, I decided better of commenting on that. I must be going crazy. I thought, Right then, back to reality; Time to go find some water. I tucked a strand of tangled red hair into my hood and grudgingly made my way back to the cabin for the map. When I unfolded it I felt unbearably stupid. For some reason utterly unbeknownst to me I had a driver's map of Honolulu—pleasant fantasy compared to my current location, but utterly useless. Except maybe as fuel for the outhouse firebox. I still had the better part of the afternoon remaining to explore the woods, and despite the seemingly omnipresent bobcat it seemed a better option than spending the day in the smoky, smelly cabin. As I walked along the fence line and into the forest I watched the snow flow, cascading along wind-sculpted lines and fall into strangely formed dunes. As long as I was smart enough to steer clear of tree wells… it was striking in it's serene untouched elegance. Even when the sun had long ago reached and passed its short-lived zenith and descended into the horizon snow swirled up from the tree branches and shimmered, scintillating, around me illuminated by the ethereal light of the aurora. The bobcat, my silent silver, nadir watched me patiently as I stood under the stars. When I looked over my shoulder there was a knowing quality in those ancient eyes, and, as if she had been waiting for me to acknowledge that, she turned in a shower of iridescent sparks and vanished into the wind.
Those knowing green eyes were with me when I finally drifted to sleep in my oddly ventilated cabin.
Day three—Valentine's Day
My eyes fluttered open in the silky gray light of early morning. As I lay there, staring up into the rafters where I could still hear squeaking—damn rats were still here—it occurred to me that today was Valentine's Day. Look at me! I dropped my head onto the mattress, sighing heavily, alone in the wilderness. Damn it! It doesn't matter! If I were home I'd just be hiding in a stairwell to avoid being 'straightened out' by a bunch of sugar-sweet teenaged whores. I scrunched my eyes shut. It's just as well that I'm here. I relaxed and let myself drift on the line between sleep and wakefulness.
Today I had clean dishes and fresh eggs, although was craving something sweet. I did have that mandarin orange in my backpack. I blinked against the light and crawled out of bed. Last night I had taken precautions against the cold, wearing my Car Club hoodie and sweatpants to bed. That, and two pairs of socks. Even so, I shivered as I moved over to the stove. Picking up the poker I cajoled the coals back into a jovial blaze. I cracked an egg into the frying pan and peeled my orange…maybe this place wasn't so bad. I shivered and tried to ignore the squeaking from the rafters. On second…thought maybe not.
After breakfast I sat down on my cot to read for a while and update my cabin journal. As I lifted the note pad off shelf a neatly folded piece of paper fluttered to the floor like one of the feathery snowflakes outside.
"Hell-o" I whistled. "What's this?" Unfolding it I recognized the handwriting instantly; It was neat the point of being flawless, well laid out perfectly even—nothing like my own scrawl. His handwriting reflected so much of Saeliv's pragmatic character. I smiled softly imaging the stoic blond sitting on this same bed.
Indubitably he would have been clean. I refolded the scrap of paper and stuffed it into my pocket. I could read it later. There were only so many hours of daylight in this icebound kingdom and I did have to find water. Technically I could always melt snow, but I didn't want to waste what little firewood I had left. I had discovered yesterday that hauling firewood was not my favorite pastime.
Hunting rats on the other hand didn't sound like a bad idea at all. Smoking them out hadn't worked at all so this time I decided to try something a little less subtle. Unsheathing my dagger I vaulted off the cupboard into the rafters now that I knew what to expect it was not much different from gym climbing. I balanced poised over the rat nest blade poised to strike. Mama rat, papa rat and one big baby rat…I didn't make a habit of killing things but sometimes a little blood on my blade could bring out my wicked side. I smirk flitted across my face as I cleaned the bright bit of steel on my jeans.
Now that was fun. My offering to the bobcat tied together by their tails in one hand and the lantern in the other I headed out the door. Days were short and spectacular out here. Nevertheless I was not about to have my explorations cut short by something as innocuous as sunset. Really there wasn't much need for the lamp with the boreal and lunar lights shining gloriously on the fallen snow, still with the clouds drifting in from the coast as they had been since earlier this morning I didn't want to take any chances.
