Oracle of Light
By Cil Gregoire
Alaska Sci-Fi Queen
A Trip to Town
The next day dawned still, clear, and cold, the sky painted brilliantly blue. When the sun came up, the trees cast long, thin, blue shadows across sparkling white snow. Dressed comfortably in her winter gear, the crystal snug in its pouch against her breast, Rahlys strolled across the sunny clearing gazing upon the glittering white forest. Movement caught Rahlys’ eye as two squirrels scampering from tree to tree, triggered tiny, cascading avalanches of snow from branches they set in motion.
Where’s the raven she wondered, and looked up as though expecting to see him. She could envision him flying in such a perfect sky. Raven, where are you, my warrior? She called out mentally. Then she saw in her mind the expanse of the snow-covered valley far below. Her vision soared above the trees and hills and river, floating on air. She knew she was seeing through the eyes of the raven. Her perspective lowered, as the raven descended and followed the creek eastward. Then the images in her head dissolved, as she saw the raven approaching.
“Aaaark,” he called when he spotted her. In a flutter of black feathers, the raven landed on the snow beside her, looking up at her expectantly. “Kaw! Kaw!” The raven’s claws sank deeply in the snow causing him to waddle around a bit to pack down a place to stand. Rahlys didn’t have any treats on her, but there were a few apple wedges left on the table in the cabin. She conjured them to her hand.
“Aaaark,” the raven said with approval. Had the crystal really endowed the raven with special powers, like the ability to telepath images? She dropped the apple wedges down on the snow between them and the raven indulged. By Vince’s testimony, he was just a raven, a raven that had grown accustomed to being fed. She sensed his enjoyment of the treat, and his ease with her, as well as his inquiry for more.
“That’s it for now,” she told him. Why did this wild bird answer her summons? Had the crystal somehow formed a bond between them? How could he possibly help her to defeat Droclum?
With nothing left to eat, the raven hopped into take-off, barely clearing the ground, one talon drawing a line in the snow for several inches before he banked into height over the forest. Soon, he was out of sight.
Rahlys made her way to the generator shed. The railroad local freight was due in a couple of days, and she needed to take an empty fuel drum down to the tracks, so it could be picked up and taken into town to be filled. Rahlys herself was going out for a week, on Sunday’s train. She would make sure the fuel drum was taken to the fuel station, and then delivered back to the railroad freight depot.
Rahlys entered the generator shed. She checked the oil, and opened the last bottle of motor oil left behind by Trapper Bean. A case of motor oil needed to be added to her list. Then she filled the fuel tank. The generator was ready to go for tonight.
Closing the generator shed behind her, she made her way to the fifty-five gallon fuel drum covered with a tarp, and using a hand-operated fuel pump, pumped out all the remaining fuel, filling two five-gallon plastic containers. Then balancing the nearly empty drum on an upended round of firewood, she drained the drum into an empty coffee can to make sure it didn’t have water from condensation or particles of trash left in it. Rahlys then screwed the bung cap back on, closing the drum; it was ready to take down to the railroad tracks.
The trail leading out to the railroad corridor lay undisturbed since the last snow. She could teleport the drum down to the tracks easily enough, but the presence of a drum without human or mechanical prints leading up to it would be inexplicable to railroad workers riding the rail, or Vince, if he should come around. She could pull the drum on a sled, but although the snow had settled and compacted some, walking all the way through the unpacked snow would be tiring. But what if she just made it look like she had broken trail pulling the sled?
Rahlys conjured the sled to her, placed the empty drum in it, and then dragged the sled to the head of her trail, studying the track left on the snow. Formulating a spell, she drew on her strength and the energy she could feel around her, pressing into the snow the imprint she wanted to replicate. Rahlys teleported herself and the sled with the drum in it to a spot just a few hundred feet from the edge of the woods and the railroad tracks. The magically imprinted sled tracks ran the entire length of the trail.
