Big dipper

Nika

United States

"There's a fine line between fishing and standing on the shore like an idiot."

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In the Winter Cold

May 5, 2016

FREE WRITING

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I blinked slowly, like what was before me would change. Sadly, it did not. My small fire was diminished to embers, and the extra wood I had collected was not yet dry. I felt the cold prickling at my skin, making it stand on end. In the small, dark cave, I gathered what I had left for kindling and struck flint and steel near it, and ignited a small flame. The cold was growing more ferocious, but was nothing compared to the hunger I felt clawing at my stomach. I shivered violently, shakes wracking through my thin frame. The flame grew hotter, and I knew my kindling would not stand for much longer. With a groan, I pushed myself towards the exit of the cave, or where it should have been. Instead, large boulders were stacked over the hole. I walked back to where my fire began to sputter and spark weakly. I gave up and threw one of the less damp longs from the pile on top, praying that it would catch. Another shiver stole through me, and I knew I had to eat something. My stomach was aching from lack of food, and I knew my skin was ashen. I reluctantly removed a small stick of rabbit jerky from my leather bag and ate slowly, knowing even the smallest amount of food would make me sick if consumed too quickly. Even the tiny, half inch bites rolled nausea over me. I looked around my small cave, too weak to remove the stones right away. The cave was about six-feet tall, and it was around 10-feet wide. It was frigid, damp, and rocky. I had slept upon a small, leather sheet that I kept rolled in my bag, along with a itchy wool blanket. Finally my sickness had passed, and I stood wearily, planning how to free myself. I pulled my platinum blonde hair back into a ponytail using a string, and rubbed at my golden eyes. Pain rocked my head as I walked over, and began to pull rocks out of the barrier. Rock after rock, I finally made a big enough space for me to escape through. The icy air hit my face once I looked around outside. It was truly beautiful, out in the snow-covered forest, ice sparkling everywhere. I went back into the cave, extinguished my fire, and rolled up my blankets. I slid on a thick leather jacket before setting off into the forest. Dark, knotted trees surrounded me, and the snow crunched beneath me as I set off. I had escaped the city not more than two months ago, and had been living alone since after losing my friend to border patrols. As I walked, I thought of the city. A controlling, ugly place. I thought of my little sister, who always looked up to me. My mom and dad, who always loved me and cared for me. My older brother that I looked up to... Who left years ago. I remember him still, brown ruffled hair, jovial smile, glowing eyes... We tried to forget him. When he turned 15 and I turned 10, he left. He had been complaining about curfew. About school. About not being allowed to go into the woods, behind the walls that surrounded the city. Then one night, he came to my room, frantic.
"I have to leave Amber. I have to. I'm sorry." He spoke quickly.
"But... What? Jacob?" I had asked. My ten-year-old self had been so oblivious.
"I have to. I love you Amber, just remember that. Stay safe. I'll find you one day." He said, hugging me tightly. His dark brown eyes begged for my understanding, my forgiveness. He then left my room, and I had not known what he meant. The next day, he was gone. Just like that. My light, my role model. Gone. I used to think he was just confused, that he didn't understand the laws, and at least that is what I was told. We were distraught, but the government only said one thing.
"Forget him. He is a traitor." Is all they said. We suspected him to be dead by now. I still secretly celebrated his birthday each year. Going out, I would get a cupcake and candle, light it, and blow it out for him. He would have now been 25. Now I was 20 and had done the same thing to my sister, Jessy, who had just turned 11. I tried to spend all the time I could with her before I left, instilling what I knew was right... But I don't think it will stick now that I left.
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I heard the crisp crunching of snow to the distance, and pulled out my dagger. I scaled the nearest tree, searching for what made the sound. A small, white rabbit hopped below, red eyes surveying the forest nervously. It crossed beneath me,  and I dropped down, pushing the dagger through the animal. I hoped it felt no pain as I threw it i to my bag for later. I allowed myself to eat another small strip of jerky, as I felt renewed. I strode deeper into the woods, ready for whatever came next.
I stopped by a small stream, and looked at the sky. It was around mid-day, and I was already getting exhausted. I broke the ice and took a drink from the water. As I glanced around the quiet clearing, a small crack of a branch echoed in my ears. I spun, drawing my dagger and snarling at the direction of the sound... Only to see a smirking, brown haired boy leaning against a large Oak. He had a small dimple on his chin, and piercing green eyes. He wore a long sleeved black and white plaid shirt which had several rips in it, and a pair of well worn jeans. He had dirty, torn up black converse shoes on his feet.
"I would go all warrior on you, but you don't seem like the maniac, murderous type." He quipped, the smirk staying put the entire time. I slid my dagger back into my boot and frowned.
"I guess you never know." I responded, waiting for him to make the next move.
"Well, and I mean no offense, but you look horrible."
"Great job Sherlock. I suppose next you will suddenly discover that we are in the forest." I growled. He laughed quietly, and pushed away from the tree.
"Feisty." He replied. "Anyway, I'm Toby." He held out one of his worn hands. I shook it gingerly and looked at him indecisively. He looked fairly well off, which was odd considering the weather. I felt the cold begin to prick my skin again, but tried to shake it off.
"I'm Amber." I replied.
"Age?"
"What does it matter?" I narrowed my eyes.
"I want to see if I guessed right." He crossed his arms, which were muscled and worn like the rest of him appeared to be.
"20." I grumbled. A light smile lit his features.
"I was close. I guessed 25."
"That would be my brother's age. If he were still alive that is." I shook my head and cleared my mind of the thought. Toby seemed lost in thought for a second, before looking back at me.
"Walk with me. I'm 23 for your information. Anyways, why are you here?" He asked as I followed him.
"Because the government is always up your back about everything. It's stupid." I grumbled. He smirked as he seemed to think of something, then it dropped from his face.
"When did you leave?"
"Two months ago." I shivered in the cold and pulled my jacket tighter around me.
"Two months? Holy..." He frowned and looked down for a second. "Dang girl." He grinned when he looked back up. "That's a heck of a long time." I shrugged absently, and he shook his head.
"Hey Amber, ever heard of the Orïgins?" He asked. Of course I did, they were a rebel group who lived out here, and were half the reason I got the balls to go out here.
"Yeah." I huffed, as all this work was hard on my thin body.
"How would you like to join us? It's a once in a lifetime opportunity you know." He said with a wink. "Getting to hang out with me all day..."
"I'd have to handle you for a whole day?"
"You don't have to, you get to." He smirked.
"I don't know. Seems like a deal breaker to me." I snipped back.
"Ooh. She has a personality." He laughed loudly. "How lucky for me."
"But I guess so. I'll die if I don't." I finally said. Toby grabbed my hand and pulled me forward, where I stumbled into a small village.
"Holy crap. I thought you were joking." I gasped. People freely milled around. Babies laughed, children played, men joked, and women smiled. One older woman saw me first.
"Who is that Toby?" She sneered.
"I wasn't gonna let her die Asmah." He spoke slowly.
"What's your name girl?"
"Amber. Amber Krosby." And with that, a group of particularly burly guys turned to gawk at me. The woman's eyes even flared open.
"K...Krosby?" She stuttered nervously I looked at her questioningly as someone from a ways away shouted.
"Yes ma'am?" The gravelly voice spoke. I turned slowly, and my gaze was met with an older guy's, who looked only a few years my elder. I looked him in the eye and recoiled when I saw his face. His brown, begging eyes burned in sync with my memory, and I felt the familiar rage building within me, mixed with fear. His eyes went wide with shock, and my whole body went slack. His face was unreadable, but I knew from experience that he was shocked. This was my brother, Jason.
 

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