"Hi," said the wind.
"Hi." Kyle mumbled the word, too cold and immersed in thinking to look toward the sound that seemed like someone talking.
"Hello? Hellooooo? Are you ok? Earth to Kyle!" The voice, now easily recognizable as a girl's, tried to shake Kyle from his contemplations.
Kyle's eyes bulged weirdly and he lurched in the opposite direction of the unexpected stranger, simultaneously twisting his body and head toward whoever managed to sneak up on him. In the commotion, Kyle lost his balance on the icy rock and began slipping backwards. He pinwheeled his arms and threw his weight forward, attempting to scramble for purchase where there was none. In the end, he landed with a muffled thump into the fluffy powder, looking forlornly at the dry spot on the boulder and the haphazard skid mark he'd left while dismounting. Just above that spot where he'd expected to see nothing, was a teenage girl failing miserably to avoid laughing at his predicament. Strange how he didn't expect to see a girl attached to the feminine lilt he heard earlier. By the way she was standing, Kyle guessed she was reaching to pat his shoulder before he practically launched himself to the ground.
"Hey now! It's just me, Kyle!" She laughed heartily, finally losing her inner battle to remain silent.
"Wha... Adriana? I... I thought I was alone out here. Why didn't you say something?" His face starting to flush with embarrassment. What kind of idiot jumps away from every little sound, he wondered.
Still giggling to herself, she rolled her eyes at this. "I know, I'm a big bad monster. You don't have to run away, though!" Spreading her arms, she spins a slow circle as if pointing at everything. "I come up here all the time," she finishes. Saying here as if there were no other place on Earth.
Kyle remains mired in snow, dumbfounded and beyond all logical thought. Maybe it was the cold, but his brain just didn't seem functional, and wasn't processing the words she was speaking. Adriana rolls her eyes and proffers her mitten-encased hand, offering a small chuckle as Kyle stares blankly at and through her.
"Oh... yeah. Heh, sorry. I guess I'm just too used to the city," he says with a shrug. "Not used to benign people sneaking up behind me, I guess."
Grabbing at her hand and steadying himself with his other firmly planted in the snow, they both lever him back to his feet. Kyle looks sheepishly at his feet, hot with shame at such a triumphant display of cowardice. So far, Adriana is the only friend to be found in Tammond Dale. For some reason everyone else avoided her at school, so it only seemed natural for Kyle to introduce himself. That was earlier in the day, during lunch as she sat nonchalantly eating by herself. Besides the obvious desire to introduce himself to a pretty girl, Kyle thought she looked lonesome. That didn't explain her presence here, though technically he was invading her discovery.
"Hey! Stop daydreaming and say something! Do you like the view or not?" She gestures down at the distant glimmering lights, flickering more with the falling snow.
"Huh? Oh, yeah! I just found it today... I guess I like to wander a bit," he admits. No sense in trying to hide it, if he wanted to wander to this place again.
She smiles and turns toward the town, looking down with a smug look on her face. "So, you decided to stay yet?"
"Yeah, like I have any choice in the matter. So far, this place seems as inviting as a kennel full of pitbulls is to a stray cat. I'm surprised you haven't lost any limbs, living here so long."
She pulls her arm into her voluminous coat and undulates the flimsy sleeve at him. "Oh, but I haaaaave! And now I want yoooours!"
He retreats a couple of steps and waves his arms in front of him, shaking his head 'no', finally loosening up and enjoying her company. "Ha, ha. Funny. Besides, you don't want my arms, you'd look pretty darn weird." For emphasis, he pulls his coat halfway up his arm and brushes the dark hair covering nearly every inch.
"Yeah... you're right. Ape arms would look strange on a girl," she said, sticking out her tongue.
"APE arms?!" He half shouted, half laughed these words. "Hey now, I'll have you know apes aren't nearly as hairy. Now get over here and accept your noogie like a man!" He hissed the last, trying to raise her ire.
"Who are you calling a man?! I guess that means you don't want to go to my house and have hot chocolate." She made a pouty face at him, and turned as if to walk away, taking a couple steps before breaking out into a run.
Kyle certainly wasn't prepared for this development. "Hey, wait up! I don't know where you live! Hey!" He started to run after her, not really knowing why, but it was all in good fun. It was getting close to ten o'clock, but he knew his parents wouldn't worry about him; they never did. She was interesting to talk to, and having one worthwhile person in town would certainly reduce his animosity toward the place. She had a good lead on him though and knew the terrain besides.