Leaving the drum standing several feet from the railroad tracks, Rahlys decided to hike part of the way back up the trail. She breathed in calm and contentment as she hiked through snowy woods enjoying the quiet beauty and solitude…and the exercise. Early darkness was already creeping in by the time she teleported herself the rest of the way back to the cabin.
That night Rahlys started her next painting. In it, a strong, independent woman with long, light brown hair and pale blue eyes communed with a noble raven in a glittering snow forest with deep blue shadows. As she painted, she recalled the raven’s eye view of the forested snow-covered valley she had seen, rising away from the river into the foothills of the distant mountains.
Had she really summoned the raven, a wild and free creature of the forest? Did the crystal’s magic extend that far? Anthya’s sudden appearance and disappearance had not allowed for asking questions. And where is Droclum? The thought of him sent cold shivers down her spine. There had been no more dreams wringing her out through the night. She had uprooted her life, discarding comfort- able success, in search of freedom, solitude, and time to paint. Now she was fulfilling that dream, but the life she had chosen was haunted by the looming threat of Droclum, who sought her as his prey.
Rahlys kept her focus on painting as the days passed without incident. An encounter with Droclum began to seem less and less imminent, and she allowed herself to relax her worries a little. Rahlys removed the pouch from around her neck and released the crystal. I am going to paint your portrait. The crystal hovered around her as she set up. Taking out a fresh sheet of watercolor paper, she clamped it to her art board, then dampened the paper with a sponge. Finally, reaching for the crystal, she grasped it gently between her thumb and forefinger, positioning it in front of her.
Rahlys gazed deeply into the crystal, entering it, looking at it from the inside out, seeking its essence…and started to paint. The crystal, suspended in air before her, began to revolve slowly in place, emitting a soft kaleidoscope of color-changing light. Rahlys tingled with creative energy, becoming totally absorbed in her work. As though by magic, the crystal took shape on a snow-covered spruce branch in the night forest, the snow sparkling in the colorful, multi-faceted light. Rahlys worked intently, possessed, late into the night, pacing impatiently while letting a layer of paint dry. Not until the painting was complete did she allow herself to fall out exhausted on the daybed downstairs.
As Sunday approached, Rahlys prepared to leave the woods with both anticipation and dread. It was going to be hard leaving for a whole week. The mere thought of leaving for so long was disquieting. There wasn’t much to pack, she still had clothes left at Maggie’s, but she packed some laundry to wash in town, and her paintings, fashioning a portfolio out of cardboard and duct tape to carry them in. Her paintings were an expression of the intimate nature of life in the woods, and it was a lifestyle she was learning to cherish.
Rahlys felt a growing separation from society, the powers of the Oracle intensifying the dilemma. The crystal and its magic must be kept secret she realized, for the consequences to her life if the media, and therefore the world, learned about the crystal were too staggering to contemplate.
Train day dawned clear and cold. Rahlys stood waiting patiently by the railroad tracks, her pack, laundry duffel, and portfolio beside her, as she listened for the approach of the south bound train that would take her to town. Reluctantly, she had allowed the fire in the stove to burn itself out, adding just enough wood when she woke up this morning to keep the cabin somewhat warm until departure. Upon leaving, she locked the cabin doors, lamenting the days until her return.
Finally she heard the train’s distant whistle. It was running late. As the train inched closer, she could hear the pull of the locomotive’s slow approach, the sound fading in and out as the tracks followed the meandering contour of the hills and river. Then finally lights appeared coming around the bend.
Standing beside the tracks, Rahlys waved her arms, and the engineer blew the whistle in acknowledgement. The train pulled up to a stop with the open baggage compartment door directly in front of her.
“Hello there,” Vince greeted her as he reached down for her pack.
“Hi!” So Vince was going in too! She handed her pack up to him, followed by the duffel and her portfolio. Warm air embraced her chilled body as she boarded the train through the passenger door. Finding an empty seat, she eased into it, basking in the warmth.
