Just a quick note to those that have read this all the way through on the blog...thanks! And I hope you enjoyed it. *hugs*
The Road Less Taken
In the early light of dawn, Paivi could see the bridges across Lake Superior that would take them from Wisconsin to Minnesota. The clouds had cleared and it looked to be a sunny day. This was quite deceiving, as the air here was far colder than it had been in St. Andrew. Paivi wished she had a blanket, as the SUV had become increasingly cold, despite the fact that the heater was turned all the way up.
Paivi was surprised that she remembered where Tim and Alissa lived. She had only been to their house once, about two years ago. Tim was her dad’s cousin, and he and his wife and daughter, Monika, had come to visit them in St. Andrew many times throughout her childhood. They wound their way through the hilly streets. Little San Francisco, as Duluth was sometimes called; it was not far from the truth. Turning right on Seventh Street, Christian slowed down.
“I don’t want to just drive up to this house. What if it’s not safe? I think we should drive past and see what we have going on here. Maybe we should even park the car one block over and walk up, just in case we have to run for it,” Christian suggested.
“That’s fine. There it is. 680 Seventh Street.” Paivi pointed to a small, white, one-story house to their left.
Christian slowed down, allowing them to have a look. The house and lawn were covered with a foot of white snow. There were two trucks in the driveway. Steam billowed from the furnace vent in the roof. Somebody was living there, at least. As they passed, they could hardly help but notice as the Christmas lights in the widows rearranged themselves to read one word.
“Whoa, did you see that?” Torsten was bewildered. “Did those lights seriously just move or am I going crazy?”
“They moved. Remember, it’s like mom and dad said, special people will sometimes mark their houses, so others like them will know that they are there. I am guessing they didn’t generally use the words ‘safe’ before,” Paivi said.
“Yeah, I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised, right? In the past two days I’ve seen my sister blow the windows out of every house in the neighborhood and listened to a necklace that is sending us messages in some kind of crazy alphabet soup.”
Christian turned right, and pulled a little further up the street before parking the SUV.
“Let’s just leave our things here for right now. If we bring bags, it may look suspicious,” Christian suggested.
They opened the doors and were hit with the bitingly cold air as it slapped them in the face. If Paivi had been cold in the car, she was freezing to near death now. The snow was deep and the sidewalks were not plowed, so they chose to walk along the side of the street. They kept their eyes peeled the entire way. They hadn’t seen any ATC agents since entering Duluth, but they knew they had to be here somewhere. Maybe it was just too early and the ATC knew no one would dare be out at such an hour in the cold.
The driveway at 680 Seventh Street had been plowed and the sidewalk shoveled. They edged slowly up the drive, past the trucks to the front door. Paivi took a deep breath and knocked lightly.
“You have to knock harder than that! No one is going to hear that light tap.” Christian knocked harder on the door.
Paivi gulped. This was it. Either the necklace was right and they had come to the right place, or someone else lived here and they were stuck, in frozen Duluth, Minnesota, with nowhere to go. What would they do next? Paivi’s mind was racing over the possibilities. Maybe they could go back to St. Andrew and hide in Jason’s basement.
The door opened, bringing Paivi back to reality. A short woman with long, blond hair opened the door just a crack.
“Can I help you?” She sounded nervous.
“Um, Alissa, do you remember me?” Paivi was even more nervous.
Alissa lifted her eyes to look more closely at the three strangers on her doorstep.
“I’m sorry, I don’t.”
Paivi could feel tension radiating from the boys behind her.
“It’s Paivi, my dad is John.”
“Paivi? Oh my god, I didn’t recognize you! Who is with you?” She glanced at the boys.
“Oh, my brother, Torsten and my friend Christian.”
“Okay, quick, come inside. You guys are so grown up! Torsten, you look like you’re twenty-five! Did you happen to see any ATC agents around?” Alissa quickly shut the door behind them and locked two deadbolts.
“Phew. They’ve been hanging around the neighborhood lately. Tim is getting nervous that they are on to us.” She ushered them into the kitchen.
