What drove us east from our coastal home in the late fall near got us ensnared in the mountains that winter. But we stumbled on the last clear pass with days to spare, vindicated though much depleted. Descending the lee side of that great range, scanning an impossible horizon, we accepted our reprieve with some grace.
"What now?" you said.
"We find some place and hunker down till spring, if there is a spring. We might be in the rain shadow, so the snows could well spare us, but don't bet on no easy ride."
In time we came to a place of flat light and echoless sound—a place so dead it seemed haunted not by ghosts but by its lack of ghosts. Cold, absent, god-abandoned. Remote as a deviant comet and more pitiless.
Clapboard walls, roof of tar, thin aluminum windowframes, yardless and forlorn on a treeless plain, its eggshell walls its own piteous windbreak—stoic before the baying lupine gales of endless prairie nights, and patient for morning.
Which did arrive.
A dilute lemon sun struggled through a vaporous sky, the wolfpack howl dispersed by the voluted mists, the only sound now the iron clang of crows at a forge without shadows.
You smiled for the first time in weeks. I took your hand and held it, marveling at the avian bones.
"We have a little food. Dry stuff. And water," you said.
I tried to smile too, but my face was a mask.
"And I have you," I managed.
We rested up a fair while, weeks even, and what our bodies regained we paid for with disquieted minds; what replenished our thirsty blood only drained our ruined spirits, helped untether those thoughts best left stowed and tied.
My heart is made of ore; it loves as well as it might but is shot through with something igneous, something ferrous. Only the blast furnace of your own heart will distil the purity of it, forge of our union a thing less friable, less ephemeral. O our savage steelbound hearts.
While the timid sun tried each morning to revive the world, we sensed the tireless chill of the future as it unearthed our trail at last and began slowly to track it. What manner of thing is this? What is its essence? It's the story's ending, doubling back, heedless of narrative arcs, avid and greedy in its zealous moment, wanting to finish, wanting it done, desiring to end this thing now.