Rahlys stared out the window at the scenery rolling by, an immense full moon wobbled orange and bloated on the darkening horizon as night descended over the cabin in the woods and the last glowing ember in the wood stove died out. Slowly the logs of the cabin walls released their stored warmth to the encroaching frost. All was quiet. Neither wind nor shrew or vole stirred. The deserted cabin grew colder and darker.
Rahlys pulled her thoughts away from home, and psyched herself up for town. It will be fun hanging out with Maggie again, refreshing to see new sights. The break from established routine would be like a holiday, she convinced herself. The door that led to the baggage compartment opened and Vince walked down the aisle of the passenger car, locating Rahlys. “How have you been?”
“I’ve been great. Thanks again for the generator lesson. You were helpful.”
“My pleasure, any time. Have you sent in a fuel drum yet?”
“Yes, I sent a drum in Thursday. I should have plenty enough fuel to last until the next freight.”
“Will you be in town for a while?”
“A week. I need to do some matting and framing, and Maggie and I are going to the big city to go shopping.”
“That’s right. Maggie said something last week-end about you coming into town.”
Before Rahlys could ponder on Vince’s comment, the train blew its whistle announcing their arrival at the little end-of-the-road community they called “town.”
When the train pulled into the station, Maggie was there to eagerly greet them. She gave them big hugs and chattered excitedly. “It’s going to be a fun week having you two around.”
There was less snow here than up in the woods, and the parking lot was slippery with ice. “Be careful! It’s slippery!” Maggie warned. Rahlys skated on the ice as she loaded her pack in the bed of Maggie’s pickup truck and carefully stashed her portfolio behind the seats in the cab. “Can you give me a ride to my truck?” Vince asked.
“Yes, of course. It’s a mess around town too! All that warm weather caused a meltdown. It even rained instead of snowed one day. Then when it turned cold again, there was ice everywhere! Walkways and driveways are slicker than snot.” They loaded Maggie’s truck with Vince’s pack and duffel bags, stepping gingerly to avoid slipping and falling on the ice. It was already dark when the three of them jammed into the truck’s cab. Maggie drove over to where Vince was parked, her studded tires gripping the ice. When she came to a stop next to Vince’s ice-encrusted truck, he jumped out of the passenger seat, and lifted his pack and duffle bags out the back. “Are you ladies going out later?” he asked Maggie.
“Yes, we’ll meet you at the bar in a couple of hours.”
“I’ll see you then,” and he turned toward the task of thawing out his truck. Maggie and Rahlys headed out of the tiny, downtown area of the little community boasting a post office, school, fire hall, library, hockey rink, two stores, two restaurants, a bar, and numerous gift shops.
“Guess who’s in town,” Maggie said as soon as they passed the stop sign and turned onto the unpaved road leading out toward Maggie’s place. Rahlys gasped. There was no need to guess, she could read Maggie’s thought clearly.
“No!” she cried with dismay. “What is Aaron doing here? Are you sure? Have you seen him?”
“No, but Spit said he was at the bar asking if anyone knew us. Spit didn’t like something about him, so he and Hound Dog just sat there, and didn’t say anything.”
Just the thought of Aaron being here put a blight on the holiday spirit she had started to embrace. “What is he doing here? Why?”
“I’m not sure, but sooner or later he is going to find us.” The pickup rattled down the snow-packed gravel road, “I think Aaron fancies himself still in love with you.”
Soon they pulled up to a well-cared for, reddish-brown, wood-sided house surrounded by woods. Maggie had worked endless hours at two jobs during the lucrative summer tourist season, and had put a down payment on the small two bedroom house a short ways out of town even before Rahlys found Trapper Bean’s place.
“It looks like I’m going to be here for a while,” she said at the time. Rahlys ended up renting a room out of Maggie’s house to have a place to stay, and work, when in town. The house was on the grid, so there was no need for a generator, and it had its own well offering all the amenities of town living such as running hot and cold water, flush toilet, bathtub, even a clothes washer and dryer. And there was a road to it. It was town.
