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Across the Divide
Katrina Hayes ©2002

She flung open the sturdy oak door her father had crafted a few years prior, the only door that existed in her little one room cabin. It could get so lonely and depressing in there, she didn't tend to be extremely outgoing, but she saw people so rarely that she could get lonely. And she loved the out-of-doors, another reason she lived so far from the 'civilized' world, but her little cabin didn't have any windows and just the one door, so it could get really stifling, especially on cold or rainy days when it did her no good to leave.

Hopefully tonight, though, one of those would change. An old friend of hers from when she still lived in town had just finished his apprenticeship and was coming to help install windows and such in the cabin.

She ran across the clearing that acted as her front yard, and sprawled out with the most recent book she was devouring for a few hours, the best of the world of humans dancing through her mind and the best of the world of nature dancing across her skin.

He strode into the clearing just as the sun's last rays were clearing from the sky, the black shroud of nightfall sealing up the final patches. She had supper already simmering over the fire, the kettle steaming a most tantalizing smell. She heard his footsteps and leaped from her armchair reading to greet him. It had been so long since he'd seen her lastÉ what would he be like, now? He was wondering the same about her.

He saw her first, as his eyes were already adjusted to the dying light. She was even more of a wire than she had been when she left, apparently from surviving off of nature, almost completely disconnecting herself from the rest of humanity, so although she at first glance would seem weaker she was much stronger. Her light brown hair was for the first time uncut, although she had it pulled back so he couldn't tell its true length. She was wearing well-worn pants and a shirt, which hung oddly on her thin frame. And once they adjusted, her ivy green eyes took him in with even more intensity than he remembered them having before. He would concede that the wilderness had treated her well, even though he thought the life she was living was despicable.

She, too, saw a slightly mature version of the one she had known before, a man, no longer able to be called a boy, even in a joking fashion. He'd begun wearing a mustashe, but the rest of his blonde hair, which had darkened some from their school days, he now had cut quite short. His muscles were thick, both from more testosterone and from frequent use, but he was also showing signs of the belly that appears when the spring in one's step from youth finally disappears. She would concede that civilization had treated him well, even though she thought the life he was leading was despicable.

Expressions of joy took over both of their faces, and they embraced as old friends who had been apart too long.

"It seems like it's been forever..."

"Maybe it has been."

A couple days passed, a blur of happiness to them both. They stayed up late, talking over the roaring fire, falling asleep wrapped in blankets in facing chairs. They woke with the rise of the sun, set to work sawing, drilling, cutting... two windows on the front, three on the back, and they were there in short order. The transparent, gleaming glass fascinated the girl, who had forgotten the awe of something as simple as glass, after leaving civilization behind. But the raw beauty of the wilderness still held her, and she knew she could never leave. Could she make him notice nature's splendor?

The last pane of glass was secured by midday on his fourth day there, and they both stood at the far edge of the clearing, at the end of the path he had emerged from, and admired their handiwork. "Well, I don't need to be back in town for another couple days, mind if I stay a while longer?"

She giggled a horrible giggle, as if she still sat around playing with barbies in her spare time. But she was excited... just the two of them, no worries other than where the next meal was coming from, and the forest had always taken care if her in that respect, so that would not be much of a worry either. But then, she had only lived in the forest since late the previous spring, and winter was fast approaching. Too fast.

He had been there another week when the first snow of the season roared across the forest, trapping the pair inside with snow halfway up the door and pressing against the bottoms of the uninsulated windows, smothering the tiny cabin in numbing cold, the only place survivable to the furless humans being within a few feet of the fire, which would soon die because they couldn't even get to the woodpile outside.

He became infuriated, used to the life of relative ease and luxury of the city. "You are an idiot to subject yourself to such harsh conditions when a life so much easier is just a day's journey away."

"But it is such a superficial life..."

"I don't care! I remain alive to see another day! I don't freeze to death in my sleep because I refuse to even have an electric heater because it's too civilized! In fact, I'm not going to even stay here until this blows over. You know how to install windows now, and if you really want them you can come to town yourself, even though I know that's blasphemy to you, and buy another pane of glass! I am leaving!" With that outburst, he jumped at one of the weak windows, shattering it, bloodying himself in the process, and ran as fast as he could back to his heater. Except it was too far, in waist-deep snow that continued to fall, and used to the comforts of the city he was very inadequately dressed for the harshness of the wild. Some of his friends would find his frozen corpse some weeks later when they ventured out, knowing that he was long due home, less than halfway back to the civilized world he had loved so much to reject his old love.

She had fared little better. The snow blew in through the hole left of his own handiwork, the window he had constructed and then destroyed. The fire died not long after, and she knew she stood no chance, ill prepared for this display of fury as she was. And she could not die within walls, even walls as isolated as these. She clambored through the gaping hole where the window had been, not caring about the cuts she gave herself from the shards of glass. The red stains across the white snow left a striking pattern, the last one her dying eyes saw. She collapsed from the cold in the middle of her clearing, her frozen corpse found by scavengers before any human, as she would have wanted it.