She had resisted coming here, to this place where violence raped serenity. But the lawns covered in virgin snow, the valley seamed with silver, had lulled her into a sense of rare and exquisite security. As beauty always did. When would she learn that scenes of bucolic tranquility were always the scenes of the greatest betrayal, that the rolling hills were the swell of fear, that the good earth hid butchered flesh, and that the steadfast face of a farmer was a mask of grief?
Now, with the brittle snap of a twig behind her, she knew she should never have come. Her body primed for flight, adrenalin flooding blood, oxygen fuelling muscles, senses screaming for information. Claustrophobia engulfed her, trees encircling, skeletal branches bearing down. She broke into a run, long legs covering the ground at speed, then, shoes suddenly skating on ice, feet sliding, she fell.
As she pulled herself upright, she heard the voice of reason in her head, speaking quietly beneath the high-pitched hum of panic: was there really someone there or did the snap of the twig invent him?
Then feet crunched across the ice, and he reached her and grabbed her. He pushed her to her knees, and the ground froze to the fabric of her jeans. He pulled a sack over her head and she was blinded, her arms flailing for balance. Her lungs cried out for air, but the sacking was tight around her nose and mouth, and the knowledge of death seeped into her gut. She delved inside herself for comfort, pushing her way back past the horrors she had witnessed, back past the suffering of others, and back to the beginning, to what was good and true.