Elsa and Alex
When Elsa and Alex leave the city, they fill up their Honda with boxes of books, the Le Creuset, their wedding china, a case of decent whiskey, some clothing, a tape deck, an axe. Alex has a soldering iron to fuse solar panels to the tape deck.
“Who knows if the damn thing works,” he says, “but you gotta try, right?”
Elsa nods. This is their motto. They are triers above all else.
The back of the car is practical, packed with canned goods, water, emergency supplies. There hadn’t been room for anything else, but anything else would have been superfluous. No personal items, said Alex. Nothing to remind them of the disasters they are leaving behind. In her purse, Elsa keeps her own things hidden—a journal, a small knife, a jar of honey, a hotel sewing kit, a bottle of tramadol—just in case. The highway is clogged with cars full of other people, who drive alone or with their families and dogs, a highway of strangers, who pay for gas and haul boxes and boxes of stuff, just stuff, says Alex.
“Days like this,” says Alex, “everyone wants to go to the beach.”
In the other cars, people’s faces are tight. Elsa wonders how much they know. She wonders where they are going. She turns the radio off and uses the tape deck to play something bouncy, the magnetic strip kept cozy in a pink plastic casing where someone’s Sharpied “Summer Jams” on the front. Elsa and Alex hold hands for the entirety of their six-hour drive into the mountains, even when the sun goes down and Alex starts to sweat, his hand going slick in Elsa’s lap.
At the top of the mountain, the car stalls out, the engine thumping like a frightened rabbit, belching up smoke. It has been raining, raining for days up here, she thinks. The damp has transformed the road they drive on, and a layer of pine needles rustles in rubbery silence, forming a thick and slippery pad. They are so far up and alone on this road. Afraid of walking in the dark, they lock themselves into the Honda and finish the last of their road snacks: gummy, high-protein energy bars and tangerines whose peels they coil up in the cupholder, their bright scent turning, after a few hours, to rot. They hardly sleep, listening to the sound of nothing. In the morning, they pick up their favorite boxes and walk the last half mile of slippery road to the camp. At least, Elsa thinks, it has stopped raining.
They bought it sight unseen. It was cheap, cheap enough that they put twenty percent down as soon as they had heard about it, quitting their jobs and selling their apartments and hoping for the best. Whatever bad thing was coming was coming soon, Alex said and Elsa agreed, the radio sending out increasingly frantic murmurs of destruction far away then closer, close. They are just ahead of the rush, Alex said. The leaving is just beginning. Everyone else will abandon the cities soon. Soon the streets of everywhere will be empty. Elsa and Alex were leading the charge. They had ideas about building a pantry for when the others come, of hunting, preserving, learning to forage by identifying plants with the stack of books Elsa lifted from the library. They will use the flour mill they bought, set up a school for the children, make block prints of poems. They will build a safe haven for the people who come after them, something new.
Now, here, she doesn’t know what she expected, but anything other than this, a pile of rotting garbage in the middle of an enormous silence, nothing around them, anywhere. The air is still wet, sagging with dawn’s chill, and she looks behind them into the still dark woods, thinking of the part of Snow White she was so scared of when she was a child, where the princess runs through the woods, escaping her home, unfriendly trees grabbing anxious at her skirt. She shivers a little in her blue wool coat, pulls Alex close to her by his arm. They spend the morning carrying boxes back and forth between the gate and the most substantial buildings standing, the main house and the barn. All their belongings go in the house, stacked in a messy pile next to the mouse nest-strewn hearth. Every surface is sticky thick with dust, and Elsa wipes and wipes but the dust remains. The windows are boarded over and the rooms are semi-dark, giving their movements a quiet, suspended feeling. They speak in near whispers. Alex sits at the piano and plunks. By silent mutual agreement, they do not start to unpack yet, except for a few pantry items: the bulk flour, the dried beans, the canned vegetables. Alex makes the bed, peeling off the musty sheets they find spackled damp on the bed like a layer of icing.
