As she was packing, nervousness and excitement stirred her stomach and made a growling noise. She wanted a chocolate to calm her nerves but refrained from the temptation. It had been many years since she took a break. She was looking forward to this time with Ranger. They had booked a cabin in the woods. The company had given them a sweet deal. A getaway but committed with all the amenities of the modern world. She was almost packed when her phone rang. "That must be the cab." She thought almost diving for the phone, not wanting to miss the call. She was meeting Ranger at the airport. She didn't bother to look at who was calling, she just answered the phone.
"Hi Sweety." It was Ranger on the other side. The moment she accepted that it wasn't the cab but her beloved, she wondered about the cause behind his untimely call.
"Hi love. I will be leaving in literally five minutes. We will not miss the flight this time on my account. I promise. Please don't stress." she said hurriedly.
He seemed hesitant on the other side. That's not like him. If anything, he always acted entitled around her. One of the things she loved about him. This was not him.
"Honey…" he said again with hesitation in his voice. There was no mistake. Something was up. She waited.
"I…" She kept silent as he spoke. "Won't be able to make it baby." She didn't respond. He continued “There is a crisis at work. If I don’t handle this I will no longer have a job tomorrow.”
Disappointment hit her like a fist in the stomach. She wanted to yell as he continued “I am soo sorry, babe. I will make this upto you. Could you cancel and take care of the logistics? I don’t care about the money. Do whatever…” It took a moment for his words to sink in. She realized that this was important for him. Ranger, letting go of money without having a lengthy negotiation, or passing off the kind of discount they had gotten on this getaway was unlikely. This was no doubt an emergency for him. She couldn’t respond.
“Babe… You there?” he said. There was a slight panic in his voice.
“Hmmm” she squeaked. Best to tell him how she felt, otherwise she knew she would fester what was not expressed. “I won’t lie to you” she said, after what seemed like an eternal pause. “I am very disappointed and you are my least favorite person on the whole planet right now. But, it must be really important, otherwise for many reasons apart from spending time with me, you are not the one to cancel. We will discuss this later when you have dealt with your business. I will take care of the details.” She did not realise that she had decided to go on her own till the last of the words were out of her mouth.
Almost as if the universe heard her, she got a call from the cab company. Almost as if it was destiny, Ranger did not linger on the call. “Thanks babe. I have to go, talk soon. Love you.” He disconnected before “Love you.” was out of her mouth. She answered the call from the cab. “Be there soon.” she said and rushed to pack up.
She was a city girl and had never been to something so rustic. Without Ranger she felt very out of place. “It's good to have new experiences. It is good to have new experiences...” she kept affirming to herself. When they handed her a smart card key, she felt a little assured. There was no help, she had to carry her luggage herself. Not what she was used to. “It is good to have new experiences.” she told herself as she opened the door to a quaint wooden cabin right out of a story book. It was cosy, comfortable and beautiful. The disappointment was replaced slowly by a sense of adventure. She was looking forward to the wooden fire place, boiling water on the stove and cooking her food on coal and wood. She could continue to work on her book or sleep the whole day. She was not intimidated from the physical work that was involved, as she was fit. Besides, if she could not manage she could always order something from the resort's kitchen.
It was cold. She put the wood in the fireplace and parked her backpack in the bedroom, which was also cosy and beautiful. The meal for two was in the fridge as requested. “More for me...” she thought to herself as she put her favorite pasta in the microwave to heat. She took out a glass, poured herself a wine, stretching slightly preparing to settle down with a book and a good meal.
The microwave started blinking and made a loud noise before it shut off. She sipped her wine waiting for the back up power to come on. One can’t expect the city's promptness in this place. What they had managed to pull off was good enough. She jumped as her cell phone started to ring. It was loud. The silence made it sound like a police siren. She managed to get to her phone. It had become darker than when she had arrived.
The call was from an unknown number. She answered. “Hello?” “Good evening Ma’am. This is the reception calling. We wanted to inform you, that the power is out. While going out there was a surge and the backup system has broken down. We have tried all possibilities and the earliest the power will be back will be tomorrow late morning. We regret the inconvenience. All the amenities are in the room. Shower and heater will not work. We request you to sleep near the fireplace tonight…” the voice cut off as her cell phone’s battery died. Abandoning her dinner she decided to walk to the reception, which was almost half a kilometer away, only to face a snowy wind on her face when she opened the front door. The cabin was clearly snowed in.