Strangely with the cloud cover, as it was it seemed a little warmer today. That was the bit that set me on edge. Growing up close to the ocean, or on it I was well aware of the thickness unshed precipitation brought to the air. My footsteps led me in the opposite direction from yesterday. I was navigating by landmarks—up here a compass would be useless to me. I'm certain that Saeliv would know the precise formula to compensate for the proximity to magnetic north. Or maybe I mused he doesn't need a compass of all, flawless pilot's sense of direction getting him wherever he needs to go. Offhand I wondered if that same sense of direction would ever lead him to me…I shook the thought out of my mid along with the snow out of my hair. As I contemplated I picked my along the edge of a steep gully. It was a long way down to the frozen dribble of a creek. Still a creek was a creek, if I followed the ravine I would likely be able to find someplace less steep. The sun was just reaching its zenith, but only a milky white circle of it could be seen through the gathering clouds. Something about the way the wind was picking up made me a little uneasy; these winds were not as bad as the ones that had swept the forest floor just yesterday so I didn't really worry. At least not until it started to snow again. Thick flakes tumbled from the sky jumbling in a restless dance with the powder stirred up by the winds. It wasn't that bad, I knew I could 'tough it out' so I decided to keep going after I'd eaten the lunch I had packed myself this morning. By the time I had finished eating nearly everything was obscured from sight, my only lifeline a vaguely feline shape with what appeared to be the corps of Papa rat dangling from her mouth. I stood up trying to gain my bearings, thinking for some reason that if I followed the bobcat I'd be saved.
My fingers closed numbly around the drawstring of my hood pulling it tight—it wasn't like I could see much of anything to begin with. I staggered forward trying desperately to keep sight of my spirit guide. Each foot place ahead of the last I tried desperately to make up for the fact that I couldn't see my footing. I shivered and hugged myself trying to chase the penetrating old away. Glancing down at the harsh white eddies I realized that I couldn't see my feet. Where was the bobcat? I searched in vein but all I could see was the stinging white wall. It was as if I were the only being placed in a white reality empty but for the roaring of the wind in my ears. I tried to call out but my voice was swallowed by the wind. Fuckit! Who in nine hells would hear me anyway? I hated myself when my thoughts turned fatalistic. I heard a sudden crack—muffled by the wind but definitely at my feet. My pulse raced and I froze in place; for a split instant it seemed I would hang there into eternity when suddenly the ice and gravel gave way.
Sliding down the embankment I tried desperately to slow my decent, digging in my heels and groping wildly for branches, roots anything that would keep my from falling. My numbed fingers couldn't maintain their hold and the rocks slid out from under my feet. Suddenly I came to a jolting stop and lay winded at the bottom of the gully staring paralyzed into the swirling white sky. I tested my limbs one by one. Everything seemed fine at first, then pain came in waves from my left ankle, my palms smarted and my wrist ached. A warm sticky trail rolled along the side of my face and the realization of what it was struck me long before I touched a naked and scraped fingertip to the wound. My glove hung in ragged tatters. Staring at the blood on my hand I knew I had to move now or die later. I had to find some sort of shelter. Hauling myself to my feet I felt my way along the cliff side. The visibility wasn't much better but I could see now the silvery ice in the creek and the spirit of warm mineral colors in the walls. The ice here was thinner so I moved as close to the wall as I could and walked on the sliver of a riverbank. Up ahead was the end of the canyon and a red and gold cliff that trickled liquid water from the gaping maw of a stalagmite filled cave. Steam rose in phantasmal whispers dancing above the water as it passed into the creek. As I drew closer the ice had all but vanished. Even in my barely cognizant state I recognized the cause behind my observations. Hot springs. I heaved myself up over the lip of the cave. Amber water flowed and bubbled crystalline, clear golden like topaz. The heat was thick and oppressive. I collapsed under my own weight resting my cheek on the water-polished floor. This cave must have stood here untouched for millennia. Turning on my back painfully my battered body complaining with even the slightest movement. Now sweat trickled down my face mingling with a stray trail of blood. Using my good hand I unzipped my jacket and slid it off. Here out of danger I was reminded of how filthy I was. It was early evening and I hadn't had a shower in three days, my cloths tossed into a messy pile, I slid into the hot letting it flow over tense and acing muscle. I sank up to my chin taking the weight off my injured ankle. My red hair swirled in the water. Breathing a sigh of relief I let my eyes flutter closed. My lamp illuminated the cave casting flickering shadows on the alien shapes surrounding me. I turned reaching for my cloths—they needed to be washed as much as I did—a folded scrap of paper fell from the pocket of my jeans. Gingerly, I picked it up and unfolded it. In the strange, spiritual light of the cave that impeccable script seemed to dance and come to life before me.
