A final visit (Talia, p. 109)

She stood at the top of the hill, windswept snow clung to the lifeless trees around her taking on the form of frigid stands of spun cotton or sun bleached wool.  She pulled her cloak closer, a shield against the chill.  She could not remember the last time she had visited her clearing.  She could not remember why she had returned now.  There was nothing of the warmth she once knew.  Trees lay toppled and barren, half covered by drifts of snow.  Other than the wind, nothing stirred.

She walked down the hill and as she approached the clearing, even the wind seemed to die, leaving a hollow silence behind.  There were no visitors.  No motion.  Nothing to indicate another’s passing in the countless months since she last set foot here.  And there she stood, bathed in silence, and time seemed to move on without her.

After a long while, she spoke.  “There is nothing for me here.”  Her voice sounded foreign to her in the crisp air.  “Nothing at all.”

“You’ve stopped searching.”  Came a whisper in reply.

She opened her eyes, her gaze fixed on the empty white center of the clearing.  “I found all there was. Beyond the bridge lay only ruins.  She was no longer there.”

“But if not there, she must be somewhere.”  The whisper was closer now.  She did not move.  “and if somewhere…”  the whisper said, warm breath brushed lightly against her ear.  “… then she can be found.”

She turned her head slightly.  The pale smooth skin of the other filling her vision.  Her own voice hushed to match the whisper.  “Where would you have me look?”

The pale face smiled.  “If you have found nothing where you have searched…”  red lips lowered and gently kissed her neck,  “then you must search where you have not.”

She stood there, motionless, waiting.  The whisper returned to her ear, its warmth leaving the rest of her chilled.

“But if you search, be wary of what you find.”  The voice and the warmth faded.  She turned, looking about, but she was alone.  Only the desolate trees an audience to her.  She placed her hand to the lingering warmth on her neck.  Her fingers felt a wetness and when she lifted them away they were stained with small drops of blood.

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