Author’s note: Personally, I feel this story would have been better with a few thousand more words, but that’s the word count limit for you.
Everything here is completely fictional! And PLEASEEE critique it (I don’t mind how harsh or to-the-point it is, as long as it is constructive)
The coldness of the snow stung my feet as I plodded through the icy ground. My feet sunk into the soft snow of the once green hinterlands of Tasmania. Chilling wind bit against my cheeks, blowing with full force. A coat of dense fog clouded the landscape ahead, and I could see very little.
I tried to ignore the increasingly freezing temperatures and darkening skies. If my estimates were right, I would reach my destination in about ten or twelve minutes. I was grateful I knew this route so well, or I would surely have lost my way.
I was all alone for several miles. How long had it been since I had last had some time to myself? Ten years? More than that?
The light from my torch started blinkering, and I sighed. Pretty soon, it was going to conk out and I would truly be stranded in the dark. Why hadn’t I thought of bringing batteries before? Or at least my phone?
But how was I supposed to be thinking about batteries when I needed to come here as fast as possible?
After a few seconds, the torch gave out completely, and I had only darkness for company. The wind blew faster all around, showing signs of an impending snowstorm. My blood turned cold. No matter how hard I squinted and tried to make out my surroundings, I couldn’t discern anything but hazy shapes. The wind howled in my ears.
Like a person.
I clapped my hands over my ears and began running. Though it had been more than a decade since I had last run, I covered enough distance without falling headfirst into the snow.
Terror gripped me. What if someone saw me? What if someone had followed me all the way? Oh no, I couldn’t afford to be seen, not now! They would surely take me back where I had come from, and that was the last place I wanted to go.
You can call me anything.
Just don’t ever tell anyone about me or where I was.
Because I was on the run, and I was running for my life.
* * *
I found my place of recluse after a while. Nothing looked more welcoming than catching a glimpse of the winter cabin standing amid the mist, concealed by frozen trees and snow.
It had a truckload of snow piled on the roof, and was probably infested with a horde of termites, but those weren’t the things that bothered me right then. I shoved the door open, collapsing on the iced-over wooden floor of the cabin, weary with exhaustion. I reminded myself to pull the door shut lest someone did happen to walk across this area.
The moon had come out from behind the stormy clouds, filtering through the window and falling into the cabin. The light it provided was minimal, but good enough for me to make out whatever was around me.
I scooted over to the nearest wall and sat against it, pondering my next action.
‘No internet. No electricity. No form of communication at all.’ These were the words that rang in my mind, repeating over and over. Well, I didn’t need the internet that much: All I saw there these days was embellished news and the big stink people made whenever even the tiniest things happened.
Electricity. Now, I always had an ample amount of everything I could ask for, maybe even more than necessary. I dare say living in this tumbledown cabin was going to be a challenge, but I had to pull through until things cleared. At least I hoped I could.
No communication. Oh well, it was better to be isolated for a while. No one knowing where I was was probably the best bet on my part.
By telling the position of the moon, I could make out that it was late in the evening. It was no use trying to do anything today. I wasn’t even hungry,
* * *
I woke up the next morning with my feet and arms aching all over. I was still in the same position I had been last night, and not a mote of dust lay out of its place, which was fortunate. Yet, no surprise ‘roughing it down’ had made me feel so wretched.
The sky was clear and a deep blue outside, the sun shining in through one of the windows. I must have been missed hours ago, but I distracted myself from that thought by moving over to the supply of food and amenities stacked up against the furthest wall.
I congratulated myself on having arranged all this weeks ago. This food would surely last me a month without rotting. It was not easy bringing everything here, of course. I had to take several trips from my house to this place, and it wasn’t an easy feat, considering I lived over a hundred miles away.
I looked at the worn down front door. There was no reason at all for me to fear anyone coming to hunt me down because I was several miles away from the nearest houses.
Unless any trekkers or people looking for adventures in the wild stumbled across this clearing, I was completely shadowed from the peering eyes of the world.
I fixed myself a bowl of something to eat. The food was tasteless and raw compared to all the food I had been accustomed to, but I had to make do.
By the time I had sorted through my gathered belongings, the sun was fairly up in the sky. The snow was too thick to melt, and I realized that the snow from the roof of the cabin had caved in the front door, and there was no way out but to climb out using the window.
Now, don’t ask me how I did that. I had to remove the window panes before testing the windowsill gingerly if it could bear my weight. Moving through the gap, I landed on the smooth snow with a dull thump and spent the next couple of hours shoveling the snow using a spade that had been standing against the wall. I created a path that wound from the door to the forest trail a few feet away. My arms were aching after all this hard work, but I was glad I had gotten it done.
The day passed a little slowly, the sun refusing to move down the horizon in the sky and let way for darkness to set in. The more hours went by, the more accomplished and independent I felt. Freedom took on a whole new form with a different meaning.
I spent each morning shoveling the area in front of the door and trying to make myself useful. Every night, blizzards and hailstorms tormented the land, and the winter cabin held up against the force. Temperatures dropped to below minus, and I cowered under layers of warm blankets and sweaters.
However, as the days passed, I acclimatized to living this way. It felt long ago, when I had a whole house to myself, loaded with every luxury I could ask for. I hadn't seen another soul for a long time now.
