I vowed to bring Alex back here with me, just her and I. But in a place with a hot spring and a jacuzzi.
Maybe a masseuse.
The terrain was uneven but it was easy to find Lake Jokulsarlon. Again, my breath was stolen as I took in the body of water and I marveled at how it could belong to humankind.
Screw coming back here for a visit. I might just move here forever.
Sighing, I unloaded my backpack and dropped to my knees, looking around the rocky shore for signs of the Icelandic moss I needed for my research.
It was easy enough to find—the stuff grew everywhere and I gathered samples from wherever I could find, using my GPS to properly document the coordinates.
I didn’t feel like I’d been at it very long but suddenly, the little bit of sunlight I’d been granted was fading away and I realized I was standing in the cold dusk as the wind whipped at my cheeks.
It was time to get back.
Quickly, I gathered my belongings and packed them hastily into my bag, cursing myself when I realized that I had no flashlight in my kit.
I found myself cursing at Queenie and Hunter but the truth was, it was my own fault for not having checked my bag more thoroughly before I left. I hadn’t expected to be out so long.
On the other hand, this was precisely why the buddy system was implemented in the first place.
I shoved my ill feelings else aside and headed back the way I came and darkness fell faster than any night I’d known in New York.
Awe overwhelmed me as the brilliant sky lit up with a million stars and I threw my head back to peer up into the night.
There was no moon and to make matters worse, clouds were rolling in, seemingly out of nowhere, blocking the little bit of starlight I had. I’d need to use my cell phone flashlight.
I moved faster along the path I thought I’d come but in truth, it wasn’t a path. How could it be when no one lived out there?
The snow started then, the delicate snowflakes dancing down from the heavens to rest on my nose before melting away to nothingness.
Fear touched my heart and my gait slowed to a stop.
Nothing looked familiar. I’d been walking for half an hour and I should have been in view of our unit but there was nothing around me but blackness and snow. Lots and lots of snow.
“Okay,” I mumbled aloud. “I went the wrong way.”
I picked up my phone and checked the GPS but since we weren’t located on any real road, I had no good sense of which direction to take. I’d have to keep walking and see where the red dot took me.
It wasn’t a good plan but the rate that the snow was coming down, I had to keep moving. I knew Icelandic storms could come in fast and furiously and I didn’t have nearly enough to keep me afloat for a few days, even if I could find shelter. I thought of what Magnus had said, that there had been a storm watch for days. It was just my luck that I was trapped outside the day it decided to come.
Even if you’re an hour out, you’re only an hour out. Just turn around and move fast.
I sprinted then, slipping over the freshly fallen snow, my eyes fixated on the phone to see what the grid was telling me. A panic seized my gut as I realized I was completely discombobulated but I refused to stop. I kept having this mental picture of myself frozen in a block of ice to be dug out in the spring.
I was stumbling now, blindly even as the light of the flashlight tried to get through the near blanket of snow piling down around me. It wasn’t pretty anymore—it was terrifying and the thought that I was on another planet, isolated and alone was more than just an idea. It was my reality.
Taking one more step landed my leg into the grip of something out of a horror flick and my screams reverberated through the valleys, echoing for miles.
“Oh shit! Oh shit!” I howled, grabbing my leg. With shaking hands, I raised the phone and almost fainted with shock as I saw the black, steel jaws of a bear trap around the fur of my boot. It had been white lining but the blood seeping through was staining it red faster than the driving snow around me.
“Oh Jesus,” I gasped, forcing myself to my feet through the pain. Adrenaline had kicked in and I was trembling violently but my survival instinct overrode all else and I knew I had to keep moving.
Shit just got real.
If I was discombobulated before, I was delusional now and for all I knew, I was limping around in circles, blood flowing hotly beneath my pants and pooling inside my boot.