My Dearest Daetrin,
You cannot even begin to fathom the utter illogic that has come over me thinking of you these past few days. So I answer illogical thoughts with irrational actions. I can see no purpose in writing a letter you will never read, other than to pass a few fleeting moments of a day I would otherwise be spending with nothing to occupy my mind and only menial tasks to occupy my hands. That's the crux of it, so strange that I find my fingers would rather be running through your glorious hair than on the controls of the Delta Star flying home. Even then I would fly only to fulfill my desire for your company, your musical laugh and tireless humor.
You seem to be present in everything that is beautiful here. When I close my eyes the flames on the hearth become your hair, the amethyst light of the aurora your eyes and the snow, freshly fallen and pristine your skin. Everything here has a living beauty that I whish I could share with you and you alone. I work everyday on repairs to the 'Star in hope that I may return to you.
Despite the profound lack of rationality in this there is odd comfort. Perhaps it is because my love for you is itself illogical.
I stared down at the letter a long while, speechless. The utter impossibility of the situation presented itself to me over and over in my mind, but here in my hand was concrete infallible proof of a dream, a dream come true. A dream I hadn't even known existed.
Saeliv, beautiful, platinum haired, aquamarine eyed, brilliantly logical, unfailingly reasonable, Saeliv loved me. Beyond all logic, beyond all accepted norms, my Adonis loved me.
All this time I had thought of myself as nothing more than a simple ginger-haired grease monkey. Before reading a letter I was never intended to read I could not have believed in my wildest imaginings that anyone thought of me in such poetic ways. And the stoic, god who was so high above everyone without ever once saying he was, so superior without a flicker of arrogance, he, he loved me. Perhaps this was how Orion felt when he knew he was loved by Ishtar.
Maybe it was the flickering of lamplight, maybe it was the all-encompassing heat or the effervescent water rising from the bosom of the earth. Likely it was all three in tandem who lured me from the land of lucidity as I rested my head on my jacket, stretched out still unclothed under my silver emergency blanket.
My mind drifted along the currents of light moving to the slow pulse of water music. In my dreams I followed a lithe gray shape who's ethereal green eyes beckoned me to follow her further. At the end of the winding path I found my way to the edge of a precipice overlooking a deep valley and a vast mountain range. Clouds and mist swirled below engulfing all but the icy shadowed blue peaks. Above was the greatest wonder of all. Waves of color languished against a backdrop of clear blue velvet strewn with a trillion diamonds. The arm of the galaxy stretched over on and on into infinity blanked by further multicolored brilliance, shot through by a million brilliant arrows.
And when I turned it all paled in comparison to his eyes.
Day Four—Last Full Day
I awoke on the cave floor, rested and rejuvenated, albeit, a tad on the stiff side. My hair and skin had dried soft as satin. I knew that I would be a firm believer in the cosmetic powers of hotspring water from now on. Not that I needed a great deal of convincing—I have always been the first to argue the merits of a hot bath.
Despite my thick clothing, after the blanketing heat inside the cold outside the cave hit my unaccustomed body as hard as the light my eyes. I shielded them from the brilliance with the back of my hand as I took careful steps out of the cave on onto the riverbank. My ankle twinged angrily when I put my full weight on it. At least it didn't hurt quite as much as it had last night. I brushed my hair out of my eyes and set out for the cabin. It was only about an hour's trip coming out here but the return trip presented new difficulties. I got lost twice, and getting up the steep slope on an injured ankle wasn't exactly the easiest thing I'd done in my life. The better part of the morning had gone before I finally reached the cabin. I was hungry enough to eat just about anything that came my way. I marched right up to the shed intent on eggs—even if I was down right sick of them after a week of nothing else—only to find the door disconcertingly ajar. The chickens were still there, marginally more intelligent than the goat who was blatantly not.
"Damn it." I growled and stamped me foot. It twinged reminding me that I wasn't exactly in the best physical condition for chasing after ungrateful bloody goats. On the bright side I'd get to explore more of this wonderland. There were tracks leading away from the compound back towards the creek.