Elsa goes out to the barn, climbs up in the hayloft to see if anything is hidden there. She takes the purse with her, tucks away her secret belongings, the honey, the tramadol, for the time when she’ll need them. The knife stays in her pocket. She lies down and lets the hay prick her back while staring up at the ceiling, finding nothing there worth looking for. She hears Alex calling out to her from down below. Her own name, spoken in his voice, seems to cut through the silence, pulling her back down into her body, to the realities of this strange new place. The farm used to be a summer camp, and the empty cabins quietly molder into nothingness in the darker thickets of the woods. The sun is high now, so Elsa and Alex explore. Most of the cabins are at least semi-habitable. A good sign, says Alex, for when the others come. Elsa and Alex ensconced in the main house like mother and father, the others in the cabins like gathered ducklings at their feet. They find a few more things in the woods, old build sites, a rotted out circle of hammocks, eroded fire pits. A teepee with holes in it, a treehouse moldering away high in the branches of an ancient pine. A dining hall whose roof had caved in long ago, vines growing thick and soft up its ruined slope. The air here is silent, and Elsa finds herself stepping through it as quietly as she can, holding her breath.
Late in the afternoon, they find the lake. The dock in the center has come loose from its moorings and floats listless in the center of the water. Elsa imagines diving off it, how the cold water would feel, a shock against her skin. The sky is beginning to go red and purple, bruised with itself, giving the lake a strange, pulsing glow. They find an old metal canoe turned upside down on the shore, two oars tucked dry inside.
“Let’s go for a row,” says Elsa, “and watch the sunset over the lake?”
The sun, she thinks, will not fully set for another hour yet. They have time. To her surprise, Alex seems enthused.
“We can see what’s on the other side,” he says.
Alex rows, and Elsa leans back in the bottom of the canoe, watching the sky slide by like a smooth sheet of marbled paper, unspooling. Happiness overwhelms her, a feeling of self-sufficient bliss so strong, as if it has climbed inside to choke her; he is so handsome, and she is so happy, happier than she thought she would be ever again. The tramadol she took earlier, a preventative measure, she told herself, from the repetitive motion and pain of moving all those heavy boxes, makes her feel cotton-wrapped, warmly cosseted away from the world. It is still light, the sky, now, more purple than red. And here she is: she, Elsa, in this beautiful faraway place where she will never again have to file an expense report, never have to go to the dry cleaner, cared for, safe, with someone who loves her so much. She thinks of her past self. Look at me now, she says, to herself, quiet, out loud.
“What?” says Alex.
She tells him that it’s nothing.
Together, they row out to the floating dock, which, neglected, has turned into a small island, covered in a thick coating of moss, anchored by the hidden roots of aquatic plants, impossibly lush. They row too close. There is a chatter, a flapping, and a flock of great white birds flee, flying off towards the far shore, which, they can see now, from the middle of the water, is too far for them to reach and be safely back by nightfall in their new house, back home on the other side. The birds have left a nest of bright blue eggs behind.
“Maybe if we wait,” says Elsa, “they’ll come back.”
“No,” says Alex. “They don’t want us here. They won’t come back. Besides, it’s getting dark.”
Above them the sun hangs low and bloody, like the yolk of an egg floating in front of a flashlight.
In the dark, Alex presses himself against her, pulling her up so she leans on the stone mantelpiece, cold and rough against her forearms. It’s a little unpleasant to have the fire burning so close, the front of her legs almost unbearably hot, but she doesn’t really mind. She feels unmoored, at sea in her body, feeling Alex’s hands pulling her back into herself, weighing her down. She tells herself she’s wanted, she belongs, and leans her head back towards his scratchy warmth, eyes closed. She moans in the appropriate places, listens hard to his breathing, to the sounds of the fire in the small and warm, too warm, room, listens to the wind rustling its fingers through the pines outside, the sound her scalp makes with Alex’s fingers in her hair. When she falls asleep in front of the dying fire, tucked up in Alex’s arms, Elsa dreams about swimming out to the unbound dock, lying on her back in the moonlight, cushioned in the softness of that thick-piled moss. She wakes up with clammy fingers and cold, wet skin.
Together, they clear the entire house of cobwebs and claim an upstairs corner bedroom as their own. They develop a routine. Alex chops the wood, takes long walks looking for things to shoot, fixes broken things around the house. Elsa tends their small winter garden—leeks, carrots, potatoes, chard—and cooks, mostly bread and beans for now, slabs of salt pork. She uses her sewing kit to patch up the holes Alex makes in his socks and jeans. The time slides by like a landscape out a window. Days and days and days of it, liquid. None of the others they are waiting for have come. At dinner, they sit in what Elsa tells herself is a companionable silence, listening to the dark. They nearly stop talking altogether.
