The cold and the loneliness was strangely refreshing to Vida as she trekked through the maze of underground tunnels. Her gold eyes were her only savior in finding the right path. She was surprised at how the darkness did not phase her at all. It was almost clearer than the light. And the cold air was welcomed by her body. She had never felt closer to her Andromedan side than she did at that moment, for it was the only thing that was keeping her alive. None of her friends could survive this journey, except for Tristan. Unfortunately, he was too far away to ever find her. She had no clue what she would do when she reached the cold, inhospitable surface. It was all too frightening to think about, so frightening that she resolved to block her mind of what terrible possibilities the future might hold. She concentrated solely on the present, carefully viewing her map and calculating every step she must take. She stopped only briefly to sleep; she did not even pause to eat, but ate a piece of fruit now and again while she walked.
Vida woke up on the third day of her travel to find her remaining water bottle frozen solid. The few portions of fruit that were left were also hard as rocks. She put them in the inside of her coat, hoping that her body heat would soften them. She refused to let this small setback get her down and remained as determined as ever to finish what she started. By noon, her stomach was shifting hungrily and her body was growing colder. The water was now slush and the fruits were somewhat mushy, but her flesh was frost-bitten where the icy provisions had been pressed against her.
"No," she cried through her chattering teeth, "this can't be happening."
But her body begged to differ. The temperature was dropping too low for her to handle. The gap between her Human blood and Andromedan blood was growing fatally wider. She reached into her bag and pulled out the extra clothing that the General had given her. She took off her plump fur coat, shivering as the cold air hit her like a thousand needles. Quickly, she put on two more sweaters and covered herself with her coat once more. She didn't feel any warmer, but she kept moving, chewing on the rotten fruit to give her energy. Cold was a new sensation for her. She had never truly been cold before. Chilly, maybe, but never the deep, bone-stiffening, teeth-chattering cold that she felt at that moment. Her fingers were white and her nose was raw. She would have given anything to be enveloped in Tristan's warmth. She thought about cuddling with him on her fluffy couch, a cup of hot tea bringing heat to her hands. The light would be dim and soft on their bodies as they gently touched, sharing their warmness. She could feel his hands on her, radiating heat to her goosebumped skin. They touched her face and moved down her neck and onto her back where they messaged her tightened, shuddering muscles. They travelled lower down her back and advanced to the front of her soft tummy, drawing circles around her belly-button. Slowly, they crept lower...and lower...
Suddenly, pain blazed through her ankle and up her leg, causing her to collapse in agony. When she looked around, she realized that she had sunk into a weak spot in the ground and fallen into a muddy pit below. It was about ten feet deep and hardly wide enough to turn around in. When she tried to stand up, her ankle gave way and she fell flat into the muddy ground. She checked her ankle and suspired in frustration as she saw the white of her bone protruding through the bloody flesh. She began to cry and her hands reached up to meet her face, blood and tears mingling in despair.
When she was finished cursing rampantly, she wiped her face and got up, ignoring the excruciating pain. She limped to the wall of the pit, relieved to see that there was a gradual slant where the mud had slid down the sides. Her climb would be easier than if the edge had been completely vertical, but it would still be difficult with her broken ankle and the slippery mud to loosen her grip. She dug her fingers into the soft earth and started to pull herself upward, letting out a fierce roar when she forced her lame foot to follow. The climb was slow and brutal, but she kept her resolve focussed on each step, not thinking of how much more there was to surmount. When she knew she must be almost near the top of the pitfall, she look up for the first time and was ecstatic that she could just see over the edge of the hole. Eager to reach safe ground, she bounded up too quickly and her ankle gave way, causing her to slide down. Her fingers clawed desperately at the soil and her feet embedded themselves firmly into the shifting mud. Finally, she came to a halt halfway down the slope.
She lay unmoving, trying to gather the courage that was quickly leaving her. She raised her head out of the mud and looked up at the slope ahead of her. It wasn't such a long way to the top, but with her wounded limb and numb body, those few feet were like miles. With a determined sigh, she grounded her good foot, and pushed her way upward once more. This time, she held on to her patience through the rest of her climb. She could not afford her anticipation to interfere again. She refused to look up until she saw the flat ground staring her in the face. Vida crawled out of the pit, drenched in mud, hammered by pain, and shivering with frostbite.
Standing up proved to be more difficult than she had planned. The climb had taken so much of her energy that she had almost nothing left. Her fingers were a frightening shade of white, and the pain in her leg was growing unbearable. Tears rolled down her mud-caked face. She sank to the ground, curling up into a helpless ball. She felt herself drifting to sleep, knowing that she would never wake up. A peacefulness swept over her, and she wasn't frightened. The nightmares would be silenced forever. There were voices in her head, calling her to follow them. And then, amidst the voices, there was one voice that projected over all the others. Tristan. His voice grew louder and impatient, causing the other voices to fade away. What was he saying? She couldn't understand him. She continued to dream, seeing him standing in front of her, his hands outstretched and welcoming. She trying to go towards him, but thousands of arms pull her back. Vida faught them, but they shook her violently with their strong grips.
She opened her eyes, the shaking still continuing, but she saw that it was Tristan's arms that were clutching her. He stopped shaking her when he realized that her eyes were open.
"Vida," he gasped, "oh, Vida. I thought you were dead."
"Aren't I?" she choked.
"No," he laughed in relief, "no, you're alive! Cold, maybe, but you're alive!"
She tried to smile, but the mud pulled on her skin. "I'm glad. How did you...?"
"We'll talk about it later," he said, wrapping his coat around her.
End of Chapter 14. Go to Chapter 15.