The house smelled like cinnamon, it reminded Paivi of home. She looked around and saw pictures of the family on the mantel of the small brick fireplace. Pictures of Monika involved in various activities hung on the walls. The rooms she could see were small but cozy.
“Please, sit down, make yourselves comfortable. Would you care for something to drink? Something warm?” Alissa offered.
“That would be awesome! It’s freezing here!” Torsten replied.
“How about some hot cocoa—I think I have some marshmallows in here somewhere.” She disappeared into the pantry.
“That sounds great.” Torsten smiled nervously at Paivi.
“So, what brings you here? I’m guessing something happened at home, or you wouldn’t be showing up on my doorstep so early on a Monday morning without your Mom and Dad.”
“Our parents are gone. They took them.” Paivi felt she didn’t even need to say the name anymore. Everyone in the room knew whom she meant.
Alissa passed steaming, hot mugs to them from the stove. She brought the bag of marshmallows to the table and took the last empty seat.
“I’m not surprised. I heard they rounded up a couple down the street last night as well. One of the neighbors called to let us know.” She rested her chin on her fist.
Paivi noticed something. Or rather, noticed something was missing. She didn’t notice an EOS sign in the front yard, and she didn’t see any EOS badges recharging in the house.
“They don’t know about you!” she blurted out, too tired to think about whether it was something to discuss or not.
“Pardon?” Alissa looked nervous again.
Paivi was nervous too. She looked around. Maybe this was some kind of trap.
“They don’t know about you. You don’t have a sign in your yard and you don’t have any EOS badges. How did you manage that? Are you going to turn us in?” Paivi started to push her chair back, tense, prepared to run. The boys eyed her nervously.
“Wait, please, just listen,” she pleaded, hands raised. “I promise, we won’t turn you in. We would never do such a thing. We’ve been helping EOS people, people like you.”
“Well, how is it that you have your Christmas lights spelling out words in the window, but you don’t have an EOS badge.” Paivi asked.
“We aren’t sure. For some reason, we were left off the list, and no one ever turned us in, if they knew. So we’ve been sort of running a safe house. A week ago, we helped a few people go north, over the border into Canada. We’ve had a few people ask for our help since then. So we put the sign in the window, but it’s only meant for people who are looking to truly be safe. The ATC can’t see it, even if they have someone like us working for them, which is unlikely, there aren’t so many of us up here.”
Paivi’s locket started to heat up, but she didn’t feel comfortable looking at it. She touched it and met Christian’s eye. She hoped the locket would hurry up and cool down.
“So what about us? Can you help us get to Canada?” Christian asked, stirring marshmallows into his cocoa.
The locket cooled significantly.
“Well, we’ll have to see what Tim says when he gets up. You guys are family, not like the other people he took north. I mean, I think it’s safe, we would never take people somewhere dangerous, but you guys are just kids.”
“Just kids who drove eight hours from St. Andrew and have managed to not get caught by the ATC,” Christian reminded her.
“Good point,” she chuckled at his bravado. “Why don’t I make some pancakes? Are you guys hungry?”
“Pancakes sound really good. Thanks,” said Paivi, finally removing her coat and hanging it on the back of the chair.
While Alissa cooked, she kept them preoccupied with small talk, asking how their parents had been doing, telling them all about Monika and her many athletic talents, and discussing the weather.
“It’s been a warm winter, you’re lucky!” said Alissa, bringing a plate of steaming hot pancakes to the table.
“Warm? You call this warm? This is like being at the North Pole! I figured we’d see Santa Claus walking down the street here!” laughed Torsten. “I am surprised the lake isn’t frozen, I figured we could just like, skip the bridge and drive right across!”
“Funny! Today is a little colder than it has been. We’ve been pretty lucky though, winter is usually a lot colder by this time. But Lake Superior doesn’t freeze over any more. I think it used to, but only every twenty years or so. Now, with global warming, it doesn’t even partially freeze until January or February. It would be cool though, to be able to drive across the lake!”