In the evenings, before the sun sets, Alex takes one of the books out of the book box and goes walking in the woods, retracing the same steps he marks with his gun in the afternoons, down the narrow path that winds past the abandoned cabins, emerging on the other side of the lake: far from Elsa, far from everything. He goes alone, to watch the sunset, he says. He always asks Elsa if she wants to come along, but she always tells him that she needs more time to finish dinner. Once, in the early days, she had gone with him, and they both pretended to read, but out of the corner of her eye she had seen him look up over the unturned pages of his book into the gathering darkness, his face drawn blank with despair. After that, she made her excuses, though if he is grateful, he doesn’t show it. The summer has passed quietly, and soon, it will begin to snow.
Elsa wakes up disoriented in the winter darkness, her heart tripping hard over some dreamt image, punting her awake. She’s filled with an overwhelming desire to hop out of the warm bed and move. Her whole body vibrates like a taut wire. As quietly as she can, she eases out of the covers, careful not to wake Alex, who is lying on his back, snoring lightly, making huffing little sounds like a sleeping bear. She checks the light through the crack in the kitchen window, slate gray, just on the border of darkness, not darkness, though, not quite. The forest will still be hiding some deep shadows, nothing, she tells herself, she can’t handle on her own. She pulls her coat on over her nightgown, puts on tights and socks, pulls her boots over swollen feet outside on the cold porch, not making a sound, her breath huffing clouds in front of her open mouth. The air feels bright and crisp in her lungs. In front of her, the snow-covered trees shine in the predawn light.
In woods, when it’s cold, you can hear everything more clearly. The world feels silent for miles around, like everything is watching, holding its breath. Twigs snap and leaves brush against each other as wind or the quiet movement of animals shake them, dropping dustings of snow to the frozen ground with a sound like breaking glass. Elsa is exhilarated by the depth of the quiet, by the way she feels when her boots crunch through the thin frozen layer of ice, plunge into the softness of snow beneath, thrilled by the depth of it, the feeling of the breeze on her exposed nose and cheeks as she walks. Maybe this can be her now, Elsa thinks, someone who meets the world where it stands, alone. She likes this new image of herself, feeling like she will round a corner at any moment to find herself stretched out there, in a crystal coffin under the dark arms of the dark trees.
Elsa whistles through her teeth. She tries to remember the swooping arias of old soul songs. She walks in silence, listening to the squeak of her boots in the new snow, trying to feel pleased with herself. She makes inventories: all the things she likes and doesn’t like, all the things she was before, all the things she has seen, making lists in her head that grow and grow until they become so cumbersome that her memory can no longer contain them and they collapse under their own weight. She tries to think of an animal for every letter of the alphabet. “A is for albatross,” she thinks. “B for bear.” There are better things to think about, but the rhythm of the lists, their very inanity, distract her. They help her feel at home in her body. “Caterpillar,” Elsa thinks. “Dingo, no, dog,” and then she comes out into a clearing where a patch of red berries shines bright against the snow, buckled slopes of tracks surrounding them. She has interrupted someone’s feast. She stops and looks. This is something the walking-alone-Elsa would notice, she thinks. How beautiful they are in the white morning light, the squished gleaming red against the napped white, muddied with little paws. For a moment, she forgets her game, then comes back to it: E, she thinks, E.
Then, in her ear, she hears it: “Elsa.”
The voice is low and not unpleasant, a voice that sounds like it could belong to anyone, as if it’s coming from somewhere inside her, and she turns around to say Hello? to no one, there can be no one there. There is no one there but her. The trees stay silent. No animals make animal sounds. Elsa listens for a long time, but she only hears a crow flying off a branch somewhere, spinning up into the new bright sky with caws that sound like screaming.
Elsa stomps the snow off her boots on the cabin’s front porch and picks up a few logs from the woodpile to add to the stove. The wood is heavy and splinters in her hands, hard under the crumbling soft of dry moss. A quiet scuttling sound comes from deep beneath. The mice. She can see the smoke coming out of the chimney. Alex must be awake. She lets a smug feeling settle over her, the first up and productive, gathering wood. Alex is banging around the kitchen making coffee, the last of the coffee, which they have brought up in freeze-dried packs, meaning to wean themselves off of it, but they haven’t—it’s too nice in the mornings, in their house with no heating, when the hot liquid warms their cold blood. They will have no choice, now, it’ll be dandelion roots from here on out.