Rahlys followed Maggie in carrying her pack and portfolio. The changes to the place in the nearly two months she had been gone truly amazed her. The house had been in need of some tender loving care. “You have been having work done on the house. It looks great!”
“I did it myself.” Maggie’s spirited nature glowed with pride.
“What?” Setting down her pack and portfolio, Rahlys strolled about admiring the transformation. “You did the work yourself?”
“Sure. I can hammer and paint. Bob and I did lots of remodeling in our home in Arkansas. Now that I’m only working twenty hours a week instead of sixty, I’ve been spending time fixing up the place.”
“I love the decorative shelves in the living room…and look at the new cabinets and counter top in the kitchen!”
“Hound and Spit helped me put those in. It was easy. Everything was ready-made. All we had to do was screw things in place.”
Rahlys opened the door to her room to let in some heat. Cold air rushed out. Carrying her things into her room she took a quick survey of its contents. Her room was unchanged. A twin bed covered with a brightly colored quilt, a little tattered in places, but still warm and serviceable filled one side of the room. Next to it stood an improvised night stand made from a wooden spool that once held electrical wire. A battered veneer chest of drawers bought at a garage sale held her unused clothing. On top of that laid a stack of mat boards, covered with a dust cloth. A collection of empty picture frames leaned against the wall. There were enough materials on hand to at least mat and frame the work she brought out with her. Depositing her things on the bed, Rahlys left the chilly room to join Maggie in the kitchen where she was preparing tea. Passing by the fuel oil heater, its built-in fan blasting out heat in an effort to compensate for the cold infiltrating from her bed room, Rahlys paused momentarily to absorb the warmth.
“Of course, I didn’t do anything to your room yet,” Maggie assured her as she entered the kitchen. “You should decide on what colors you would like…but take a look at my room!”
After completing the tour of home improvements, Maggie poured cups of rosehip tea. She had harvested and dried the rosehips herself from the abundance of wild rose bushes that grew around her property. Since moving to Alaska, Maggie had been consumed by a growing interest in nature’s bounty.
“So how have things been going in the woods?”
Rahlys didn’t know how to answer. She promised herself repeatedly that she would tell Maggie about the crystal…and Anthya…and Droclum. She didn’t know what to say. She didn’t know how to begin. It no longer seemed real, here, away from the cabin and woods. She touched her chest to reassure herself the crystal was still there.
“Are you alright?”
“Yes, yes, why?”
“Well, you didn’t answer, and then you touched your chest.”
“Oh, I was just thinking.” Rahlys had shared secrets with Maggie before. What should she tell her now? “Mostly, I’ve been doing chores and painting. Instead of ice, we have over a foot of snow up there. You should come up and see it.”
“I will. Has Vince been by to check on you lately?”
“No, the last time I saw Vince, until today, was the weekend you came up to visit.”
“He seems to feel you would rather not be disturbed.”
“When did you see Vince? He said you mentioned to him that I was coming into town.”
“Vince was in town a week ago, and gave me a call. So I invited him over for dinner and we went out for a few drinks.”
“You don’t mind, do you? I know you found him first.”
“No, I’m glad to hear it.”
After enjoying the light dinner that Maggie had prepared ahead of time with wine, Maggie was raring to go. “Come on, let’s go out for a bit,” she urged. “I’ll introduce you to some colorful characters.”
Rahlys wasn’t really enthused about going to a smoky, noisy bar, but she smiled and agreed. “Alright. We might as well.”
