There’s someone in the middle of the clearing.
I can’t even guess whether it’s a guy or a girl
But whoever they are,
They’re dressed in something so white
That it actually hurts to look at
And makes the snow look grey by comparison.
And try to figure out where they came from.
They definitely weren’t there a minute ago.
S/he doesn’t move.
I cup my hands around my mouth
“Excuse me? Hello!”
I don’t know why.
I wouldn’t normally talk to a stranger,
Much less a stranger I met in the middle of the woods
In the middle of winter
In a state on the other side of the country from where I live,
But those shadowy fingers are getting longer
(Is that even possible?)
And human company seems more appealing
Than being alone.
The distant figure turns
And in half a heartbeat she is standing two feet in front of me.
I yell and fall backwards into the snow.
“Holy crap!” I say.
“How did you do that?”
The girl cocks her head like a curious bird
Then she smiles and holds out a hand to me.
I don’t take it.
“How did you do that?” I say again.
I have to admit she is strange-looking.
She’s wearing a robe or a dress
That is whiter than anything I’ve ever seen before.
Her thick, silvery curls tumble down past her shoulders;
Her skin is smooth and pale, and she regards me
With eyes the color of glacial ice
Or summer sky
Or newborn forget-me-nots.
Beautiful, but not conventionally so.
She would look out of place in a magazine,
But I can’t find a single thing about her appearance that I would change.
I can’t tell how old she is
She could be anywhere from fifteen to twenty five.
My heart is still thundering along at a million miles an hour
But I don’t move.
I sit there on the ground and stare up at her.
“Who are you?” I say loudly
And then when she looks confused,
“Can you talk? Do you speak English?”
She shakes her head and gives an apologetic little half-smile.
I point my forefinger at my chest
“Wes,” I say.
“Wessssss,” she says softly,
Tasting my name.
Her voice is smooth
And she makes the “s” sound stretch on and on
Until it finally fades into the thick, snow-bound silence of the woods.
“Wessssss,” she repeats
And she reaches a hand out and points at my chest.
“I’m Wes,” I say.
Then I point at her and raise my eyebrows.
Shaking her head and pointing in turn at the shadows of the trees
Which have grown impossibly long since I last looked---
They’re only a few yards away now.
I try again:
“I’m Wes, and you are...?”
I point at her
But she shakes her head again and points at the shadows.
Then she looks me straight in the eye
And holds out her hand once more.
I take it.
At once, I find her cool, thin fingers are getting lighter
More delicate and fine
As though the weight and substance of her is dissolving into the air.
I look up in alarm at her face and see that she is smiling peacefully,
But that the line of trees behind her is visible through her shoulder
And that her blue eyes are merging
With the stars above me.
“Wait!” I yell
“Where are you going? Stop!”
She shakes her transparent head
“Wessssss...” she says