The Wind of Lonely Places
At last they reached a point where it became practical to assume their skis. The early afternoon light held a twilight aspect, conferred by the flood of felt-grey clouds overhead. The wind was freshening, carrying with it a scattered handful of snowflakes. Blair turned a brooding glance on the ski lift terminal nearby, missing the pervasive sound of its operation, now that it was gone. The only sound to be heard from the lift was the sad creaking of twisting cable as the winds batted the empty chairs with phantom cat's-paws. "Which trail do you fancy," Kelly said. Blair shrugged. "You choose." "Well then, how about Parachute?" Blair looked at the old-timer uncertainly. "Seems a long way to come for a run that short; we'd be down the hill in no time at all." "I'm open to suggestions," said Kelly reasonably. "You laid claim to a morbid sense of curiosity," Blair said carefully. "How strong is it?" Kelly lifted an eyebrow. "The Blood Rock?" "Does the prospect alarm you?" "Perhaps," said Kelly, smiling thinly. "Look, if you're not interested..." Blair trailed off expectantly, flushed when Kelly let the silence continue. "Very well," Kelly said, finally. "'Lay on, MacDuff!'" "Eh?" "'And damned be him who first cries hold! Enough!'" Blair stared at him for a long moment, turned abruptly and made for the catwalk. Kelly followed. As they passed into the aisle of trees, the snowfall began to thicken. The catwalk's grade was slight, and the fresh, unpacked snow impeded momentum, making it necessary for the skiers to skate and pole their way along. There came a place where they left off their exertions, coasting to a stop upon the edge. Below the barrier rope, no tracks marked the snow. Blair gazed into evergreens wrapped with shadow and pale light, quieting the moil of his thoughts. He flicked a sidewise glance at Kelly, trying to read the mind behind the patient, knowing manner. He wondered if he had made a mistake with this one, knowing it didn't matter now. In a few moments it would be over, a stray thought said. Downslope...a flicker...a glimpse of movement... She slid from the cover of the trees, turning a shadowed gaze up the slope. A strange emotion swept the old man on meeting her eyes, compounded of wistful longing, and desire, and pity. Kelly sought to distance himself, to analyze the qualities that evoked these sentiments. The woman was perhaps as old as twenty-five. Her face was a tanned oval, set with lucent grey eyes. They held a mixture of grave innocence and melancholy knowledge, as though an elemental meaning had been revealed to her, and had brought her no comfort. Antigone herself might have worn such an expression, he thought. She turned slowly and skied away, seeming to float through the snow. Kelly resisted an instant compulsion to follow, raised his eyes to Blair, who wore a wary expression. "After you, my friend," said Kelly, very softly. The wariness in Blair's face gave way to panic. Abruptly he turned and fled along the catwalk, pushing furiously with his ski poles. Kelly turned his eyes back to the slope, far down to where the white-clad woman had halted, waiting. He sighed, slipped over the edge and down.