There was a noise from the hallway, and a tall man with blond hair entered the room, looking slightly surprised.
“Well, hello. I didn’t know you were expecting company so early.” The man moved towards Alissa.
“Tim, you remember your cousin John’s kids, Paivi and Torsten? And this is their friend Christian. Their parents are gone.”
His face rose and then fell.
“Paivi, Torsten, I wouldn’t have recognized you! I am happy to see you, but sorry it has to be under such circumstances.” He walked around the table, giving them each a big hug. “Nice to meet you, Christian.” He shook Christian’s hand heartily.
“Our parents told us they were going to call you, to see if we could come here. They didn’t want us to stay in St. Andrew anymore; it was getting bad. It was the last thing we talked about before they were taken.” Paivi sighed. “So coming to Duluth was the only thing we could think of.”
“Well, you made the right decision. I can’t believe you made it all the way here without getting caught. That’s impressive. But I’ve heard the ATC is much more active in the major cities and the suburbs. We have only a small group here, but unfortunately they’ve been snooping around, so it’s a bit scary.”
“So, Tim, what do you think? Alissa was mentioning to us that you took some people to Canada. Do you think we should go there?” Paivi asked.
“Well, I certainly think it’s safer for you to go there than to stay here, especially with the ATC sniffing around. But I don’t know, it might be too late to make the trip.” He looked thoughtful.
“Tim, they’re so young! Would it be safe?” Alissa sounded worried.
“It’s not easy, but it’s not completely unsafe.” He looked them over. “They look like they could handle it. They’re pretty athletic.”
Tim filled a plate with pancakes and dragged an extra chair over to the table. He sat down and poured syrup over the top of the small stack. He cut them and put a forkful into his mouth.
“Now that’s good stuff. All right, so you have a car with you? And some bags or something?”
“Yeah, we parked the car up a side street,” Christian answered, “and our bags are in the back.”
“Okay, so here’s what we’ll do. I have a friend with some property, like fifty acres, about twenty minutes outside of Duluth. We’ll take the truck there and hide it, he won’t mind. Then we will put your bags in the back of our truck and drive back. It’s best if you wait here, though, it’s not safe for you guys to be out and about.”
“You’re going to take my truck?” Christian seemed surprised by the suggestion.
“Well, I don’t suppose you want them tracing the license plates and realizing you’re somewhere in the neighborhood. Like I said, they are already poking around here. We don’t want to give them any reason to start going door-to-door checking papers.”
“Okay. I understand.” Christian relented.
“After breakfast here I will make a few calls to see if it’s possible to still get to Canada. There are some other options if that won’t work, but it will take a little more planning in order to get you where you’ve got to go. If it’s possible, you may be leaving tonight.”
“Tonight!” Paivi squeaked. “That just seems so fast!”
“Yeah, well, it’s not a vacation, and the sooner you guys are out of here, the better it is for all of us. If we have a bunch of people staying here for long periods, they’ll bust us for sure.” Tim looked serious.
Paivi played with her last few pieces of pancake. She thought about crying. But why? What good would it do? They needed to leave, the locket said to run, and it told them to go north. It didn’t necessarily say to stop at Duluth. It heated up every time they mentioned Canada, and if she could look at it, she was sure it would say to keep going. They would be safe there. It is what she begged her parents to do. If only they could be there with them. But they weren’t. Instead, she and Torsten were all alone, without papers—illegal and depending on others to help them. She gathered herself together.
“Okay. We’ll be ready for whatever.” Paivi looked confidently at Torsten, who looked a bit nervous at the thought of such an early departure as well. “What will we do once we get to Canada?”
“If I can take you to the same place, there is a house where other people like us are staying. I am not sure what will happen once you get there. But I know they will help you. A lot of this is word of mouth, so we are just trusting you’ll be in good hands. Regardless, you will be in Canada and you will be free of the ATC. You may just have to deal with the Canadian government, but I’d take them any day over the ATC. If the Canadians catch you though, be sure to claim political asylum. Tell them your story. It’s the only way to keep them from sending you back, because they will have to investigate, and most likely, you would get it. You’re just kids. I can’t imagine that they would deny kids political asylum.”
