Authors: Ellen Schreiber
r. Meadows’s words haunted me. Her messages to me were so specific yet, at the same time, mysterious. My reading had not been anything like my friends’. It wasn’t about my personality but rather about events. The snow. The woods. Howling. The moon. A kiss? Not only did I get a crazy fortune, but I’d blown my allowance for the entire week on foolishness.
As we dished by the car, Abby and Ivy cracked up.
“I thought she was great!” Ivy said. “She was so right on with me.”
“Well, it wasn’t hard to figure out that you are athletic,” I said to Abby. “And that you are a fashion diva,” I stated to Ivy.
“Then how do you explain yours?” Ivy asked.
“Hocus-pocus,” I said. “She had to throw in something to get our money’s worth.”
“I can’t wait to tell Nash what she said,” Ivy said. “He better stay away from you and the woods.”
“Oh, great—I’m going to be late to volleyball practice,” Abby said, checking her phone. “If I’m late, I’ll have to do extra laps.”
Ivy didn’t have time to drop me off. Instead she would have to take us all back to school. I wanted some downtime and wasn’t in the mood to travel back to Legend’s Run High.
“Are you sure?” Ivy asked when I announced I was going to walk home along the bike trail.
“It’s just up the road. I can almost see my house from here,” I reassured them. My home was less than a mile away, and I thought the cool air in my lungs would perk me up.
“I don’t want you walking home alone,” Ivy said. “Please come with us.”
“We don’t have much time to argue,” Abby urged. “She’ll be fine. Her house isn’t
I nodded in agreement.
As my friends departed, I followed a bike trail that ran between the Westside woods and the main road. As long as I stayed on the path, I’d be home within twenty minutes. I began walking, enjoying the sights of endless trees, the smell of November air, and the sounds of geese flying overhead. Birds’ nests high atop a few of the naked trees were clearly visible. I took out my binder and jotted down a few notes, wanting to remember these elements for future stories. What I didn’t anticipate was the snow.
It began with a few flakes. Tiny frosted crystals started to sprinkle down, tapping my fur-lined boots and knit gloves. I was delighted; it made my rural journey that much more enchanting. I loved fresh snow, gentle and whimsical, coloring the sky and trees bright white. The flakes hit my worn binder, dampening my pages, so I stopped and placed it in my backpack. I held out my hand and captured a few flakes in my glove. They didn’t dissolve right away; I could see the tiny, intricate crystal formations. I didn’t remember a snowfall forecast and assumed it would be a light sprinkling for the next few minutes and enjoyed the tapping of snowflakes against my cheeks.
As I continued on, the falling flakes grew bigger, dotting the road and grass. The wind picked up and the now quarter-size flakes flew into my hair and face, tickling me. I covered my head with my fleece hood. The wintry scene was beautiful; I could have walked in these conditions for days. But it wasn’t long before the wind blew with huge gusts. I zipped up my hoodie and walked on. The snow increased and pelted down while the wind picked up speed.
Instead of the elements painting a blissful picture, they began to fight against me. It was more difficult to view the trees in the distance, and I was annoyed that it was growing colder and getting harder to walk. Within a few minutes, the road was caked with snow. The sky was completely overcast—gray-and-white clouds engulfed it. The trees I could easily make out a few minutes ago were now difficult to see. I realized if I couldn’t see anything, then an approaching driver’s vision would be impaired, too. There wasn’t much room between the road and the bike trail, and I worried a driver might drift off the road now that the lines were invisible. To play it safe, I stepped off the bike path and caught my breath by a row of evergreens. The tall, lush trees blocked most of the wind and snow. The scene around me was breathtaking, but when the gusts grew even stronger and objects only a few yards away became invisible, I decided to press on. I hung on to several evergreens as I walked, using them to guide me forward. Before I knew it, I was grabbing brush instead. I could no longer see the trail or the road. I was frustrated. As the elements were battling against me, all I saw was snow above me, in front of me, and on either side. I could barely keep my eyes open. I was getting really cold and wanted to get home. I walked from tree to tree. I assumed they were paralleling the road and bike trail. I continued on until I grew tired. I stopped by an old oak and leaned against it, catching my breath again. I hadn’t seen anything but trees for a while. Then I realized—where was I?
