A film of ice crystals hung in the air, obscuring the faint light of the gibbous moon and adding their frosty touch to the piercing cold. The woods, quiet in the approaching night, cast long shadows over the sparse ground. A crispy, brown leaf, the refugee of the fall just past, scuttered over the ice-covered snow, caught briefly on a downed tree’s twig, then, slightly ragged from its collision, was caught in the wind’s updraft and smashed against a tree trunk, its crumbling pieces disappearing into the night.
The cold this year had come suddenly, like death; anticipated in the future but never expected in the present. One morning the frost of the evening before had warmed to the happy coolness of autumn. Hardy plants that had withstood the night’s cold showed their oranges and rusts and ambers to a day that warmed the ground again with the promise of more. The sun shone high and bright in a sky of faded blue.
Geese had stopped to rest on the lakes, then rose up again, beckoned by some silent call and formed their V in a goodbye for now salute. Sparrows had danced in the sky in an undulating arch as they made their way to warmer climes.
Then it hit. A cold Arctic wind swept down into the day of promised Autumn warmth and stripped it of its heat. In the bluster of snow and ice that surprised even the birds, one was swept from its migrating course, left behind by the others struggling now to fly fast and high. Carried by the wicked wind, it found some relief in the shelter of a nearby woods; but the wind continued until the day waned, and the exhausted bird huddled under a bare bush as the wind died and the cold remained.
The little bird, its brown feathers covering a downy layer underneath, began to shiver. Its energy was spent, so as day turned to night it lay, as it must, ready for its fate, understanding somehow it had seen its last dawn. It lay under the white light of the moon in the impenetrable cold with nothing to shield it when above the bird the dancing movement of a tiny light caught its attention.
to be continued…
story prompt: Matthew 10: 29-31