Alissa came around to pick up their plates. They rose to help her clear the table.
“I’m going to wake up Monika and have her come down. I’m sure she’d love to see you guys before you go. Then we’ll get going and move the truck.” Alissa headed down the hall.
“Feel free to take a shower or take a nap while we are gone. It could be a long night,” Tim suggested.
Paivi, Torsten and Christian moved to the living room, settling into the couch and flipping on the television. Torsten, tired and full of pancakes, fell asleep right away, snoring because he was sleeping while sitting up on the couch. His head hung back, mouth wide open.
Tim and Alissa made their way to the front door, zipping up their coats and pulling on boots.
“We’ll need the keys. What kind of car is it?” Tim asked, walking towards the couch.
“Black SUV. Illinois plates. It’s just around the corner. You can’t miss it.” Christian pulled a key off of a key ring and handed it to Tim.
Tim and Alissa opened the door and with a blast of cold air, walked out into the sunny morning.
Paivi looked at him funny. “Why didn’t you just give him the whole key ring?”
“Well, he can keep the car key. But these are my house keys. Maybe I’ll need them… someday.”
Christian sounded wistful.
“Do you really think we’re coming back?” she asked.
“I don’t know. Sometimes I hope so. Sometimes I never want to see this place again. But you know it depends on whether I get to see my parents again. I can only imagine what they’re going through. I’ll let them decide where we should live.” Christian sounded sad for the first time.
“Are we doing the right thing, leaving? My dad kept telling me only cowards and guilty people would run.” Paivi played with the zipper on her sweatshirt, thinking back to the image of her mother in the camp. She didn’t have to imagine what their parents were going through. She’s seen it.
“Where’s your dad now? What choice did we have? Just sit around the house and wait for them to pick us up? You know they wouldn’t have let us stay there for long. I don’t understand why they didn’t just take us all at once. Maybe it’s easier for them to keep us away from our parents or something. I bet the ATC didn’t think we’d run. I wonder if anyone else did.”
The day dragged slowly by. Christian didn’t feel comfortable not having someone on watch while Alissa and Tim were gone, so he and Paivi took turns sleeping and watching out the front window. Torsten continued to snore into the afternoon. Monika joined them in the living room.
“So, my Mom said you are just visiting for the day because you are on vacation. That’s cool! Where are you going next?” she asked.
“Oh, Christian has some relatives in another part of Minnesota that we are going to visit for, uh, Christmas,” Paivi answered, noticing the small Christmas tree in the corner. She felt Monika was too young to hear the truth.
“Is Christian your boyfriend?” Monika asked.
Christian heard the question, even though he was supposed to be napping. Paivi saw his mouth turn up into a smile.
“Um, no. Christian is just a friend. He told us he was going to have to drive here alone, and we felt sorry for him. My parents were going, uh…out of town, so we were going to be on our own anyways.”
“Oh, cool. Want to make some bracelets with me?” Monika hauled out a huge box of beads and thread from under the coffee table. “I’ve got to make a few more for Christmas presents.”
Paivi was glad of the distraction, and spent the better part of the afternoon stringing beads with Monika. She couldn’t sleep anyways.
Tim and Alissa returned at dinnertime carrying some plastic bags.
“We brought dinner, we knew there wouldn’t be much time to cook.” Alissa lifted the lid off a cardboard bucket.
Paivi’s mouth started to water as the smell of fried chicken filled the room.
“Um, how did everything go?” Paivi asked nervously.
Tim glanced at Monika. “I talked to my friend. It seems that we will be able to go out later. We’ll get ready after we eat.”
The meal was a quick one, chicken and small tubs of mashed potatoes and gravy were passed around the table. Paivi forgot she hadn’t eaten since breakfast and that she was starving. Torsten had almost an entire chicken on his plate. He certainly hadn’t lost his appetite. After dinner, Alissa ushered Monika down the hall, encouraging her to get ready for bed and promising to watch a movie with her later.
