"Tell me I did it right," the voice was almost pleading. "Wake up..."
He noticed he was having a hard time focusing. On the words, on the sounds, on all but the sensations of bitter cold and stinging pain at his forehead and fingertips. Where is that voice coming from?
As if in response to his thought, his vision began to single in on a mass of colors hovering above him. A face, buried in deep shadows. He couldn't make out the details, but it was a face without a doubt. He was certain.
He pushed himself farther still. Surely if he could do this well with that much effort, he could do better still.
A girl, some part of him decided. What part of him he didn't know, but he felt confident.
Then, as if some new part of his brain had suddenly clicked on and brought with it the ability to reason, he realized that she had to have been speaking to him.
"Wake up," she'd said. Did that mean he was asleep? Of course not. So all he had to do was tell her he was ok, right?
But when he tried to force the words "I'm awake" out of his throat, he found that barely a whisper could slip through his lips. "I'm awake," he tried once more, throwing so much effort behind the attempt that it forced him to cough. But even through his coughing he could make out a sharp intake of breath.
"Are you ok?" she asked, a momentary panic evident in her voice, followed a moment later by a sudden warmth that bloomed on his forehead. Once his eyes focused again, he saw that it was her hand, brushing aside a few strands of hair. He felt oddly drained after that, and relished the way her touch chased away some of the dull pain in his skull.
"You've got a nasty gash," she remarked with a stony expression, pulling her hand back. "You need to have it treated before it can get infected. There's a small town not too far from here, I'm sure they could help you."
Her words bounced around inside his head, and it took him a moment to fully process what she was saying. He sat up with no small amount of difficulty, his frustration with himself more than anything pushing him on. If he couldn't even do that much, how was he supposed to-
Suddenly his mind blanked. Supposed to... What? There was something there. Or rather, there was supposed to be something there. But there was nothing. He tried to follow that thought through, tried to remember what was supposed to be there, but it was like he was scratching at polished granite. Hard, slick, and without a single nook or cranny to catch on to.
"What's your name?" the words caught him off guard, and for a moment he couldn't place what they meant. Where before that memory had felt like he'd stumbled onto something that he just couldn't quite grasp, now it had plummeted away into the dark, out of reach.
He gave a sigh, deciding not to dwell on it right now, determined to figure out what that was later. "Brian", he answered.
"Well then, Brian," she asked as she straightened herself up, dull moonlight illuminating her with an ethereal pale glow as she extended a hand. "Do you think you can walk?"
Only a few minutes ago walking had seemed about as absurd a task as picking up a house with his bare hands. But he could feel his strength returning, trickling back, little as it may be.
He gratefully accepted her help, pulling himself to his feet. His legs felt jittery and unreliable, but he could manage. At least, he wanted to believe that he could.
"I'm okay," he grunted, and though it took considerably more effort than he'd have liked, he managed to straightened himself out. "Which way are we going?"
She hesitated, though he wasn't sure what she could've be mulling over.
"Just follow me," she answered. "Tell me if you need to take a rest."