The darkness was endless...a bottomless pit of hell that opened it's jaws and welcomed her in.
Tightly holding onto the lantern, it's dim glimmer of light swaying back and forth,back and forth...revealed gnarled teeth. Aspen Trees, which loomed and twisted high above. Scraping and clawing at the night sky, as if to shred whatever starlight that shined through it's twisted branches.
Taking a shaky breath in, she looked upon the small flickering flame, watching its dance. How long the dance would last she did not know, but it was her only reminder of life...of hope, and she held the light close, absorbing what small comfort and warmth it could give. Despite the winter winds screaming in her ears to turn back...But as she looked at the trailing footprints behind her...how the winds made them faded and worn... No. No She mustn't turn back. She had to press on. Monforte's Masquerade could not be far surely! Holding out her lantern to the darkness, she took a hesitant step forward when-
Letting out a violent cough, Ofelia gasping and gulping the cold air, blindly reached out, leaning against a nearby tree. Cough after cough she clutched her chest, wheezing and hacking-doing everything in her power to breathe. But every inhale, every exhale made her throat and lungs scorch and burn. Digging her nails into the bark she squeezed her eyes shut-listening to winter winds scream.
"Oh Ofelia, Cover your mouth for goodness sake!" a voice shrilled in her ears
"It cannot be helped mama! Can you not see little Ofelia is ill?"
"I can see that!" Her mother seethed, her footsteps creaking the floorboards nearby as she paced. "Do not get close Ariana!"
"Must I lose two daughters? Must I?"
"You speak as if she's already gone-as if she's already in her grave!"
"Do not be foolish Ariana! Look at her-look at the state of her? There's nothing to be done." her footsteps now fading away , "Absolutely nothing..."
Hearing her breathing become slow and haggard, Ofelia slowly opened her eyes. The memory still crisp and bitter in her mind .
"-look at the state of her? There's nothing to be done. Absolutely nothing..."
How true her mother's words were and yet how truer still were her eldest sisters. She was not in her grave yet! That was for certain, nor did she plan to anytime soon. She had to press on! So with a shaky hand she did her best to bundle herself up, to keep the cold at bay. As best she could she wrapped her mustard, yellow scarf about her head.
"I musn't stop..." She wheezed, a small cough erupting from her, " not for anything!"
Tucking her scarf inside her coat she let out a small chuckle, "Not even in my grave yet,"
And with her soft laugh echoing against the trees she lifted herself up. Her boots sinking deep into the snow as she began to venture forth deep into the darkness, where it welcomed her with open jaws.