She felt the cold. It had been cold before, of course it had — it was was why they were leaving. Because it was too cold to sleep, too cold to eat, too cold to exist.
So they went out. Into the night and darkness. It seemed stupid now that Rebecca was standing outside. She could barely see her hand in front of her face – and the other women seemed like shadows.
And now the cold was there, in full force. Rebecca felt it burn her skin. She took a deep breath and felt it burn her lungs. It was like every bit of water in her body – all of those percent – it was like it all was freezing, solidifying.
Rebecca didn't feel the cold in her bones, she felt it in her blood.
“Shouldn't we wait until morning?” She hesitated, as the other women stepped into the woods, sinking into the snow. It reached above the knees, even as they tried to follow the tracks left by the car.
“With all this snow the sun will blind us” Theodora looked back at the younger woman apologetically, shining the torch at her feet. She thought for a moment and then spoke again.
“And the daylight wont last long enough. Even if we wait we'll have to walk in darkness. And then it might start snowing again.”
She stood for a moment more, maybe trying to come up with something comforting to say. Then she turned around and looked ahead. It was even harder to see once you stepped onto the tiny road and all the trees started closing in.
Theodora turned around again and walked up the tiny figure – illuminated by the light from the cabin. She was already shivering, and looked completely lost.
“Here – keep your hand on my shoulder and concentrate on not falling.”
Rebecca obeyed and started walking while staring into the ground to make sure she knew were she was placing her feet.
She followed Theodora onto the small road, into the forest. As she walked it all dulled into a repetitive set of motions.
No one spoke and Rebecca tried to distract herself best she could. So she wouldn't start thinking of what could happen. What would happen. What had already happened.
The forest was eerily quiet. Except for the sound of the snow compressing and fabric rustling it was all silence. Like a compact wall that they were trying to break through.
It didn't feel like they were walking through a forest. None of the usual sounds were present and the ground didn't feel soft and vaguely moist. It didn't even smell. Rebecca couldn't tell if that was because everything was covered in snow – or whether it was because the air was so could her nose had just given up.
Rebecca tried to concentrate on what she was doing again. On stepping into Theodora's footprints at a reasonable pace and not falling.
Every step felt unbelievably monotonous and at the same time like an unbelievable challenge.
The car had pressed the snow down had turned it hard and slippery and every time she stepped through the new snow she felt like she was slipping. With every step she braced herself for a fall.
And the difficult part hadn't even begun. Sooner or later they would have to leave the road and into the forest proper. And try to stay upright on uneven ground.
It all continued. Stepping silently through the night, slowly making their way through the forest – in what was hopefully the right direction.
“It should be in here” Catharine looked back at the assembled women.
“There is no path but it's the shortest way” She sounded apologetic. She tried to see what state the other women were in but the dark made it hard to read their faces.
Catharine began stepping into the woods, trying to keep branches out of her face best she could.
Laura followed, and then Theodora with Rebecca still hanging on to her shoulder.
Rebecca tried to adjust to the ground beneath her. It was less even but also less slippery. And all the trees up close made it feel warmer. Unfortunately all those trees were everywhere, branches and pine-needles felt like they were everywhere.
But at least it smelled like forests usually do. Earthy and greean. Like dirt and pine needles. Rebecca was pretty sure she actually had dirt and pine needles in her nose. And her mouth. It didn't taste half bad. It tasted like forest.
And it made Rebecca feel a bit calmer. The situation didn't seem as unreal. They were going to get through this. Together.