Those branches seemed to go forever. My eyes focused and took in each limb. How they intertwined and formed a network out from the trunk. Just the palest of blue light back-lit each one, enabling me to trace its path as it reached out into the dawn. It was hard to follow them, and at first I couldn’t understand why my eyes wouldn’t listen. They wouldn’t just stay on track. I grew frustrated and instead focused on the light. I couldn’t focus and the world went dark again.
When my eyes opened the sky had changed, it wasn’t that icy blue, it was later. Dawn was finding the edges of everything, and it wasn’t quite so sharp. Some warmth was creeping into the sky. I shuddered hard, not grasping where I was. My eye lashes had snow flakes stuck to them. They created spots in my line of sight. The tree limbs and all their thousands of tiny capillary like branches were still there. I was shaking hard now, but my body didn’t want to move. I willed my right leg to move, but instead it lay there leaden and stubborn. I glanced at my right arm laying beside me, it was mostly covered in snow. It too did not listen to my asking. No, not asking, pleading. I knew in my head somewhere, I was freezing to death. Everything was so ethereal and white. Why not just close my eyes again. It goes dark.
It was the violent shivering that woke me. My mind sharpened fast and hard. Images of frostbit fingers, and blackened toes of Everest climbers flashed across my conscience. No, not that, no not to me. I managed to focus back on my right leg, move damn it. It too was covered in show at this point. Why won’t my body listen? I thought to myself, as the edges of my vision began to blacken and flicker. NO, no, no. I cannot leave again. A violent shudder caught me by surprise and the darkness cleared from the edges. Desperation began to pull at me. I had to get to the house, I had to get out of the snow. I yelled in my own head “You are going to die out here”. The darkness slid in again, silent and deadly.
Thank god for the shivering, it slammed my teeth together , catching the tip of my tongue in the process. The metallic taste of blood caught my hazy brain my surprise. In that instant my arm rose to touch my mouth. I had done it, I had unearthed myself from that snowy burial mound. I coughed away the blood as I rolled myself over. I now lay on my stomach in the deep snow. Trying to figure out what I was doing, For all I was worth I started to crawl, clawing at the snow. Trying to gain purchase in this white expanse before me. My eyes were unfocused, but I knew home wasn’t far. Suddenly, a sharp pain across my neck. I was halted mid crawl. I was bound to the tree by the noose that had failed me. It had somehow caught, or froze to the tree in the blowing snow. As it slid tight around my neck I struggled against it. No, no, I have to get inside, I cannot freeze out here. My fingers clawed at my neck to get it off. They were thick and numb with frost. But they did it , they got the rope off. I began again to crawl for home in the early dawn light
My head rolled as the vehicle pulled to a stop. My eyes unfocused. My mind in a haze. I couldn’t understand where I was. I didn’t know what was going on. I heard voices around me, mens voices. It was soft, I drifted. “I don’t have a pulse” from somewhere near my shoulder, “what?” from down by my legs. “should I start compressions?” a voice from the haze asked. The breeze and cold kicked up, the door was open. A new voice, “why isn’t she stabilized?”, “get the c collar now”, no focus just voices. I wondered if I should be worried, were they going to hurt me? where was I? who was talking? But my mind couldn’t focus, it was blurry. I felt someone very close over me, “I got a pulse, but she it too cold- we have to get to the hospital”. My mind wondered why the hospital? It would not grasp or follow the words spoken around me. I felt my neck being touched, and then felt cold hard plastic wrap around it. Blackness found the edges again, gone.
Beatrice looked down at me, surrounded by the overhead light. She looked like an angel. I wondered if I were dead. But she started speaking, and my mind slowly began to focus on the pain in my body. The rigid plastic that held my head to the stretcher and wouldn’t allow me to move. I tried to focus on her voice, but my mind began to fade again. “Did they sedate you?” she asked. I felt warmer finally. The shivering had subsided. My mind began to trace its way back over the hours that got me to where I was now. I understood in that moment that I had failed. Sadness, heavy and thick lay over me like the many layers of warmed blankets. I was pinned to the bed, not by that C collar, but by disappointment. I had been so careful, I had planned so well. I had not counted on the Nor’Easter, and the snow, and the frozen fingers. I had not planned for that. That saved my life in those bleak early morning hours.