"I have a bad feeling about this." I muttered to my shadow. She lifted her head sleepily and gave me a knowing glance. That could not bode well for the goat's fate. Or maybe I was still anthropomorphisizing her. Or maybe not. There had to be a reason the natives of this part of the world believed in guardian spirits. For some reason I felt a strange sort of kinship for this independent creature.
As I followed the goat tracks passed the fallen down fence I watched her out of the corner of my eye. Don't ask me how I knew she was female. She simply was, to me the quintessential female being.
"You know, I can't keep calling you 'bobcat'. Lilith suits you…what do you think.?" She certainly made no sound of protest, but if she said anything my limited perceptions kept me from understanding her.
The goat tracks ended with scuffed snow and a thirty-foot drop to the bottom of the gully. Lying at the foot of the slope was the broken-necked goat.
"Stupid goat, you're supposed to be graceful." I shook my head and turned away from the ravine. "Come on Lilith, best go back and get that rope can't have this go to waste." By the time I reached the cabin the sun was beginning to drift down from the heavens showering the tundra in festive golds. I knew it was best to get the goat up to the cabin lest the scavengers get to it before I did. Still, walking across the floor of the outer room, I wanted more than anything just to eat and go to bed. A floorboard creaked, drawing my attention to it.
"Curious." I muttered. When I put the weight of my good leg on one end of the board the other came up. I knelt down and pulled up the hidden 'treasure' trove. Three candy bars and a deck of cards. Too bad I hadn't found this earlier. On the other hand I didn't know how to play solitaire and I didn't like chocolate all that much. I peeled the wrapper off and ate the first one anyway.
Now to the rope and back to the goat. At a brisk walk I made it down to where the dead goat was lying before dark and rigged up a harness Climbing up the almost sheer cliff I tried to ignore the complaints from my wrist and ankle. "Tomorrow morning, Hotsprings," I promised my abused body as I hauled myself up over the edge. After tossing the rope over a sturdy tree branch and securing a heavy chunk of basalt to the other end as a counter weight I set to work, using my improvised pulley to drag my supper up the rock.
Supper was glorious, while digging through the root cellar for vegetables I had knocked over a pile of potatoes and found a tall glass bottle filled with gracefully aged wine. Along with that, some relatively fresh root vegetables and a good large goat steak. It was the perfect way to celebrate my last night in the wilderness. While I was cooking I heard a rustling a rustling at the back of the cupboard, I turned in time to see Lilith's head pop through the hole followed but her lithe furry body. No wonder it was always cold in here—and well ventilated—there was a bloody hole in the wall. How could I have missed it?
I offered the cat some of my steak. She devoured it quickly, not quite coming close enough to let me touch her. Swallowing the morsel she disappeared into the darkness through the whole.
"I'm gonna miss you, crazy cat."
Lying on my bed later that night staring out into the shimmering night sky I wondered if I would ever come back here. Even now I didn't quite want to go home. I'd just have to make the most of tomorrow and treasure these four days all my life. After all how often do you get to do something you expect to hate that changes you're whole perspective on life?
I felt the warmth of the sun on my cheeks long before I opened my eyes. It was still cold but it seemed as thought I was growing more and more accustomed to the cold the longer I spent here. Perhaps if I stayed just one day longer…but no just one day longer would mean one day more apart from my beloved. My Adonis. Blearily I finally opened my eyes. All was quiet and still, except for little dust motes that drifted lazily across my field of view. I smiled sadly whishing I could share this place with Saeliv. My heart was cheered by the thought of him sitting on this very bed composing a letter he thought no one would ever read. Will everything change now? I wondered, Now that I know? I couldn't help but hope that they might. At the same time I wondered if things could go drastically, awfully wrong…
I stirred and pushed the covers aside. It seemed like so long ago that the first things I did in the morning were have a shower and plunk down at my desk with a bowl of cereal and my latest project. My double-socked feet hit the floor, my ankle reminding me that it was still not happy with me. I winced but decided to otherwise ignore it; it wasn't bad, obviously not broken. It was easy to slip into this new routine, light the fire, cook breakfast wash the dishes. I decided to head down to the Hotsprings and take a bath before I had to go home.
