The cave entrance was blockaded by a drift of snow higher than my chest. But from all the reality survival shows I’ve seen, this is a good thing. It means the wind can’t get in either. It takes me a moment to decide how to navigate the pile of snow with Melody. Tying off the leg of my pants I drop Melody in side.
“Meow,” she said weakly and a little irritate.
“Just till we get out of the cold,” I told her.
Then I use the other leg and turn my pants into a bandolier. It’s going to be cold, but the only way to get over the hill, is to spread myself over the snow to keep from sinking in. I belly crawl up the thin layer of crust that’s formed on the drift. It scratches and burns. But pain is just a matter of mind over matter. Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong, and I know something is wrong. There is no need for pain. There is no pain.
The moment I reach the peak, I flip my legs over the edge and slide down the other side.
And for once the TV is right. Inside, it’s at least five degrees warmer. It’s enough to drive me forward on my hands and knees.
“Meow,” Melody complained.
With one hand I release the knot and she slips out of the pant leg. She stops instantly on the hard stone floor, sniffing and making a quick search of the area.
“Meow,” she said.
“Warmer?” I said. “Maybe it’s better if we go deeper?”
“Meow, meow. Meow,” Melody pointed out that it’s also darker.
“Beggars can’t be choosers,” I said.
Getting to my feet, Melody and I head further into the cave. Before long it turns pitch black, and I move along with one hand on the wall and the other out stretched.
“Meow,” Melody told me to stop.
“What?” I asked
“Meow,” she wants me to stay.
“Fine,” I said.
I hear the soft sound of Melody bounding off into the darkness.
After the longest time she started shouting, “Meow. Meow. Meow.”
“What? What is it?” I called to her. I’m already moving, faster than I should; stumbling once and nearly breaking my face.
Then I turn a corner and see a light at the end of the tunnel. Melody’s silhouette guides me forward. I find her standing at the top of a stair way; steps carved into the stone and leading down. Somewhere below there’s a light and a hot breeze hits my face. I don’t need much more encouragement to go down, ignoring all trepidation.
The stairs go down at a steep angle, they’re slick and wet from the melted snow. At the bottom there’s a small pool of water. It’s a hot spring, filled with some kind of phosphorescent algae. Both Melody and I drop to the edge of the pool and let the steam warm out bodies. Melody sniffs at the steam, bringing it into her lungs.
“Good idea,” I said. It’ warms my lungs, heats up my chest and stops the shivers.
“Jacob,” the voice of a girl echoes off the stone walls. “Jacob.” The little girl appears from a dark corner. She’s wearing a light sunflower print dress. “Jacob, there you are.”
“Hi,” I said gently. “I’ve been looking for you.” I do this without moving, afraid I might scare her away.
“I’ve been looking for you too, Jacob,” she said to me.
“My name isn’t Jacob,” I told her.
“Oh, Jacob, don’t be daft,” she said to me. “Come on…” The little girl stopped suddenly. “Oh no, did you lose your pretty wife?”
“How do you know me?” I sit up quickly. “How do you know my wife?”
The girl cocks her head. “Because I watch you through the walls, silly.”