Tim addressed Paivi, Torsten and Christian.
“Okay. So we will leave in an hour. Your bags are already in the truck. We took the plates off the SUV and hid them in a forest on the way back. We also scratched off the VIN number, in case they find it. It will just look like some car thieves ditched it there, which happens from time to time. We are going to drive about thirty minutes north of Duluth, along the lakefront. There is a park there with a boat landing that’s popular with fisherman. I have a friend with a fishing boat that he stores there. He can get it in the water pretty quickly, being that it hasn’t frozen along the coast yet. We’ll go north along the coast to just over the Canadian border, and leave you at the drop off point. Someone is supposed to meet you there and take you to the cabin in the woods. There are no roads or anything where we’re taking you, so it’s important that they meet you or you could get lost and freeze to death. Make sure to put on as many heavy clothing items as you can, a couple shirts, two or three pairs of socks, whatever you can manage. You’re going to need the insulation out in that cold.”
They washed up quickly and dressed themselves with all the layers they had brought inside. Tim had to bring in their bags so they could find a few more pairs of socks. Finally, it was time.
Monika and Alissa came out to say goodbye.
“Are you sure you don’t want to stay for the movie?” Monika asked, balancing a giant bowl of popcorn.
“We’d love to, but we’ve got to get going! But thanks! Enjoy the movie!” Paivi gave Monika a big hug. She moved on to Alissa. “Thanks for everything.”
Alissa hugged her. “Good luck.”
They pulled on their winter coats over their thick layers of clothing. Paivi felt a little warm, but knew it would be worth it once they stepped outside.
The cold hit them as they headed out the door. Paivi started to shiver and tried to force herself to stop. There was no use shivering yet, she had a feeling it was going to get a whole lot worse as the night went on.
The drive to the park was quiet. Paivi was busy looking out at the woods, thinking about having to walk alone through them in the dark, while Christian continued to keep an eye out for any ATC vehicles.
They followed a winding two-lane road along the coast. It was the most major road in these parts, being that it was actually paved, and yet there was very little traffic. A half an hour after leaving the house, they pulled off the road onto a snow-covered side road that Paivi would have driven right by. It was barely a hole in a wall of trees, slightly bigger than the truck itself. Tim eased the truck down the road to a clearing, where another truck waited with a small fishing boat on a trailer. Tim got out and ran over to the other driver. The other man maneuvered his truck around angling the trailer towards an opening that Paivi could see led out to the black water. She noticed for the first time that she could see the moon and stars tonight. The moon wasn’t full, but it reflected off of the water, making it appear much brighter. She could see so many stars out of the window of the truck that she felt like she was in a planetarium.
Tim returned quickly and told them to grab their belongings. Paivi pulled on her backpack and opened the truck door. She didn’t think it was possible to be colder than cold, but this was colder than she could ever imagine was even possible.
“Don wants us to throw everything in the boat before we put it in the water. Once it’s in we’ll have you guys hop on board. We’ll come on last, we’ll have to push the boat out a few feet, but we have waders so we’ll stay dry.” He grabbed what appeared to be a pair of rubber overalls and began to step into them. “We use these for fishing, but they come in handy for launching a boat in the winter, too!”
Paivi, Torsten and Christian stayed close together for warmth as they moved down the clearing towards the boat. They threw their bags over the side and stepped out of the way as Don backed the truck in so that the trailer and the boat were in the water. Tim grabbed a rope and pushed the boat back into the lake. He gave a wave to the truck, which accelerated forward, pulling the trailer back out of the water. Paivi could see the water freezing instantly, forming little icicles on it. Don parked the truck and then headed back to the boat to help everyone on.
Christian went first, taking a step up on Don and Tim’s hands. Paivi went next, pulling herself over the side of the boat with Christian’s help. She slipped on the deck and fell just as Torsten came over the top rail, landing in a heap on top of her.