She sneaks up behind him, happy to see him for the first time in a long while. Lonely as she gets in the small red kitchen, her solitude is still better than seeing his same face over and over, knowing every soft part of him, the sounds he makes with his throat, the fringes of his mustache turning gray like the ice outside is climbing into his body. She is sick of fixing his clothes for him, sick of cutting his hair. She is sick of the sound of his voice. But now, there is coffee on the stove, and bacon, and the house is filled with good smells. She hopes he will remember to save the rendered grease, they need the calories, but doesn’t say anything, afraid of being a nag, afraid of the feeling that comes when she knows what to do but is not heard. Here he is at the stove, she tells herself, doing her job, taking care of her, cooking. His warm body is a refuge from the strange voice in the woods, a solid and familiar something that, finally, she is relieved to know so well. Elsa can slide out of herself, be anyone, stop being human, even, but there is no mistaking Alex for anyone else. He is himself, pure and true. She wraps her arms around him, grateful, burrows her face into his neck, the stubble of his beard scratching her cold face.
“Hey there, stranger!” says Alex. He doesn’t turn around. “Did you remember to take off your boots this time?”
“Sorry,” says Elsa, a cold burst of anger rushing up to overwhelm her. She wants to spit on his smug bare feet. She doesn’t get why Alex’s always going on and on about her wearing shoes in the house. Her feet get cold, and she’s the one who mops the floors, anyway. He just always has to be right. But she wants to be nice, she’s trying to remember the burst of good feeling that she had seeing him there, being good old Alex, so she sits down at the table and pulls off her boots. “What’s for breakfast?” she asks, as if she doesn’t know.
“Bacon!” says Alex. “And I don’t know, maybe you can make those pancakes I like?”
She waits for him to ask her how her walk was, at which point she will tell him, she can picture it now, how she will straighten up in her creaky caned seat, put her hands flat on the table in a pronouncing pose and say, “Babe,” and say, “It was wild,” and say, “You’ll never believe the thing that happened to me.” But he doesn’t ask. So she gets up. “Of course,” she says instead, and scrapes the pantry for flour and makes buckwheat pancakes with slow-cooked canned apples they had foraged, together, from the last-dropped, bird-pecked fruit in the orchard, months ago. There is an industrial-sized container of cinnamon they found in the pantry of the dining hall, and she adds that, too. The kitchen doors are sealed shut against the cold house, and they sit at opposite ends of the laminated table, big enough for a whole family, but there isn’t a family, it’s just Elsa and Alex at opposite ends, eating breakfast in silence. Through the window cracks, she can see that the sky is still gray. A shift in the air, a new heaviness, makes her think that perhaps it has started to snow.
After breakfast, Alex goes down to his study, to a table in the den they had slept in on their first night at the farm. He has stacked books and papers on every available surface, and the mess drives Elsa crazy, so she usually tries to stay away. Besides, she doesn’t want to read his writing. Alex buttons up his coat, pulls on his hat, and puts a couple of stove-warmed rocks in his pocket. They keep the fire in the den unlit to save wood.
“Good luck today,” says Elsa.
“Hm,” he says. “Yeah, you too.”
Good luck with what? She isn’t working on anything. She isn’t sure what he is working on, anymore, either. The book seems more and more like a figment of her imagination. What can there be to write about in all this silence?
But there is a relief in the silence once Alex is gone. Elsa pours herself the last dregs of the over-brewed coffee. She pulls on her boots, now that he isn’t here to see her wearing them inside, and does the dishes with them untied on her feet, clomping around the kitchen, listening to the sounds she makes moving. She uses a ladle to fill a plastic tub with water, dumping in all the dirty plates, the coffee pot, the forks, wiping the cast iron pan clean with a damp rag. A film of oil rises to the surface of the tepid water, and Elsa plunges her hands in, grimacing a little, wiping them down with the rag, squirting in some of the castile soap she made the week before, which foams, sort of, joining the oil to form a thicker scum. The water is cold on her bare hands. She used to have such nice hands, she thinks, beautiful hands, but they are getting more dried and cracked every day, from so much washing and harsh weather. When she is done, she will smear some bacon grease onto the callouses. She thinks of the lotions she used to own, the smell of rose and lavender, the little foil tubes. But the room is still filled with the pleasant smells of breakfast, and there is some comfort in the repetitive motions of her hands in the water, like she is doing penance, a nun. Under the silence, the voice whispers, run Elsa, run Elsa, run.