The din and odors that assailed their senses as they entered the aging bar were comprised of a pounding beat from an electric bass amplified to deafening decibels, the chatter and laughter of a packed house trying to talk over the music, human sweat, stale beer, and ancient cigarette smoke. Spotting someone, Maggie dragged her deeper into the melee toward one corner of the bar. “That is Hound Dog and Spitfire sitting on the end,” Maggie said near her ear so she could hear over the music. “Hound Dog is the musher I told you about. Mostly he mushes tourist around, but he’s run the Iditarod a couple of times, too. And Spit is a pilot. In the summer he does scenic flights to the glacier and drop-offs to remote locations. He’s been everywhere and knows a lot about Alaska.” The number the band was playing came to an end and the gyrating, thrashing, sweating throng came to a swaying stop.
“Hi, guys!” Maggie greeted as they approached.
“Maggie! Hey, what’s happening?” said Hound Dog. Then the music and gyrating and thrashing started up again. Rahlys surveyed the crowd while Maggie negotiated drinks and chatted with Hound and Spit.
“You want to dance?” An unkempt, inebriated inquirer nearly fell as he leaned toward her, his breath, reeking of alcohol, brushed her cheeks.
“No, thank you. I don’t dance.” She backed away as well as she could in the crowded space. Maggie turned toward her and pressed a glass of wine into her hand. Vince, having spotted them in the crowd, wove his way toward them through the sea of motion.
“Hi, I’m glad you made it.” His rugged outdoorsman’s face was a little flush, his usually serious brown eyes twinkling. He certainly looked like he was having a good time.
“Where do you stay when you’re in town?” Rahlys asked with genuine interest.
“I have a place close to downtown and the railroad station. Great for a bachelor.” She could read his hopes of Maggie spending some time with him there this week. “Did you finish any more paintings?”
“A few. I plan on matting and framing what I have, and looking into displaying them at the local arts and crafts gallery. The Crystalline Raven will be ready for you to pick up by the end of the week.”
“Good, I plan on taking it back into the woods to hang in the cabin. Would either of you ladies like to dance?”
“You, go ahead,” Rahlys offered Maggie to Vince, and they pushed their way deeper into the pulsating mass leaving Rahlys to visit with Hound and Spit.
“So, Rahlys, you are Maggie’s friend, the one who bought Jack Bean’s place?” Spit shouted to her over the music, his thin gray hair sticking out in several directions.
Rahlys nodded confirmation.
“That’s a pretty nice cabin.”
“It’s a beautiful spot. And Jack Bean left everything in perfect order. It has been wonderfully comfortable. Did you know Bean well?”
“Well enough. Jack lived up there for thirty years.”
Rahlys sipped her wine and surveyed the crowd that included no one she really knew. Then Spit leaned toward her again.
“There’s a guy hanging out in town looking for you, going by the name of Aaron…hard, dark, brooding eyes…not the kind to be trusted.” Rahlys admired Spit’s perceptiveness. If only she could have had his insight a couple of years ago. Her stomach clutched in distaste at the certainty of eventually having to confront Aaron. What if he came in here tonight? She squeezed herself deeper into the corner, feeling a sudden urge to leave. Confrontation was not her strong point. Don’t be a coward, Rahlys told herself. You can handle Aaron; he is powerless. You must be courageous. There will eventually be a far greater adversary to face.
The music stopped again, and Vince and Maggie pushed their way back through the crowd.
“Phew, I’m hot!” Maggie tried to fan herself with her hand.
When the next number started, the crowd whooped and hollered into swinging, bouncing motion again. A couple of band numbers later, Rahlys and Maggie finished their drink and stepped out into the cold, dark night.
“I was so afraid Aaron was going to walk in the whole time we were there,” Rahlys admitted to Maggie. “I don’t know what to say to him when I see him. I wish he would just go away.” Snowflakes streaked toward them in the headlight beams of the truck as they drove home.
“What do you mean you don’t know what to say to him? You tell him to leave you alone and get a life.”
The next day, Rahlys had the house to herself. The mat cutter and a choice of different color mats covered the kitchen table. She spread her paintings out on the counter, looking then over. Choosing Crystalline Raven to mat and frame first, she took it to the table. The fragmented depiction of the raven with the crystal in his beak was specked with the soft colors of the crystal’s light against the faceted blue-black darkness of the raven’s feathers.