She shut the door fighting down the panic rising in her. “This is not going to help. I need to think.” Her stomach growled. She knew that she won't be able to think on an empty stomach, and the fireplace radiated an inviting warmth against the cold that was seeping in through the walls of the cabin. After a panicky meal by the warmth of the fireplace, which promised to last the whole night, she got up. No matter how she tried to calm her nerves her mind was racing. She could chat to the customer care of the cabin and let them know her situation. Perhaps they could help. No point in calling Ranger, he wouldn’t be able to do anything. She could not sleep on the floor, but remembered that she had packed a sleeping bag for a hike in the snow. If it could keep her warm in the out doors in the snow, it should be able to do that within the cabin. She remembered her torch as well. “One thing at a time Love…” She said to herself loud, fighting panic. “Lets get through the night. Once the sun is up, I can go to the reception. I cannot risk the animals or the snow blizzard at this time”
Unfamiliar with the layout she bumped into things as she navigated to the bedroom to get her backpack. It had become dark, and every bit of light disappeared. As she passed the point where the fireplace lit the way, pitch darkness settled. Fear started to grip her. Memories of being locked in the closet as a child, her step father banging on the door outside resurfaced. She never understood as a child, why her mother would allow her step father to lock her in the closet and beat her up. Eventually, her mother did file a police complaint and kicked the second husband out. Even though the abuse had stopped, it had left a deep mark in her psyche. She was never fearless again. It was difficult for her mother, but she made her daughter a priority and gave her the best. The little girl grew up, attended college on scholarship and made a successful life for herself. Her mother worked in the bakery because she had grown to love it and had friends there. Her mother also found love later in life, and had married a month ago. While her life was nothing to complain about, the fear of darkness had gripped her soul and psyche. It is the only thing she feared. A dark corner, a power outage... Without Rangers presence to comfort her, she started to feel that she was going to die.
“One step at a time..” she told herself. Her mouth was dry by now, and her stomach was in knots. Her dinner was threatening to come up. She held onto what she knew was the wall and willed herself to take one step after the other. Something came in her way and she tripped and fell. The fall would have caused a serious injury if the floor wasn't made of wood and covered in carpet. The bedroom! The bedroom was carpeted! She held onto it as if her life depended on it. All light had gone, and the room was pitch black. The sound proofing could not keep out the sound of the blizzard. “Just two more steps. I am almost there. I can do this” She told herself. Unable to stand, she took comfort in the warmth of the carpet as she crawled to her backpack kept on the left, trying to keep her dinner in her stomach. She closed her eyes. No point in opening her eyes to find darkness. Her hand found her back pack. Trying to be rational in her panic, she tried to focus with everything in her to find the zipper. Inside that zipper was a torch. Torch would give light. Nothing else mattered in that moment except light. Her hands were shaking and sweaty. She could not grip the zipper. “Don’t give up! Not now!” She said aloud in darkness. A howl reverberated through the house as she finally managed to get the bag open. She heard a thud and something rolled on to the floor. Her torch! Reaching out her hand in the direction she heard the sound, her hand gripped something cold and round.
Then there was light. She opened her eyes slowly, still lying on the floor, allowing her eyes to adjust. She sat up and her fear slowly left her as she focussed on taking deep, even breaths and fixing her eyes on the beautiful pattern of the bed cover. As the torch lit the room, the blizzard started to calm down as well. The sounds did not sound as dangerous. Slowly, she stopped shaking and could stand up. She picked up her bag and started to head down with a new found courage. As luck would have it, her portable wifi and her laptop did not work either.
She thought she would not be able to sleep, or if she did she would never wake up. Although the fire lit the room and kept the room warm, all sorts of imagery invaded her mind. She did not realise when she had fallen asleep.
She startled awake to loud banging and the panic and fear of the previous night threatened to return. The blizzard had completely died, and there was light streaming through the windows. The banging became louder and louder. Someone was shouting her name. The voice was not familiar. The place looked strange… slowly the memories of the previous day and night came back. It seemed as though someone was about to break down the door when she said “Coming!” realizing that it may be the resort staff.
She gingerly got up, heading for the door, surprisingly able to balance herself. Four faces greeted her. The manager she met the previous day looked visibly relieved when he saw her. “Thank god you are alright Ma’am, we could not reach you last night at all and only your cabin was covered fully with snow. The blizzard was so bad that we could not risk coming to get you last night. We came as soon as we could.” he said. She looked over the managers shoulder to see the path they had dug to get to her. Feeling assured that she was safe “I am fine" she said. "Thank you for coming.” The power seemed to be back up and the cabin seemed warm. She opened the door further letting the guys in…
“Why don’t you come in? Can I make you guys some coffee?”
As she boarded the flight back home, she could not help but smile to herself. The weekend turned out to be the most beautiful experience she had ever had. She made new friends and they did take her hiking. She did not camp out but had breathtaking pictures to show her friends and family. Ranger, not able to reach her, had panicked, and was calling back to back the next day. She spoke to him after the coffee with her new friends, and explained about her impulsive decision and her adventure of the night. Although he was having an adventure of his own at work, he managed to slip in texts and quick calls whenever he could to make sure that she was ok. He even connected with the manager, just in case. She was moved to another cabin even though she protested. “It is not safe.” The manager friend insisted.
She could see Ranger's face as she walked out of the airport and ran into his arms for a hug. “Babe… I am so sorry!” he said. “No need, it was the best thing that happened to me. I made friends with darkness and that was worth everything.”