Zell-Ann hated this time of year, not just because of the bitter cold, the kind of cold that felt like it tore ribbons of flesh from any exposed skin, but because she had to leave the town. It was bad enough that she had to live away from the warm love of her family, but then to be forced to leave the only place she had ties to here in this cold hell as well?
It made her feel rootless, drifting in a sea of blood and bureaucracy.
Nothing would stop the paperwork. She had no doubt that when the gravemind finally took her the only memory of her that would remain would be her signature on the mountains of paperwork she would leave behind.
Bitter? Yes. But undoubtedly true.
She hadn’t seen her brothers and sisters in over 10 years and it was this time of year that had that familiar ache rising to the surface of her skin, as if the cold drew it out, wringing it from her soul. It seemed to hold them up in front of her eyes and laugh at her attempts to focus on her work.
She threw another log on the fire and cursed silently.
Well, at least she was going to go home now. But to what? None of the shipments had arrived on schedule and the navy said they had nothing left to spare. It was the dead times. When the cold of your flesh fought with the ache in your belly for attention. When even the animals had started dying for lack of food.
She had told them to prepare, she only hoped it would be enough.
She began placing bets with herself on who would make it through the cold season, like she did every year. It was a morbid game that helped keep her mind off her missing family and the creeping numbness that nipped at her fingers.
“Hmmm…” she murmurs softly, “The most prepared for the cold this year would have to be…”
She was still trying to decide when the raiders crept out of the wood line.
The cold was suddenly the least of her problems.