Elsa decides that she trusts herself enough to go outside. All of the vegetables have been harvested and canned, the fruit from the trees and bushes made into jam. She has scoured every edible scrap of plant from the woods, dried the roots, ground the acorns to flour. There is nothing left to find. There is nothing to do until lunchtime, when she’ll come back to the house and make sandwiches from the stale sourdough and another pot of the last precious coffee to get them through the afternoon. She makes more lists, songs she knows the words to (“Daydream Believer,” “Toxic,” “Michelle”), things they will buy once they venture down the mountain in the spring (animals, mostly, she longs for a goat or a cow, she will drink milk again, she will eat cheese, she will convince Alex that it’s safe). She tries not to think about anything else. She sits on the cold porch with her cold hands in her cold lap and does not let herself look towards the woods.
But all day, still, she thinks about the voice.
She has gotten so used to the sound of their two voices that she wonders if she dreamt it in a subconscious quest for variety. Maybe it’s answering a desire she won’t let herself speak out loud, to hear someone else use her name. There’s no need, really, for proper nouns when it’s just the two of them, and her boundaries are starting to feel shaky. Where does Elsa stop and Alex begin? It must be her imagination, the ravings of a confused and lonely person, desperate for some affirmation, which she is, realistically, unlikely to receive. She is not like Alex. She has no work of her own. There is nothing urgent waiting for her to discover it, out there. But still, she hears it. She hears it in the wind washing over the lake, in the crack of the wood stove, in the kettle’s hum. It was her voice before, now just a low murmur, words that she cannot quite manage to hear. And she wonders, despite herself.
After lunch, Elsa and Alex make their way up the hill from the river, carrying two buckets of water each, trying not to let it slosh over the side as they walk up the steep hill. Her arms would have ached, she thinks, if she hadn’t snuck up to the hayloft before they left to take a preventative pill. Her head swims, body loose and easy as she moves through the world. Around them, the oak trees lean in close over the narrow path, stiff in the afternoon cold. The whispering is louder now. In her head, Elsa tries to remember the words to the songs she’s beginning to forget, trying to drown it out. “Oh baby,” she thinks, but after that nothing. “Oh baby, oh baby” again, groping towards some knowledge that has long since ceased to exist. That belonged to the old person. Whoever it was that Elsa used to be.
“There’s too much water,” she says, mostly for the sake of saying anything at all, making a sound.
They have exhausted all the things couples usually talk about: gossip, their memories, abstract fights, discussions of principles passed from paw to paw like a toy mouse. They know each other far too well for any of that. The only things left for them to be curious about are things in the here and now, whatever is right in front of them both, staring them, equally, in the face. These things are sometimes safe. There is even a comfort in fighting.
“You always give me too much to carry.” It’s your fault when it spills, she thinks.
“We need as much as we can get,” says Alex. “You know that. And it’s a pain to have to go up and down to the spring.”
There is a silent accusation that Elsa does not carry enough. That Elsa is not strong. The voice murmurs louder. Elsa kicks the snow.
She doesn’t say anything else until they’re at the top of the hill and in the kitchen, lighting the stove so they can boil the water clean. Alex doesn’t take his coat off, returns to his study. Elsa starts cooking, chopping the knobbly winter carrots into dice, caramelizing onions on the stove. The bread she had started that morning finished its first rise, and she punches it down, the dough collapsing sticky under her fists. She talks to herself, then, trying to keep her voice quiet enough that Alex will not hear, but loud enough to drown out the voice. They are running out of wheat flour, but she tries not to worry about it. “Don’t worry about it,” she says. She kisses her two fingertips and pats them on her own forehead. “Good girl,” she says. She covers the dough with a cotton dish towel and sticks it in the pantry. She sits down at the table to wait, for what, she’s not sure: for the bread to be ready, for the stew to cook, for something, anything, new to happen.
That night they eat the stew and the bread and drink Alex’s home brew. Like most nights, they spend a few hours playing Scrabble in front of the dying fire. Elsa usually does all right, but tonight she loses badly; her mind is miles from the game. The voice keeps misspelling words, hissing consonants where she needs vowels, and vice versa, the letters getting all scrambled up in her head. Alex kisses her when they go upstairs to the bedroom, but she pulls away, filled with a sudden revulsion, the murmur of the voice rising in her ear to a sharp shout.