The snowfall was getting worse. I was frightened. I knew the Eastside very well and it was so developed that people, businesses, and homes were in easy reach. I decided to stay put for a few minutes and ride out the storm. When it was clear, I’d get my bearings back and figure out my location.
If Ivy and Abby could see me now, they’d surely freak. They’d blame themselves for not insisting I return with them and gripe at me for being so stubborn. One thing was for sure, they’d never let me set foot in Riverside again.
There were no signs of civilization—Gerald’s Garage, or a cabin. I was really getting cold. My nose was starting to sting, and the freezing temperatures were penetrating my thin hoodie. Originally, I was only a short distance from my house, and now I’d managed to get myself so turned around, I wasn’t even sure where I was on the planet. My good mood had soured. The weather had gotten the best of me. My chest felt heavy and my breathing became short. My heart pounded. And though I was cold, I started to perspire. I still had no idea where I was and which direction I’d been going. And most important, I didn’t know how I was going to get out.
The wind and snow weren’t ceasing; instead, the snow drove down in a blinding heavy fall, and the wind whipped it around me.
I decided to call my parents. I knew someone would surely come to my rescue. I pulled out my cell but couldn’t get a signal.
I remembered that sinking feeling when I was a kid and I was lost in a store and feared my mom would leave me behind. And though I was older, I felt the same isolation and desperation. I took a deep breath, attempting to calm myself.
I tried my phone again, but still no connection.
I knew the world was bustling like it normally did in inclement weather. Children coming home from school grabbing their sleds. Adults stocking up on milk and bread at the grocery store. And then there was me—stuck in the middle of nowhere.
The solitude was eerie. It wasn’t like when I was inside my bedroom listening to my music, knowing my family would return from a night out. There was no one coming for me. Ivy and Abby were heading in the opposite direction and wouldn’t realize for hours that I wasn’t home. Nash was at practice and wouldn’t contact me until late evening. And my mom thought I was with Ivy and Abby. She wouldn’t wonder where I was until dinner.
I should have been home by now. The sun would be setting soon and Mom would be serving a delicious, piping hot meal. Instead, I was growing hungry and was lost in the woods in a major blizzard. The snow began to rise around me. It was only going to get darker and colder.
If I wasn’t in trouble now, I knew I would be by nightfall. I’d heard about the seriousness of frostbite and hypothermia. I imagined being forced to spend the night here, taking shelter by a tree. I couldn’t imagine sleeping in the snow without a tent, a down sleeping bag, or a burning fire.
With no protection from the wind, snow, and cold, I was sure to freeze. Many creatures called the woods their home; I didn’t know what they might do to a lost intruder.
Time seemed to slow down to a grinding halt. Every minute felt like days. Had I been lost for a few moments or a few hours? The bright white sky grew darker. The sun had gone behind the storm clouds, and now I feared it was moments away from setting.
“Help!” I called. “Please—can anyone hear me?” I shouted as loudly as my voice would carry.
Snow tapped against my face and eyelashes and fell into my mouth. My calls went unanswered.
“Where am I?” I shouted. Frustrated, I kicked my boot into the snow. I felt like throwing my phone, too, but I knew it was my only lifeline—even if it didn’t work. I clung to it, hoping once I changed positions it would catch a signal. I had to do something. Snow reflected off the clouds and illuminated part of the woods. I had to make a decision—continue on and hope I reached the road, or backtrack and retrace my footprints? I chose to attempt to try to return the way I came. I was following my wayward footsteps when I heard a cry in the distance. It was the howl of a wolf.