“Ow, you idiot!” she whispered at him loudly, not wanting to make a lot of noise although it didn’t appear that there were any humans anywhere nearby.
“I didn’t know you we’re going to be here. Come on, let’s get out of the way.” Torsten half dragged her down the deck to the back of the boat.
Tim and Don joined them after helping push the boat out a little further. They made their way to the back of the boat and Don climbed up a small ladder to the captain’s deck. There was an enclosed area with room for three people and the controls. “Hi kids, nice to meet ya. Tim and I are going to be up on the captain’s deck, so we’ll have to put you down below in the cabin. The ride is going to last for a few hours, and the heater isn’t much, but it’ll keep us all from freezing to death. Don’t come up on deck until we come down to get you, it’s too slippery and we don’t want any of you falling overboard. Once you fall into that,” he nodded towards the black water, “there’s very little chance we will find you alive.”
Paivi shivered as she looked out over the dark water. Escaping the country was definitely scary, but not nearly as scary as that great stretch of blackness that could swallow them into a grave that no one would ever find. She happily followed the others below deck into the small cabin. She didn’t even mind that it smelled like fish. At least it was warm. The room was decorated with pictures of fish and beer advertisements. It had a small kitchen area and a couch that had the ability of transforming into a bed. They dropped their bags into a corner and settled into the couch as Don headed for the door.
“Bon voyage kids. There’s a little phone over to the side there if you need to call up to us. You’ll need to keep the lights off in order to keep us from being seen from the shore. You can use the flashlights over in the corner if you’d like a little light. Just keep it away from the windows. See you in a bit.” He flicked the lights off and shut the door tight.
Paivi sat in the middle, crammed between Torsten and Christian. That was fine, it meant that she was warmer than either of them. Her eyes attempted to adjust to the dark, but she couldn’t make out a thing, not even her hand before her face. She reached behind her and felt a curtain hanging over a window and pushed it to the side. A little light came through from the moonlight reflecting off the water. At least she could make out some objects around the room.
“What do we do now?” Paivi sighed.
“I’ve got some cards, if you want to play,” Torsten offered.
“Um, if you haven’t noticed, it’s a little dark. How are we supposed to play cards?” Paivi retorted.
“Well, he said we could use the flashlights.” He pulled the pack of cards out of his pocket.
“Come on Torsten.” Christian got up, grabbing one of the flashlights. “I’ll play with you.”
After a half an hour attempting to play hearts in the light of a dim flashlight, the boys gave up, returning to plop down on the couch next to Paivi.
“Now what?” Torsten asked.
Paivi was suffering from the incessant rocking of the boat, her stomach rolled back and forth and her head spun.
“I don’t know what you’re gonna do, but I feel sick. All I want to do is close my eyes and sleep.” She closed her eyes, hoping the rocking motion would subside. It helped.
Torsten and Christian were quiet, and soon Torsten was snoring, as usual. Paivi didn’t dare open her eyes to see if Christian was sleeping or not. She didn’t feel like talking anyways. Soon, her exhaustion got the better of her and she drifted off to sleep, leaning against Torsten. She awoke to feel someone pulling on her arm.
“Paivi, Torsten, wake up. We’re here.” It was Christian. He was shaking them both now. “Come on, we’ve got to be ready to go. They are pulling us into shore.”
Paivi looked around her. Everything was so dark—it took her a few seconds to realize where they were. Now she remembered. They were on a boat on Lake Superior in the middle of the night, attempting to escape to Canada. Then she remembered the cold. She sat up. She looked at Torsten who was rubbing the sleep from his eyes and Christian, who was putting on his backpack. She didn’t want to go outside, it was too cold!
Tim appeared in the doorway. “Don is just about to pull up to the shore. Are you guys ready?”
Paivi felt sick, and she wasn’t sure if it was from the seasickness or from nerves. She grabbed her backpack, slipping it on.
“Be careful on the deck, it’s extremely slippery,” Tim warned.
