The Briarwood

 Winter had set in, and spring never came. Ever since those strange months when the second sun appeared in the sky. The days still passed but he could scarcely call them days, and the moon rose no longer in the lengthening nights. The petrol can he clutched had been the whole reason he’d come out this way. 

The youth followed the footsteps by torchlight when he fell. Fresh snowfall had masked the steep bank before him, so too the patch of scrambled thorns below. He lay on his back and the briars stayed his struggle with their claws in cloth and flesh. The smell of sodden, dead leaves filled his nose.

Breath rose from him in towers. White in the chill of the air. His flashlight gone in the tumble down the slope. His woodened fingers searched pockets for a lighter and returned empty.

 Hours passed until footfall crunched through the drifts and stirred his huddled frame. A yellow glow cast from somewhere unseen to his rear made the streaks of bracken dance in shadow. 

 “Hard to see your way without a light.” A soft voice. A woman’s. He looked over for a face but found none, drowned by the rays cast from his pocket torch held hammergrip beside her head. “Where you heading?”

 “Home,” he smiled to show his relief. “Might you cut me loose?”

 She extended her hand to him. He reached out but his fingers stopped short of hers. Drawn back by the thorns. 

 “Ain’t no home this way in the woods but ours.” She wrenched the fuel can from his pleas and despair. She took it and her lamp and soon he lost sight of them altogether. All that was left was the creeping cold, and snowflakes that fell from the blackness of the heavens.