She stumbles through the familiar European street. Her numb feet plod along the cobblestones, resonating in their sockets. The street is busy, today, she thinks as she knocks into a frowning man with a box tucked under his arm. She squirms out of his way and stumbles onward. Why are all these people out in this miserable cold? She loses focus and the thought slips out of her fingers. A snowflake gets in her eye. She goes to rub it out, but as soon as she brings her hand down another one enters and melts on her cornea. Then another. A gust of wind freezes her eyes in their sockets and her vision glazes over. She gives up and soon the flakes stop melting. It’s cold. Cold.
Everything is faded, and she feels like she’s looking at the world through frosted glass. She tries to focus her eyes on the swirling gusts of stone and cloth and flesh, but it is tiring. The cold air plays across her face and through her fingers, and sinks to her bare feet.
Frost fills the cracks between the cobblestones. Her knees crack as she pushes further against the crowd. The sun disappears behind the colorful buildings and the spectrum slides to blue. Everything is blue, now, a haze of cold. The poison works through her veins and turns her blood. First the eyes, then the hands. She raises her hand to wipe the frost out of her eyes, but it is blue with frostbite. Now she mustn’t touch her eyes or else they, too, will be bitten. That’s the way it is when it gets this cold. Everything you touch turns to frostbite. She raises her frozen palm to the throng in front of her and the flesh scampers out of her way. The poison seeps into her brain.
She plunges deeper, deeper. The bustle of the street echoes slowly through the alleys in her mind. She picks up muted traces of conversation here and there, how they have never seen the likes of a holiday this cold, how they would be best to run on home, how a night in front of the hearth with a glass would be fitting.
She stops suddenly and a women walking close behind narrowly skirts around her. She blinks against the crystals in her eyes. A languid melody drifts out of a tavern across the street and catches her ear. She turns her head, the bones in her neck cracking against the cold. A single gas lamp lights the entrance to the tavern with a soft amber glow.
She makes to start again but her feet are frozen to the cobblestones. She grits her teeth in effort as she tries to pull a leg free. The strain. With a series of snaps the stone peels from its socket, still stuck to her foot. She wrenches the other foot loose and heads for the orb of the gas lamp. Each step is excruciating as stone on stone echoes through the alleys. Step. Step. The orb seems to retreat farther and farther away as she closes in. The joints in her legs threaten to pop under the strain. Tears well up in the sides of her eyes and freeze. Everything but the lamp disappears into blackness.
With the last of her strength she throws herself to the ground. Her fingernails claw at a crack between two cobblestones and she wrenches herself forward into the glow. Her feet thaw from their stone shoes.