The hike had been hard. He remembered that much. He remembered the crunching of the snow under his boots and the biting wind as it battered what was exposed of his face. He remembered falling, but he couldn’t remember why he’d fallen. Night had fallen ages ago. The sky was beginning to lighten again as he lay there staring at the receding stars. The pain was gone now. The night had taken it from him. Now he was just cold.

Someone had been with him. He couldn’t think of who it was. Was it Tina? He hoped it wasn’t. If it was Tina then the woman he loved was out there somewhere in the forest. She wouldn’t have survived this night. He wasn’t so sure that he was going to survive it as he looked up at the sky as the midnight blue softened and turned a deep violet almost plum before giving over to a scarlet mixed with violet and blue.

It would be about an hour, he knew, before the sun finally made itself known to the sky again. It struck him, how beautiful the sky was. The falling snow seemed to be spilling forth from the last of the night stars. He accepted as he looked up at the magnificent heavens that he would die here. He was sure he’d be dead before the dawn could fully overtake the sky.

He thought again about who it was that had been with him on his hike when the sun was still in the sky and the snow hadn’t yet started to fall. Who? It wasn’t Tina. He remembered that much. Tina was waiting at the lodge, preparing for the day. They were to be married today, and his heart broke with the knowledge that he would let her down by freezing to death in the forest beyond the lodge.

Consciousness was slipping away from him. Already a deep blackness was seeping around the edges of the beautiful sky. He knew that his time was short. He just wished that he could tell her that he loved her one last time. Just one last time was all he wanted.

Then he heard it. It was a rustling in the snow covered bush. It got louder until a bright yellow animal burst through the brush. Porthos! His faithful golden friend. His dog had returned, and as his eyes closed he saw that he’d brought people!

They worked quickly to get him off the ground. They’d brought a body sled with them. No one had died in this woods in over sixty years, and Jacob Allen Parish, the rich son of Deacon Parish wouldn’t be the one who broke that record. Not today. Thanks to his beautiful Golden Retriever, Porthos, they’d found him.

They missed the wedding, but Tina was so happy to be sitting by his bedside at the hospital, reading to him. She’d even made sure that Porthos was there too. The frozen forest hadn't won after all.

 


 

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