To determine the best mat color combination for the painting, she placed the different color mats, one at a time, next to it and observed the effect. Finally she chose a three-color combination of gold, white, and black. The mat cutter did a swift job of cutting the mats. Then she mounted the painting between the matting and an art board backing and held it away from her to observe the effect. The result was stunning.
Rahlys froze, incapacitated by indecision. Soon there was a sharp knock at the door. It was particularly startling because she had not heard anyone drive up.
Aaron knocked again. She thought of not answering, but the door wasn’t locked, and surely he would try the doorknob if no one answered. Reluctantly she went to the door and opened it.
“Why, hi, Rahlys! You are certainly a beautiful sight!”
Rahlys fumed. “Go away, Aaron. I don’t want to see you. I don’t love you! Hell, I don’t even like you. You’re just a weasel, that’s what you are,” and Rahlys slammed the door shut in his face and locked it.
“Now, Rahlys, Honey, don’t be like that. I’ve came a long way to see you,” he shouted from the other side of the door. “I’ve changed, honest. There’s no one but you. Please, let me in.”
“No, I just want you to go away and leave me alone,” she shouted back. Rahlys felt for the crystal through her shirt. Could she compel him to go away with magic?
“Aw, come on, Baby, its cold out here. I don’t have a car, someone gave me a ride and dropped me off.”
“Then you better start walking.” Rahlys resolutely refused to let him in. If she were to make that mistake, it would become even harder to get rid of him. Invariably he would be in need of something, beginning with a place to stay. Rahlys focused her thoughts, directing them toward him. She searched for his personal essence, focusing on the life signature that was his alone, willing him to go, mentally pressing the message into his brain.
You want to go. Go away. Leave from here now.
She felt his reluctance, but she pushed harder. To her relief, after a hesitant pause, he turned away and headed off toward the road.
Aaron didn’t know what possessed him to forgo his attempt to persuade Rahlys to open the door and let him in. He felt compelled to leave, and turned away without looking back. At the end of the short driveway, he strolled toward town, the cold air nipping at his unprotected hands and head. After going nearly a mile down the frozen, deserted road, rapidly losing body heat from his unprotected extremities, Aaron began to wonder why he had left. He thought about turning around and marching right back, when a car stealthily approached him from behind. Hoping for a ride, Aaron put his thumb out, and a pale, bluish green Subaru came to a stop beside him. The passenger car window rolled down, and warm air rushed out at Aaron as he looked in the window to address the driver.
“Could you give me a lift into town?”
“Sure. Get in.”
The window rolled back up as Aaron climbed into the passenger seat.
“Thanks.” He rubbed his hands and blew on them to bring back the circulation as they headed toward town.
“I’m Half Ear,” the driver introduced himself.
Aaron looked with puzzlement at his stout, weathered benefactor, an ancient looking pouch slung over his shoulder, “Yeah, I’m Aaron…Half Ear?”
Half Ear removed his stretched-out gray stocking cap, and showed Aaron his misshapen right ear. The top of his ear was a jagged edge instead of a smooth curve. “Bitten off by a bear, it was. A mean old grizzly, too. But you know what I did…I just bit that old grizzly bear’s ear right back.”
When Aaron asked to be dropped off at the downtown bar, Half Ear parked the Subaru in the back, and they entered together, taking stools next to each other at the bar. Aaron and Half Ear occupied those stools till well into the evening, with Half Ear buying the beer. When Aaron could no longer stand without wobbling, Half Ear led him out of the bar, and across the street to his own unassuming bachelor pad where Aaron fell on the sofa.
It was well after dark by the time Maggie and Rahlys were driving home a couple of days later from their long and exhausting shopping trip to Wasilla. “Watch for moose,” Maggie reminded Rahlys, her eyes glued to the road as she drove them homeward along the pitch black Parks Highway. Thick clouds blanketed the night sky, sealing it off, preventing any moonlight or starlight from shining through. All that could be seen was the slice of road in the headlights.