They followed him out onto the deck. The air felt colder here, maybe more so because this was the end of the line. They were on their own from here. No more friends to help them. Just the cold, dark woods stretching out in front of them. Paivi looked out over the lake—it looked beautiful in the night. The silver light of the moon spread across the black surface giving it the appearance liquid mercury. Don came down from the captain’s deck and helped them move to the front of the boat.
“How did you guys know where to take us?” Torsten asked.
“You’ll see when you get to the front of the boat,” Tim answered.
Slipping and sliding, they cautiously made their way to the front of the boat. Along the shoreline, Paivi could see the trees. Instead of forming a straight wall, they were bent into awkward shapes that took her a minute to understand. The trees were shaped into a word.
Before their eyes, there was a slight rustle and the trees moved back to their original positions. Paivi had never seen a sign on such a scale. It was amazing. She wondered if Don could see it, but she didn’t think it was important.
“Okay, let’s have the boys jump first, then you guys can catch Paivi. If I remember, she was always the clumsy one.” Tim pointed to the edge of the boat.
“Very funny,” Paivi said through chattering teeth.
Christian went over first, with a light splash as he landed in the water. Torsten followed with a splash of his own.
“Now quick, hop down so they don’t have to stand in that water any longer, it’s only like a few inches, but you guys don’t need any extra water on you in this cold.”
Paivi swung her legs over the bar and hopped down a few feet into the shallow water, Torsten and Christian catching her arms so she didn’t lose her balance. With her luck she would have fallen face first into the water and then froze to death. They moved quickly to the shore.
“Now, someone is supposed to meet you here.” Tim looked up and down the shore, squinting to see if he could spot someone in the trees. “I don’t want to leave you kids here alone.”
Paivi looked around. The shore looked so familiar. She stepped to the side, away from the boat and looked back out at the lake. She closed her eyes a moment and it hit her like a ton of bricks. She had been here before. “I think you should go. We don’t want you guys to get caught.”
“Paivi, are you crazy? If they leave us here and we don’t get to this house or whatever is supposedly out there in the woods, we’ll freeze to death!” Christian sputtered.
She gave him a dirty look. “I wouldn’t tell them to leave if I thought we were going to freeze to death. This is the right place.”
Don looked nervous—he kept scanning the shoreline as well. “I think she’s right, Tim, we better go. We’ve got to try to get back to the landing before daylight.”
“Alright. Good luck you guys. I hope to see you all again soon. Send us a message when you get a chance.” Tim waved to them.
Don and Tim moved to the back of the boat and climbed up to the captain’s deck. The engine started and the boat backed slowly away from the shore. It began moving out into the night, following the silver path until it disappeared from their view.
Paivi took a deep breath, which was difficult in the cold air. It burned in her lungs and nose. She looked at the water one last time and then turned towards the tall quiet wall of trees.
“Now what are we going to do?” asked Torsten, looking nervously up and down the shoreline.
“I know where to go.” Paivi smiled and pulled up her scarf. “Follow me.”
She took a step into the shadows and closed her eyes. She let her feet lead the way, just as they had in her vision. Torsten and Christian fell in step behind her. One by one they disappeared into the dark forest. The locket began to heat up under her clothes, she was thankful not only for it’s warmth but also it’s guidance. She knew the heat meant they were getting close. The snow was deep, up to their knees, slowing their progress. Paivi pressed on, eager to get them to safety.
“Are we there yet?” whined Torsten through chattering teeth.
“Almost,” Paivi responded. She could see a hint of light ahead.
The trees abruptly ended at a clearing. Before them stood a log cabin, with warmth and light spilling from the frosty windowpanes. A wisp of smoke trailed from the chimney. They had made it. This was the next step towards their future safe from the ATC, EOS badges and harassment.
“Now what?” asked Christian quietly.
“Come on!” Paivi grabbed them both by the arms and led them to the front porch. She raised her hand to knock on the front door and before she could even touch it, it flew open. An old woman stood in the bright doorway.
“Welcome! We’ve been waiting for you,” she said, offering a warm smile.
Paivi smiled back and stepped into the light.