“My back is really sore today,” she says. “I think I’ll go boil some water for a bath.”
“Sure thing,” says Alex. “Feel better. Do you want me to wait up?”
As he says it, he turns over, lowering the lantern, pushing his body down further into the quilt’s warmth.
“Don’t bother,” says Elsa. “I might be a while.”
The voice is louder now. She takes as hot of a bath as she can stand, scrubbing herself down with kosher salt and pine needles in the tin tub in the kitchen, bathed in the fading light of the stove. She watches her skin go pink and blotchy in the heat. When she stands up, she feels dizzy. There are branches scratching up against the windows. The night is pulling itself closer, trying to get in.
Afterwards, she sits in front of the fire, drinking a chipped mug full of the last of their whiskey, reading a dull book, trying to lull herself into sleepiness. The voice is louder now, and sharp. She plugs her ears with scraps of cotton she pulls from the cushions of the couch. There is nothing to hear, she tells herself, she is imagining things. Who cares if it gets quieter once she blocks the night out? What is that supposed to prove?
She’s afraid that Alex will still be awake, and waiting, when she comes upstairs. She had wanted him to sleep, to leave her alone with herself, and whatever else there is to be left alone with here. She’s angry to find him sound asleep on his side of the bed, the lamp still burning, book in hand. He has not planned on sleeping, she tells herself. He has tried to stay awake. She tells herself she is touched. She climbs into bed next to him, and closes her eyes to the dark room. The voice sinks into a low whisper, like a lullaby.
When she sits up, suddenly, she’s not sure if she’s slept at all. She has no way of telling what time it is. Outside, the moon is high in the sky and full. She can feel the hot silvery light of it pressing close against the window, trying to get in; she can see the light at the cracks that edge the boards. The whisper is louder now, but gentle, lulling, reassuring her that she will be fine. All she needs to do, all she ever needed to do, is look outside. She’s full of the same urge that possessed her that morning, to get out of bed, to move, to walk deep into the forest, looking, looking, and everything inside her pulls tight. Beside her, Alex breathes deep, in, out, in again. A long pause where there is no breath, no sound at all. Even the whispering stops. She prays. He breathes, and the whispering starts again.
There is something deep inside her, buzzing with remorse, telling her to stay where she is safe. But again she slips out of bed. Again she pulls the heavy coat over her nightgown. Again she carries her boots silently to the porch. Alex sleeps and sleeps. She knows he wouldn’t approve. Softly, she kisses him on his sleeping ear. He turns in the dark and mutters something that she cannot understand. She wonders if he is trying to say her name.
It must be as light as it was that morning, under the heavy thickness of the branches, the scratch of the forest floor. Elsa walks to the lake in the darkness that’s not quite darkness, through the thin barrier of snow-covered trees. Everything around her glows, shining in the light of the gibbous moon, and in it, Elsa shines too, soft, gliding silent beneath the trees. Nothing reaches out to grasp her. There are no silent groping arms.
She emerges on the other side of the lake. At night, the water is as flat as a mirror, reflecting a perfect upside-down forest in its depths: the trees, the moon, the blackness of the surrounding sky. The woods themselves are still, all the animals in bed, the small rustling sounds of the daytime silenced. Elsa can feel how the noise she makes while moving spreads through the forest in waves, disturbing the peace of whatever is sleeping there. She wishes she could have left the loud messy imperfections of her body behind in bed, sleeping next to Alex, abandoned the sagging flesh and bad smells, the periods and sweat and dead skin, the callused hands and clumped tangles of hair, the indignity of it all, everything he wants about her, everything he loves, her heavy self there forever where it can do no harm. She wishes she could shuck herself off and walk into the forest, as silent as the moonlight, as silent as whatever body the voice comes from.
She thinks of Alex, back home in the cabin, tucked up warm in their little bed, smelling of soap and warm flannel and sleepy funk. She thinks about what he had been like when they first met, how all-encompassing, how kind. The expansive assurance of him, the tidal pull. She loved him so much then. She loves him so much, still. She thinks of the others who will come, and he’s right, they will, she can feel them now, all of them so close, pressing in with tender violence around her, all of them together, here with her now, now and forever. All of them remembering her. Telling her story. Speaking her name. She thinks of the voice in the trees. She keeps walking and walking, deep into the bright night.
Something calls her name
“Yes,” says Elsa, “I will, yes.”