Dead of Winter
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by Sean Harris
Description: Allysen Coles sees dead people? A clairvoyant can run away to Fairbanks, but cannot hide from sinister spirits lurking in the long, dark Alaska winter. When a young woman reaches out from beyond the grave, Allysen answers her pleas to solve a decades old murder. Vivid dreams about the girl draw her closer to the truth, but also reveal her own life may be in danger. As she does more research, ghostly activity around her continues to escalate. Allysen soon learns people and things in Fairbanks are not what they seem. Will she put the pieces of the puzzle together in time? And--can she even trust her own friends to help her?
eBook Publisher: L&L Dreamspell/L&L Dreamspell, 2008 Spring, Texas
eBookwise Release Date: February 2009
3 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [385 KB]
Reading time: 244-341 min.
Her scream pierces the night.
It cuts through the remote silence, bouncing off the brittle branches of acres of barren trees only to be absorbed by the soft blanket of snow. From somewhere deep in the woods comes the sound of snapping underbrush as a large, startled animal flees the sudden cry. Closer to the small log cabin, a raven stops scavenging in the snow and cocks its head at the sound. It is not as easily frightened as the large creature in the woods and, after a moment, goes back to foraging. Above, the stars twinkle brightly against the pitch black sky and the greens, yellows and reds of the aurora dance in the foreground. They are the only witnesses to what is about to happen. And they will never tell. No one will ever know.
Except for me.
The cabin door flies open and a barely dressed red-haired woman runs out into the deep snow. I am close enough see the fear in her brown eyes, the frown lines at the corners of her mouth and the light dusting of freckles across the bridge of her nose. This is not the first time I've been here and seen this. Each time, I notice something new. Now I notice a small scar above her left eyebrow. I have one just like it. I also notice once again how similar she and I are. We look similar enough that we could be sisters. The realization makes me uncomfortable because I know how this is going to end.
Perspiration causes a long strand of curly auburn hair to stick to her face. Soon it will freeze against her skin. She is barefoot. The temperature is well below zero and I know she won't last long. She must know it, too. Whatever it is she is running from must make freezing to death on the taiga seem like the better choice. As she struggles through the snow, I can hear her desperate, wordless cries. I can see her breath come in quick frozen puffs from her lips. I try to call to her, to help her in some way, but I can make no sound. I cannot even move. All I can do is watch. Just like every other time I've seen this happen.
The woman is barely twenty yards from the cabin when two men follow her out the door. Unlike her, they are fully dressed with coat, hat and shoes. They shout at her as they give chase. I can see their faces as they run. Anger burns in their eyes, but so, too, do greed and lust. No wonder the woman chose to face the subzero temperatures of the Arctic instead of this pair. I might make the same decision.
I want to stop them, to knock them aside and maybe give her a fighting chance to survive. I want to call out to her and warn her they are coming. But I can't. So I watch.
They catch her just before she reaches the woods. One tackles her from behind, driving her into the snow. She cries out but the scream is cut short by the man's hand around her throat. The woman fights, tries to escape, but the man cocks his arm and punches her in the face. Then he does it again. And again. And again.
The woman stops fighting, though I can still hear her sobs and her wordless pleas. This part is so difficult to watch and it takes an act of will for me not to look away. If I'm seeing this for a reason, the least I can do is watch it all.
Now the other man stands over the pair. He looks at his partner, who nods back. The man pulls something from his pocket. Even before I see the moonlight reflect off its blade I know it is a knife. I steel myself for what comes next.
In one quick move, the man leans over and cuts the woman's throat. Clean and deep. No more cries escape. The man wipes his knife on his pants and sheathes the weapon. The other man stands and the two of them pick her up. They carry her across the clearing, but they aren't going to back the house. Instead, they carry her to the woodshed where they will probably leave her until the spring Break Up, then bury her as if she never existed. Erasing her existence from time. I can't explain how I know these things. I just feel them.
As I watch this scene play out before me as it has dozens of times in the past few weeks, something changes. Usually, I watch the men carry the dying woman to the woodshed, her throat too damaged to make much more than a few gurgling sounds. The blood, so dark in the moonlight, drips a steady trail from the place of her murder to the shed. Steam rises from the snow where it lands. Sometimes, I can hear it hiss as it freezes in the bitter cold. The woman, though, never makes another noise.
This time, however, she does.
Slowly, because even here it looks like it hurts, she raises her head and looks right at me. This shocks me. I am even more shocked when she speaks. It's only a word and it's difficult to hear. She's trying to tell me something, reaching out across the years from her grave to tell me--something. But what?
I try to call out or move toward her. I can't so I just shake my head and hope she understands. She tries once more and I see the effort it takes, not only to speak through her destroyed vocal chords but also to change what I'm seeing. This time, though, I really listen and I catch the word. Or at least what it might be. It sounds like a name and I...