For Rahlys it had been a long week. Thankfully, it was nearly over. The local arts and crafts gallery now had her work on display, and she looked forward to doing some more painting. With a pickup truck load of food and supplies, Rahlys was anxious for the evening to pass, and the next day to arrive, so she could take the train back into the woods.
A collision is imminent.
The message roused Rahlys out of her musing. “Maggie, stop the truck!”
“What?” Slowing down, Maggie strained to see what she assumed Rahlys had seen, but saw nothing.
“Stop the truck! Now!” Rahlys screamed. Maggie responded to the urgency in her voice by slowing to a near stop as she continued to search for something, anything, in the beam of her headlights. They had the road to themselves. There was not another headlight in sight.
Then they saw it. A moose was standing in the middle of the road staring them down as they approached. Maggie came to a stop, a safe distance away, and waited for the animal to make a decision.
“How did you know it was there? Have you become psychic?”
“I’m not sure,” she answered truthfully. Rahlys had not yet found the time or place to tell Maggie about the crystal. After some time, the moose turned and ambled across the road and into the darkness.
A half hour later they pulled into Maggie’s driveway, weary from the long day, and unloaded the truck. Rahlys packed up the cardboard boxes Maggie had collected for her from work, separating items by priority. She left her pack empty for the perishables like eggs, milk, and cheese that would spend the night in the refrigerator. These she would pack in the morning. There was a box of frozen stuff she packed up and carried out to the truck to stay frozen. She had also bought more frames, mat board, watercolor paper, and paints which she also packed to take. “How are you going to get all this up to the cabin?” Maggie asked. “There’s enough food here for one person for a month.”
“That’s the idea, I don’t want to have to come out again for a while. It may take a few days, but I will get it up there.” Of course Rahlys knew she could just teleport it all home at once. In fact, she secretly teleported a couple of boxes to the cabin that night to cut down on the load, knowing they would never be missed.
A few isolated snowflakes sputtered down as Maggie and Rahlys pulled into the train station the next morning. People huddled in several groups around piles of packs, boxes, and duffle bags, chattering patiently as they waited for the train. Soon Rahlys had a neat stack of her own as they unloaded the truck into a pile on the platform in line with the others. Looking around, Maggie spotted Vince walking back from the parking lot. Vince was also going back into the woods. Then they heard the train whistle in the near distance.
“Is that your stack?” he asked as he approached, indicating the pile they were standing next to.
“Yes,” Rahlys confirmed; the train was already in sight.
“I can give you a hand getting things up to the cabin with the snowmachine,” Vince offered. The train pulled into the station, and came to a stop. Vince rushed up to the baggage car to help. Ever so quickly people and baggage were unloaded and loaded.
“Bye, sweetie,” Maggie gave Rahlys a quick hug.
“I can’t wait until you come up to visit.” Rahlys said, hugging Maggie goodbye. By the time Rahlys turned to grab a box, helping hands had already eliminated her stack. Then Vince rushed over and gave Maggie a hug. As they boarded the train, Maggie headed back to her truck, but not without turning and waving.
Rahlys sat back in her seat letting the stress of the past week drain from her body. She was on her way home. Finally, the interrupting trip to town was over and she could get back to work. As the snow-covered landscape slipped by her window, she thought about her frozen cabin waiting for warmth, her empty easel waiting to display her next work. She could hardly wait to be settled back into her routine.
Then sooner than she expected, the train was stopping at the foot of her trail, and Vince and the conductor were helping her unload her boxes. When all her pieces were accounted for, she waved farewell, and the train pulled away, quickly disappearing around the bend…severing her link with the rest of the world…leaving her standing alone in a frozen wilderness. Rahlys released a deep sigh of relief as she soaked in the quiet stillness of the deep snowy woods all around her.
She was home.