Welcome to Snippet Saturday. The theme today is Cold Places. For Winter, this is very appropriate.
I was talking with my friend Selena Blake a few days ago about how last week we were in sandals and short sleeves and this week it’s been all we could do to stay warm with long sleeves, socks, blankets, and sometimes the space heater and a cat or two. This has been the craziest Winter. I either need all cold or all mild, but this going back and forth stuff has got to go!
There are many cold places in the world, but I haven’t written about them. I have only written about two places that get rather cold. Alaska and Colorado. Today’s snippet is coming from Alaska. When my editor read the opening to the book, she said she could feel the cold through the screen. When I look at the cover, I can feel the cold and would not hesitate if he offered to warm me up!
Ruby shivered. She might be riding in a truck and the heater might be cranked up to high, but the cold permeated the windows and it was all she could do to keep her teeth from chattering. “I can’t believe Mel would still be up here. There’s nothing except snow and woods and not a whale to be found. Her work is down by the water. It was only supposed to be a weekend trip.” The last was muttered into her hands as she exhaled warm air into her glove-covered palms trying to warm them.
It was only October, and winter hadn’t set in yet, but snow was beginning to accumulate on the ground and temperatures were a balmy thirty-something. Even though she lived in Chicago where it got bone-chilling cold thanks to the lake, this cold was different.
She couldn’t quite explain why or what it was that made it different, she just knew she’d never been this cold in her life. Their, Ruby and Mel’s, parents hadn’t had much luck getting direct answers from Mel’s boss about her exact whereabouts the last time he’d heard from her, but Ruby hadn’t been content to take his half-ass answers. She had dogged his every step, called him day and night until he finally gave her what little information he had. In the end, he hadn’t been very helpful at all. Even Ruby had known Mel was supposed to be in and around the Kenai Peninsula. It was what happened after she left the Kenai and Cook Inlet area that Ruby wasn’t sure about. Things had gone silent. The last communication Ruby’d had from her sister was that she was taking a few days to go up to Mount McKinley in Denali National Park with a local man she had the hots for. But even Mel knew if she didn’t check in or get back to work, someone would notice and contact their parents and their parents would contact Ruby.
Mel had booked an air tour and had gotten on the ground in a little town inside the forest area, not too far from the main park entrance, but well enough off the beaten path that only the locals could get anyone there. And that little town was where Ruby was headed.
“You said your sister was up here doing research?”
“Back along the coast, yes. Here in the middle part of the state where there are no whales? No. Which is why I don’t understand her not being back from her trek to the mountain.” The last was said more to herself than to Joe, the local she’d hired to drive her.
“Maybe she got caught up with one of the locals, and she’s holed up in his cabin.”
As if. Though if either of us were likely to do such a thing, it would be Mel. “No. She loves that job too much to jeopardize it and disappearing off the face of the earth would seriously jeopardize it.” Ruby looked around at the snow-dotted trees. “And what locals? Aside from you and me, there’s no sign of human life anywhere.” She’d seen a fair amount of moose, caribou, some small white foxes, but no humans.
Joe laughed. It wasn’t a pleasant sound either and made her feel a bit uneasy.
“Oh, there’s life out here all right, little lady. Don’t you go forgettin’ it either. And there are…human types. They just blend in with the scenery so’s you can’t spot ’em. They don’t like to draw attention to themselves.”
Blend in with the scenery? Human types? Her interest was piqued. She didn’t want to admit it because Joe seemed a little kooky and creepy now, but she was a glutton for a good tale. “How do they do that? Everything is white for miles and miles, and it’s kind of hard to blend in with a tree unless you’re in brown from head to toe.”
“Well, they change form when they don’t want to be seen.”
“They change form?” She was having a hard time containing her curious enthusiasm. She was from the city where people were people and there was very little blending into the surroundings. There was no such thing as humans that could change shape around where she lived. But in the myths and legends she’d studied in her life, in her career…they were full of shape-shifting beings. Humans to animals. They were just stories though. They didn’t really exist, never had.
“Yeah, they shift, you know? Change.” He took a last puff from his cigarette and tossed it from the truck and into the snow. “You mean you never heard of shifters?”
“I’m afraid not. Not real ones, anyway.”
“Huh. Well, no one has been able to prove they exist, but they do. You mark my word. They’re here.”
“How do you know? I mean, if it’s never been proven?” All she wanted was to find Melanie and make sure she was okay, not to go myth diving. She couldn’t let herself get carried away with the intrigue and curiosity, couldn’t act like she cared. But dammit, he was tempting her bad habit of inquisitiveness. And since myths were right up her alley…
She loved delving into old tales. It was how she’d become a mythologist. Hardly anyone knew what that was, but the libraries and museums loved her. She was always asking questions, always looking for new answers, new avenues of thought.
The whys and what ifs defined more of her life than reality and right now. She had a natural curiosity and simple one-word answers never worked for her. It was probably why she liked reading so much, too, getting her hands on everything she could about whatever she was studying and trying to figure out.
He shifted behind the wheel as if her question made him uncomfortable. “I just know.”
“What kind of animals?” She shouldn’t have asked any more. She should have let the subject drop, but he had her hooked and she wanted to know more. Were they wolves? Bears? Moose? Caribou? Or were they smaller like some of the fox she’d seen along the side of the road?
“Like Kodiak bears?”
“Polar bears. Ice bears.”
He had to be pulling her leg, but the serious, low tone of his voice told her he wasn’t. Still, though… “This is too far south and too far inland for polar bears.”
Joe shot her a pointed stare and she shivered in a way that had nothing to do with the cold. “You mark my word, they’s more polar bears than any other kind. Wolves too. But not so much down here in these woods. The wolves are farther north and deeper in.”
He shifted again, and his jaw tightened. Soon after, he lit another cigarette. If she didn’t know better, she’d think he was trying to frighten her, but she chalked that feeling up to just being tired and irritable. They’d been on the road for what seemed like forever, and she’d had enough. Enough of Joe, of the cold, of nature, of being so far out of her comfort zone and what she knew. She wanted warmth, one of her books that made her feel at home and comforted, and to sleep for a week. “How much longer before we reach the lodge?”
“Just ’round that bend up there. You’ll be able to hire someone to take you farther into the wilderness. You make sure to be careful and watch out for them shifters. ”
She’d already been in contact with someone at the lodge about needing a guide. “Yeah, I’ll do that.”
Be sure to bundle up before checking out the following blogs for cold snippets:
Have a great weekend, y’all!