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The narrator has a close call on the thin ice of a forest stream

I rubbed my mittens together to bring some warmth to my cold hands. The temperature had dropped below what the thermometer could read. But I still loved the winter wonderland of the forest; no blizzard could deter me from the great and gorgeous nature that surrounded my warm, wooden home. For this reason, on this icy dusk, I had ventured outside, bundled in a cozy yarn-knit scarf (which barely deterred the swirling snow) instead of curling up next to the fire with a good book and a steaming cup of hot chocolate. I caught the snowflakes that floated down from the infinite, navy midnight sky. I felt free as nature engulfed me. Some caribou nibbled at a small olive-colored clump of moss near the stream; others pranced around in the distance. A vivid aurora colored the sky behind them. Bright, shiny stars twinkled across the transparent, frozen streams.

I stepped in pure white snow. Icicles hung on shivering pine-tree branches, reflecting the pale moon, and I walked slowly and carefully to the bank of the river that winds around the area. Wanting to test the ice, I tugged a branch from a dying bush and poked it. It seemed hard enough. I felt a quiver of fear, being at the banks of where my brother died. The dark sky did nothing to comfort me, only frightened me.

I gingerly stepped on the slippery ice, one foot after the other. I squinted to try and make out how solid the ice in front of me was, but it was too dark. I stepped once. Twice. Three times. No ice had fallen. I started to skate through the frozen stream, humming and gliding on the ice, until there was a small rock in the way. I tried to avoid it, but I wobbled over the slippery ice and my body weight crashed into the already fragile ice. My hands groped into the frigid air for something, but I found a branch too late as my feet touched cold, frigid water. With a splash, half of my body was submerged in the icy river.

My gut nagged to me: I told you so. Death by this river has happened before. Oh my poor brother, is this how he felt, floating away in the water?

I thought again, Well, how are you going to get out of this one?

I held onto the branch with all my might, my mind racing through old memories. A fading picture of my mother and father holding me and my brother tightly next to a fire, telling us something. I thought harder. “Don’t panic if you ever fall in the stream.” “Grab something and push yourself out if you can. If you can’t . . .” The ending evaded my memory, but it didn’t matter much. I knew what I had to do. Remembering my mother’s warning, I slowly pulled myself a bit closer to land. Holding the branch in one hand, I hoisted myself up, never letting go of the branch. I rested my elbows on a rock, my lower body out of the water, except for my feet. I felt only two things. Pain and cold.

I pushed myself up against the tree trunk, my legs numb. The less pain I feel, the better, I thought. So I took a step towards the west of the moon, where my home lay. Another step. I felt a strange dull pain go through my weary body.

The entire sky had blackened into the abyss, only lit by the pure moon, so light and fair. I took a few more steps, not sure whether I could go on. A few more. I crumbled onto the same snow I had walked on as I had gone out to see the wilderness. Now, it seemed that my destiny was to die in my beloved forest.

I sighed as I crept away from the fox, her ears twitching. I grabbed the tree trunk and pulled myself to my feet. I realized that I needed to take off my pants and socks, and wrap the scarf around my legs. I hobbled toward home, the moon guiding me to safety. The fox followed me until I left the region of her home. Seeing my cabin in the distance, I ran my last few steps. More, a few more! A few more is so much. I grabbed the handle of the door and pulled it open, the warmth radiating to me the moment I stepped in.