Exposure And Desperation

The girls' pace had slowed -- more from exhaustion than because of the snow, but still they placed one foot in front of the other; either stoic or foolhardy in nature.  Ella was too numb to think about it.

"My feet hurt," Emmy finally said, her voice muffled behind her scarf.  Ella looked down at her beloved little sister as they trudged through the snow and worried about the younger girl's ashen skin and empty eyes; she looked heavily in the throes of shock -- both emotional and physical.  Ella too felt the cold stabbings of frostbite in her feet with each wobbly step she took.  Try as they might to keep their feet dry, it was inevitable that snow would eventually spill over their boot tops and seep into their stockings.

She nodded and put her bare hand on Emmy's cheek, "I know, sweetheart, but we've got to keep going.  I want to make Curth before nightfall."  Ella couldn't bring herself to tell Emmy she had no idea where they were.  It was Ella's belief that they had somehow overshot Curth and were currently wandering aimlessly through the woods.  She was desperate to find a road or a stream they might follow to civilization, but it was beginning to look futile.

She stuffed her hands back into her pockets, having yesterday decided to relinquish her mittens to her sister.  She refused to admit to herself that her fingers were beginning to tingle with the early stages of frostbite as well.  She wiggled her fingers inside her pockets to keep the circulation flowing as best she could.

Soon they came upon a clearing, not large enough to be called a field, but nonetheless an open space which allowed the girls a chance to take in their surroundings.  The bright sunshine which glared off the snow made Ella squint and shade her eyes with one hand as she looked around.  Ahead of the two girls was a good-sized hill, one that Ella estimated might take them a couple of hours to ascend.  To their left, the slope dropped down into a gully where the soft sounds of a trickling stream rose up to their ears.

Ella bit her lip and weighed their options.  On the one hand, the stream might lead to civilization.  Plus there might be game nearby a water source, which appealed to her empty stomach, which had long ago ceased rumbling with hunger pangs.

On the other hand, she had no idea where the stream led -- if anywhere at all, and they had no way of catching or killing any game.  Cresting that hill might be a catastrophic waste of time, but would give them an outstanding view in all directions, where they were sure to see signs of life.

Hopefully Curth.

Ella sighed and nodded toward the hill, "Let's go up.  We can see much better from up there."

She waited for a protest from her exhausted sister, but Emmy simply began walking wordlessly toward the hill.

Ella rushed to catch up, "What do you think, kiddo?  Isn't this a good idea... or do you have another one?"

Emmy was silent as she walked.

Ella tried again, "I'd like to hear your thoughts, Emmy."

Emmy's response was nearly swallowed by the trees, "Let's just go."

The End

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