AUBURN HAIR IN THE WHITE SNOW
By Aramis Davis
My legs feel more brittle than twigs as I tread through the thickly packed snow. I can barely make out the ground a few feet ahead of me while the chilly air continues to graze my cold cheeks. I struggle to find the horizon line among the thick layers of white. The sky and trail seem to blend so smoothly.
“I can’t walk any further,” my sister whispers to me. I stop and turn around. Her pale skin and red nose are on full display as she stands at waist height under me. I can finally rest my vision from aimless searching over the bright snow and focus on the details of her shoulder-length auburn hair. It dances lightly from my sister’s shivering body and the icy wind that passes by. I kneel next to my sister and pull her into an embrace.
“Just a little bit farther,” I tell her. “I promise.”
“Can you carry me, please? I can’t walk anymore.” She gently tugs at my arm.
I am running on fumes, trying to think of a way to explain I simply can’t do it.
“Please…” she pleads, and I see her struggle to hold onto me.
“Let me get my rope,” I tell her, feeling a twinge of guilt. I pull the rope from my side and face my back toward her. “Climb on, sweetie. Let me get you secured.”
My sister lays her arms over my shoulders, and I tie her onto my back before standing once more.
“Thank you.” It’s all she can muster, but I only nod to her and march forward. With my sister’s weight, however, each step becomes an individual battle. I take deep breaths to keep pace with myself, making miniature clouds as I exhale. My exhaustion soon becomes apparent to even my sister, so she quietly hums into my ear a simple melody.
“Your song is well appreciated, Sis. Don’t worry. I’m fine,” I reassure her. Then I feel her heart beat faster and she continues her melody more strongly. My mind relaxes, and I am able to trek a bit further. Right as I am about to reach my limit, we come across a lone tree. A sense of relief washes over me and I lower myself to untie my sister.
“Brother, are we resting here?” she asks while I untie her.
“Don’t worry,” I respond while brushing her hair with the tips of my fingers, “I’m just going to gather some firewood.”
“Well, why wouldn’t you want a warm fire?” I ask, only for my sister to point at the tree. Despite her odd request I grab hold of my axe handle anyways and reassure her. “We need the wood, okay? It’s going to be fine.”
Once I turn around I can feel myself growing paler in the cold. A dead woman hangs behind the gnarled branches. My hands shake as I wield my axe, unable to prepare my stance for a swing at the dry bark. The more I look at the withering tree, the more I see of this woman’s wrinkled and leathery skin. Her clothes are torn as she dangles freely in the freezing winds. Her neck rests atop the tight rope that binds her into the tree. I step back and grip my axe tightly, then I feel my sister tug at my arm once again.
“Do we really need the firewood?”
“No,” I tell her. “Let’s keep moving.”