I tried not to panic. For all I knew, the wolf was miles away. I recalled tanning in the summer’s sun with my eyes closed and how voices always seemed much closer than the people talking actually were. This must be the same thing, I tried to assure myself.
The air was getting colder. I covered my mouth with my scarf to warm my face, breath, and lungs. The snow and wind continued to push against me but I knew I had to move. I took a few steps. It was as difficult as walking on the moon.
Then I heard the howl again. This time it was definitely closer, eyes open or not.
I started to walk, briskly this time. Though I was tired and my boots were now heavy, I ventured on. I had a fifty-fifty chance of going farther into the woods or making my way out of it. Normally I wasn’t a gambling person, but I didn’t have a choice. It was hunt or be hunted.
When the wolf cried again, I picked up my pace and moved quickly, running through my filling tracks. At this point I didn’t care which way I was going, just as long as it was away from danger.
Then I heard another howl. Closer.
I wasn’t sure which direction it was coming from. As I hurried along, I clutched my cell phone. My hands were shaking in the cold and in fear. I checked for a signal, but still nothing.
I heard a howl again. This time it seemed only yards away.
Being lost was one thing. If I could stay calm and possibly ride out the storm, I might be able to figure out the shortest route home. But this was deathly different. There wasn’t time. I had to get out now—or not get out at all.
“Please help me!” I screamed again. “I’m lost!”
I only heard the sound of the wind and the tapping of the supersized flakes hitting the trees and ground and my own raspy breathing.
Then I heard a different howl. It couldn’t be—another wolf? This time the howl seemed a few feet away and coming from another direction.
My heart accelerated. My teeth began to chatter, not because I was cold, but because I was scared to death. The silence only magnified my intense pangs of isolation. I’d never felt so alone and scared. I didn’t want to die.
“Someone—please help me!” I screamed. “Help!”
I was blinded, lost, cold, and alone—only I wasn’t as alone as I would have liked. Branches crunched and twigs crackled, and the sound of heavy breathing was near.
Then I heard a deep, maddening, and fiery growl. This time it was coming from behind me. I immediately stopped in my tracks, fear penetrating through me. Hesitantly, I turned.
Between the heavy-falling snow appeared a ghastly sight—four pairs of gray, beastly eyes.
I’d never been so close to wolves as I was now—not even in a zoo with a steel cage between us.
The wolves crept closer. I could see their wet noses and the breath coming from their snouts. They licked their lips.
Terror shot through me like piercing icicles. I quietly positioned my cell phone. Finally. A connection! My fingers shaking, I began to press the number nine. Then I managed to press the number one.
The leader of the pack growled, exposing his white fangs and black gums. Another wolf barked. Startled, I flinched. The phone fell into the snow.
I learned in Health and Safety class that in the unlikely event that a person encountered a wolf, the person should try to make themselves appear bigger. I stood on my tiptoes, which was difficult to do in the piling snow and my bulky, furry boots, and raised my hands in the air.
“Help!” I called. “Please, someone—help!”
I took a few steps backward, making sure I didn’t turn my back on them. They paced back and forth, watching.
My arms became heavy; I couldn’t keep them up much longer. I hummed a sweet tune to myself, hoping it would relax me and the wolves.
There was a break in the overcast sky. The full moon peeked out. Celestial and glowing, it radiated its magnificent brilliance as if it were trying to comfort me. But I was far from comforted.
The wolves weren’t budging, and my circulation was draining out from my fingertips. It would only be moments until I’d have to bring down my arms, and then I knew they’d surely attack.
I felt a presence behind me and my breath stopped. Just like that, I was surrounded. I was frozen with fear, my heart pounding, my fingers still shaking, my lips quivering. I closed my eyes and began to pray. I wondered how my parents would find me—if they’d even find me. I imagined Ivy and Abby spending the next three years shopping without me and Nash finding comfort in someone else’s arms. And I realized that in my seventeen years I hadn’t experienced the one thing that had always eluded me—true love.