The Valley

Based on this prompt (http://bonyfingeredlimbs.blogspot.com/2012/12/flash-fiction-challenges-are-back-snow.html).

It was the little things that always gave everything away - tearing little holes into the thin paper veil concealing each deception.  She chewed over the tiny inconsistencies of her memory as the crepuscule hues faded from the surface of the lake.

Arya knew deception, she'd long ago entwined herself in it and let it carry her away.  How very intimately she knew its bones, its breaths, its inconsequential secrets; but it knew her as well - the jagged scars it left on her heart with every interaction, the way she fought with herself, the wailing ache that moored its loneliness to her ribs.  As one can know, so must one be known.  Deception itself had led her out into the valley, shown her the path to the cabin, opened the doors wide and yelled, "This is where your life will begin!  You must simply wait for it."

So many years had passed but it felt unreal and cold.  That was the way of the valley, and of deception, though; intermingled, they were a coolness that settled into her bones, stitching her ligaments tight against the joints, making her inflexible and sore.  She didn't know why she stayed in the valley when she hated it so much.  The beauty of the freshly fallen snow cast atop the pine trees that climbed and twisted their way up the mountainside had grown less lovely with each snowfall.  The lake in the center, cradled in the palms of the mountains like a handful of diamonds, that had once offered her so much solace and comfort, had iced over as it did every winter.  She'd developed a pristine loathing of winter.

When Arya tried to remember the reason she'd come to the valley the memory was murky and unstable; just as she began to feel she was grasping it, piecing it together, it turned to smoke and drifted away.  She knew, faintly, with the knowledge one sometimes possesses of moments in a past life, that she was waiting.

She could no longer remember what she was waiting for.  She thought it might be for the frost to melt from the trees, but she was certain she'd waited for it last year and it had come and gone and she still remained in the valley.  The days had begun to bleed into each other.  She'd lost track of the days and the months, she had only the changing of the seasons to indicate any passage of time.  She chopped firewood, tidied the cottage, prepared the fire, stared hopefully out of the window throughout the day - willing her signal to arrive, willing her life to reach the catalyst that everything seemed to hinge upon.

Every morning, without fail, she would find fresh deposits of food outside of her door, enough for a day or two at least, and she would prepare it.  As each meal was ready she would leave a serving on the porch, but she'd altogether stopped watching for a guest.  The food only disappeared when she was not watching - whether it was an animal or not that she was feeding, she had no idea, but it helped with the loneliness some nights.  She could only hope that it was her secret provider that was enjoying the food.  Here and there she would find a new book or a bundle of new fabric among the pheasants and ducks and rabbits, or tucked beneath the apples, hidden just behind the oats and grains.  

She always used anything she was given - she nearly swallowed the books right up, so eager she was to have something new to capture her.  She made dresses and quilts and curtains.  She could not recall the day it happened, but slowly, over time, the cabin in which she waited became a home.  Slowly, over time, she lost sight of what she was waiting for and spent her life mildly contented with caring for a garden in the spring and reading beside the fire in the winter.

In time, the instinct to wait faded into nothing.  She simply lived in the valley, in her warm cabin.

She opened her eyes, startled from sleep, sitting bolt upright in her bed.  She'd heard something, she was sure of it; but the cabin was as silent as the forest beyond the walls, gobbled up by the thick darkness of the wintertide, all life hunkered down in hibernation.

Then she heard it again - a devastating crack! that shook her to the bone.  Something splintered beneath the force of the blow.  For a few more seconds, there was no further sound.  Then again, the same noise.  A whoosh of air, the earthy rupture, the dull thud of a landing.

She pulled on a robe and made her way to the window, hugging it tightly around her as she peered through the glass.  She dared not light a candle as she lingered there, her eyes barely adjusting to the shadows, hunting for the sound in the pre-dawn obscurity.

And then the sun began to crest over the mountains beyond her land and he stepped into her vision - a silhouette against the first fractions of light - swinging an ax down to split a block of wood.  The noise of it clutched at her heart, digging frantic nails in until she remembered.

Her sign had arrived.

The End

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