He shook his head and stared back at the direction she bolted. No use thinking, he had work to do! "Hey," he huffed. "I... don't run that fast. Stop!"
She stopped and looked back, presented her tongue again and resumed her escape. She was making her way toward a bunch of trees. Kyle groaned as he saw the inevitable; he'd lose her in there for sure. He kept running anyway, figuring she'd find him later when they were both tired, and they'd walk back out together.
Kyle's lungs burned, scalded by rough undisciplined gulps of frigid air and overexertion. He slowed down to a shuffling jog and trudged in a straight line, calling her name every few seconds more to indicate his location than elicit any response from her. After a few minutes passed, more than a glimmer of doubt questioned her ability to hear him. Was she too far away? He finally stopped to catch his breath, wincing as the air continued to abuse his lungs. Kyle listened as well as he could over the raspy sounds of his harried breathing, trying to pinpoint Adriana's movements.
A sudden eruption of bliding light and a hollow, dry cracking sound blasted away all of Kyle's senses at once and sent him careening into the snow in hot agony. The world spun as Kyle crawled forward, digging his head into the snow and whimpering as he waited for his vision to cease sizzling. He collapsed, overwhelmed by exhaustion, cut off from his senses and immersed in torpid shock. He writhed in the snow, attempting to escape the blackness that had engulfed him.
Then it was gone. Just as quickly as he'd been wrapped in a crushing grip of confusion and disorientation, the feeling vanished. "What the hell... damn that hurts! Shit!"
He cracked his left eye open just enough to test his vision. The welcome sight of unmolested and completely ordinary trees greeted him. No more lightning, no fire. Kyle ambled to his feet, looking around for trees ignited by the lightning. What kind of crazy place has lightning during a light snow? Well, there goes another mark against the quaint little town.
"Hey Adriana? You ok? Adriana?" He bellowed into the forest.
He turned a few degrees and called for her again. Nothing. The forest seemed untouched by whatever struck him harshly to the ground, just as quiet as before. He couldn't hear any running, but guessed she was too far away. That was it, right? And why isn't anything on fire? That lightning must have been only a few yards away from the flash Kyle witnessed in the middle of the forest; something should be engulfed in flames.
"What the hell," he whispered, spewing small puffs of white fog into the cold air. "Ball lightning?" He wondered out loud.
He shook his head and went back the way he came. Maybe she did the same, and was waiting for him to escape the forest in fear of more lightning. That was certainly a danger! Trees attracted that kind of thing, and it wouldn't be a good idea to stay there. No way. Tired or not, he ran all the way back to the rock he was sitting on before Adriana interrupted him. He turned back toward the trees and scanned the area slowly with his eyes.
Still nothing. No Adriana. Not even a distant and telltale crunch of boots compressing snow. No wind, no birds, and the snow had ceased falling. It was as if God had just turned off the entire area. Aside from that everything was completely pristine.
He called back into the forest, "Adriana? You ok? Hey!"
Nothing. Not a sound. In fact, he could barely even hear his own voice. Kyle's head tilted to the right and his vision doubled momentarily. Alarmed, he shook his head and stared at the rock with rising horror. It wasn't one thing now, but two. Everything was doubled, and worse Kyle was losing his equilibrium and his balance in the bargain. He sank to his knees before the mysterious intoxication sent him careening off the cliff. Why am I so tired?
The word tired was an understatement, and Kyle knew then he was in serious trouble. He was exhausted, consumed like flash-powder and fundamentally empty of strength. He slid bonelessly into the welcoming fluff around him which now seemed warm and inviting rather than cold and damp. But it was warm like death, and just as friendly. Kyle's mind, what little remained conscious enough to understand the situation, screamed a warning in panic. Sleeping unsheltered in snow was bad, worse when the cause was unknowable.
Kyle of course was powerless to heed his mind's frantic babbling. Sweet rest was calling him seductively away from everything. Eventually all resistance ebbed from his body and his mind as he inevitably lost the war. On that beautiful and tranquil hillock looming over Tammond Dale, Kyle lay sprawled in the cold as he would his own bed. Already his eyes moved back and forth, tracing complex patterns that marked the most glorious gift to all sleepers.
Kyle was dreaming.