No one strayed too far into the clearing where I was staying, which was fortunate. Yet, I was too afraid to step further than a few feet of my winter cabin. I couldn’t risk being careless if I had to make it through these four weeks.
Though at first I felt liberated, living all alone was new to me. Even from my childhood, people had always surrounded me. Here, there was nothing other than the wind wailing like a lost soul and the snow drifting to the ground. When it got too silent and forlorn, my ears rang with emptiness, and moving around felt daunting.
* * *
Late in the afternoon, a week after I had come to this cabin, I heard the rustling of snow outside, as if someone were shuffling their feet on the ground. I pounced and made a dash for the empty crevasse behind the heap of belongings I had stored at the back of the room. I stood there, waiting with bated breath, my heart pounding, but there was nothing more to be heard. After what felt like an eternity, I gathered enough courage to creep to the window.
All I saw was a fresh sleet of snow.
A marred sheet of glossy paper was blowing around, carried by the wind. I watched it hover in the air in crazy circles and land against the front door outside with a crackle.
I couldn’t resist the urge to walk outside and pick it up.
It was a poster of a celebrity singing. She was Tracey Evans and she was one of the most profound stars in our era. I knew her all too well. I used to hum her songs to myself when I was all alone. She had been the talk of the town, and nearly every person in the entire world knew who she was.
I wondered how this poster had landed up here. It was barely holding up. And it wasn’t likely that the wind had carried it over several miles from the nearest town. Perhaps some trekker had come and dropped it nearby.
These contemplations made me feel uncomfortable. People shouldn’t be walking around here, or they’d find me.
Seeing this poster revoked deep inside me, a feeling of sadness and sorrow. Tracey looked so naïve, so believing that the world would do everything to support her dreams. Little had she known that the same people who had sung songs of praise on her performances were the ones capable of utterly destroying her career.
The same people who had swarmed around her for autographs had trampled this poster of hers as if it was invisible. Did this show their true loyalty?
Taking a swift glance around to make sure no one was there, I folded the poster and pocketed it. I didn’t know what made me do that. Probably it was intuition, or probably it was nothing at all.
* * *
In mid-July, terrible blizzards rocked the sky. The gale roared around so hard that I feared the cabin would get ripped to pieces. I did not shovel the sidewalk every single day. What use was it? Every night, the snowstorms, blizzards and hail came, and they put my hard work to shame. It was better anyway, to stay caved in and let any wanderers think that this was an abandoned shack where no one lived.
Ever since I had seen that poster, I had learned to be more careful. It was imperative I didn’t step out or make an incessant racket every day. I was certain someone had been prowling about near the cabin.
I spent my time looking at the poster, studying it. My days here were long drawn and bland. I wanted to give up. I nearly convinced myself that perhaps I could just go back to where I came from. I had to remind myself that there was no going back to ordinary life.
A few more days, I told myself, gritting my teeth, and the government will most probably give up searching for you. You can get out of this place then.
The ‘most probably’ didn’t seem to be very reassuring.
Even if the government quit being at my tail, was I supposed to disguise myself? Live under a fake identity for the rest of my life?
A crashing sound outside disturbed my thoughts, and I jumped out of my skin. The moments that followed were ridden with silence. I could hear molecules of energy vibrating about, but nothing else.
What could that have been? The sound had come from hardly a few feet away. Had something fallen down? Whatever it was had to be enormous because it had made a deafening noise even after the snow had absorbed most of it.
A little more cautious than before, I slunk towards the window and peered out.
A tree, frozen from top to bottom, had collapsed on the winter cabin, blocking out sunlight. The walls of the cabin were straining to hold against the dead tree’s weight, and I was certain that unless the bark was removed, the walls of the winter cabin were going to collapse on me and bury me alive. The wood was creaking already, nearly splintered.
Filled with a sense of panic, I leaped out through the window and started pushing against the bark, to no avail. I knew what I was doing was really stupid, that my strength was nothing at all compared to the hefty load the tree presented on my cabin, but I was desperate. I didn’t have any tools, either.
My eyes moved to the base of the tree, and I stopped in my tracks, horrified.
The tree hadn’t fallen on its own because of any natural causes. Someone had sawed it near the base. I could see the part where they had cut it with an ax. Shudders ran up my spine. Who could it be? And all this while they were doing it, how could I NOT have seen them?
There were footprints in the snow.
“No.” I whispered to myself, my voice faint and feeble, “This can’t be happening.”
Someone had been here.
Someone had been watching me all this while.
“Hands up!” I heard from behind me, “I’m armed.”
I swiveled to locate the source of the sound, not even dimly aware of what was happening. My surroundings felt dim and spun around me in circles. A few feet away, I saw a blurred shape - an officer - standing poised, armed.
He took a double-take when he saw my face.
“Go on, arrest me,” I said, my hands held up defenselessly. Saying those words made me cringe, but I went on “I deserve it.”
The officer’s jaw had dropped to the ground. He whipped out a poster from his pocket, a poster of the celebrity, Tracey Evans, similar to the one I had pocketed. Bold words had been etched on to the paper:
“You?” He said, “You’re Tracey Evans?”
“Yes,” I said, “I am.”
“But you’re supposed to be dead!”