I packed up my stuff and tossed my backpack on my bed. As I turned to leave I looked over my shoulder forlornly, I was going to miss this place. Well I'd be back later to grab my backpack before I left but still…it seemed to strange an empty without my things populating the room. The door closed behind me as I stepped out into the snow. I knew I would want to come back…perhaps with Saeliv at my side.
Out of the clearing I followed my tracks carefully observing the exact curve and angle of every branch, the placement of every tree, ingraining in my mind the way the moss grew on each boulder. I didn't want to forget anything, lest I not be able to find way back to the secret Hotsprings. It was a quiet day, sunlight filtering down through variegated hemlock needles marking the snow with blue and purple patches, here and there a tiny baby's breath spray of gold mingled with the pastel shades of the forest floor. All was still except for the whisper of a bird's wing or the chattering of a squirrel. Lilith stood proudly, staring down from a wall of stone. She gave me a look that said; You made it cub, I'm proud of you. As she faded between the trees I caught sight of her long cloud like tail.
"You're not a bobcat at all are you?" I said staring up in awe.
Glad you finally figured that out. The tip of that silver tail vanished into the shadow of the trees.
I squeezed the still warm water out of my hair and ran my fingers through it straightening the knots out of my unruly curls as I headed up the path from the cave. Humming softly to myself I watched the sky for a moment. Until now I had never really understood Saeliv's fascination with the vast blue expanse. Now I could see how it take hold of your soul…how just being close to it, how being a part of it could fill you up so completely that you could never want more. Here under the cerulean cathedral you could be completely content with yourself. For the first time in my life I knew who I was…What was it that someone had once said to me in a dream?
"You'll never be happy with anyone else until you know how to be happy with yourself." She had appeared to me as a redheaded girl with all knowing green eyes.
There were paw prints a head of me left by such a creature.
Above me I heard the purr of meticulously maintained aircraft engines. My head came up in surprise. I knew those engines. I'd practically built them. It was the Delta Star. I picked up my pace to a run hoping to reach the clearing before he did, only to feel the sting of my ankle. Damn, well I'll have to walk then. After all if I could handle I week in the wilderness I could handle and hour's walk back to the cabin.
Harp song greeted my ears as I steed through the door. Saeliv's snowy hair fell across his eyes as he looked up from his little travel harp.
"Daetrin." How could I have never noticed the emotion concealed beneath his rich, even tone before?
"Saeliv!" I replied boisterously, kicking off my boots and running across the room. I landed on the bed beside him in a flying leap. As unflappable as always he simply arched an eyebrow at my childish display.
"Have I done something to please you?"
"Only be yourself Koishi." Beloved. I smiled. He blinked suddenly, the most surprise I'd ever seen out of him.
"You do know what the word means do you not?" Of course I did. It was my best friends native language, of course I'd put in the effort to learn it. Instead I cried;
"Come on, what are we waiting for!" I grabbed him by the hand and leapt from the bed. He followed but as we left the clearing pulling on my hand he led the way…
Lilith was waiting for us at the edge of the precipice with a look that said, All is good now. Beside her I could have sworn I saw the shape of the Goddess in the mist, highlighted and golden for a moment just before the sun slipped beneath the horizon. We were at the top of the world, but there was still so much above us. Clouds and mist slid and twined around mountain peaks below as swirling like living spirits. We watched in awe, still hand in hand as meteors shot through the aurora shining bright lances.
"I found your letter." I stated, watching the light in his eyes as realization came over him like the light of the aurora above us.
"Do you…" He trailed off. I'd never seen him unable to speak, often unwilling to yes, but never unable. I smiled softly, my usual arrogant smirk melted into something more genuine.
"I love you Saeliv." I turned back to the stars but leaned against him, feeling his strength and warmth against my back. The wind swirled the snow up around our feet and toyed with our cloths and hair. I looked back to the spot where Lilith had stood, she was gone, and the only thing saying she'd ever been here; a few nearly filled in tracks.
"Oi Saeliv?" I looked up at him, just as awed by him as I had been in the dream.
"Yes?" was he really smiling?
"Does this mean we're like…I dunno…going out or something?" He laughed. He actually laughed.
"If the thought does not revile you…" I laughed too.
"Of course not! I'd go to the end of the world with you." I threw my arms around his solid torso.
"Some would say you already have." He said quietly into my hair, pulling me in close to the heat of his body. "Ai shiteru Daetrin-Koishi"
"I love you too Saeliv."
Ce'est la fin.