The Wind of Lonely Places


Beneath the evergreen canopy, through which snow sifted lightly down 
to vanish in the drifts, Kelly's pursuit assumed the essence of dreaming.  
His skis had disappeared wholly beneath a deep, dry powder that 
enveloped him almost to his knees, so that he glided along wraithlike, 
the snow whispering aside from his passage.  Before him floated a 
slender figure, swaying gracefully through her turns, her autumn-colored 
hair sweeping a counterpoint between her shoulders.  They had slipped 
into a complementary rhythm that filled his thoughts with a music of 
strings, soft and subtle, and inexpressibly sad; every movement he made 
mirrored hers, every movement of hers a reflection of his.  Each 
sweeping curve seemed freighted with hidden meanings, their tracks 
sketching a complex twilight cursive beyond his capacity to decipher.
	Kelly was remotely aware they had been skiing far longer than 
the length of the slope would allow.  A fleeting perception identified a 
vague, formless menace sliding through the shadows, always just 
beyond the periphery of his sight, awaiting with impatient hunger any 
misstep, any break in the rhythm.  They intruded, these perceptions, but 
not greatly, the way the earth itself impinges on the movement of the sun, 
producing elegant little flourishes within the formality of the pavan.
	He followed her white-clad figure, sometimes close, sometimes 
so far away she was but a dim flicker among the twilight shrouded 
branches, yet always as a part of the dance they shared.  He felt a sad 
conviction that never had he known anyone half so well as this young 
woman to whom he had never spoken.  Another part of him recognized 
the source and consequence of that feeling, and the deadly danger 
hidden within it.
	For hours it seemed they fled among the trees; now and again 
the pale oval of her face appeared over her shoulder, regarding him with 
an expression too shadowed for him to see clearly, more frequently as 
their pas de deux continued.  After a time Kelly thought to detect a 
change in the quality of the air, and a few moments later tentatively 
identified the odor of woodsmoke.  This grew stronger, and presently 
light was visible through the trees below.
	A small cabin appeared in a clear area of the mountainside, 
smoke rising from its chimney of fieldstones.  The upslope wall was half-
underground, and the snow rose to the eaves of the wood-shingled roof.  
The woman had halted beside the cabin, standing within a pool of 
yellow light cast from a dormer window.  Kelly watched her from the 
gloom of the trees.  She stood a moment, her shadow cast into the 
snowdrifts by the streaming light.  Then she moved around the cabin and 
	Alone now on the mountainside, Kelly became aware of how 
dark the forest had become, of the wind gusting among the upper 
boughs, of the chill in the air.  Of something else - a cold malevolence 
sweeping suddenly at his back.  Kelly attempted no analysis of the 
feeling.  He leapt forward, pushing off with his ski poles, nearly 
stumbling as a ski-tip pulled sluggishly from its bed of powder snow.  A 
cold breath upon his neck, a moment of panic, gone as he passed into 
the clearing.  
	Breathing hard within the pool of light, he searched the slopes 
behind him.  Nothing.  He saw only the dark beneath the trees, but 
Kelly was not deceived.  There was something out there, watching him.  
He could feel the pressure.
	An oil lamp on the tiled sill behind the window flung light and 
shadow among the plants hung in the alcove formed by the dormer.  The 
thick, rippled glass panes swam with the glow, affording a distorted 
view of the room beyond.  Against the far wall flames wavered, their 
motion rendered liquid by the intervening glass, casting a hazy nimbus 
around the shadowed forms of furniture, like a negative image of an old-
fashioned vignette.
	Kelly hesitated.  He could deal first with the creature in the 
trees, or with the creature in the cabin - indeed, the creature that was 
the cabin, if his suspicions were correct.  He paused, more apprehensive 
of the latter than the former - it, at least, was altogether straightforward 
and uncomplicated - but knowing what he had to do if he wanted to 
maintain any self-respect at all.  He moved out of the light, sliding 
around the cabin to the downslope wall, and pulled up short.  A shifting 
wedge of light lay upon the snow, cast through the half-open doorway.  
A pair of skis hung on pegs beside the door, where a moment ago there 
had been only bare wood.  He hung his own skis on the empty pegs 
beside them, and entered the cabin, accepting the implicit invitation.