Thoughts roar in Devorah’s mind while she basks in the fire’s heat, compelled to reminisce. Her thoughts move backwards in time in the shape of memories, towards a sad past, as the fire brings the remembrances of an inn discovered by tiny feet over a frozen road. Smells of pheasant, rabbit and brandy permeate snow-white plates. She might give some amount of her peace to once more experience childlike joy in the arms of those who care.
Devorah appears at the age of seven. Her dark eyes are blind to the driving sleet which covers the road with a slick surface. She is in a black sleigh, pulled by three black mares, hidden in this December night. The sleigh is pulled at a slow stride, for what Devorah assumes is safety.
Their sleigh tears through the ice, weighing the massive transport over the road, so one can hear the cracking and snapping of the crystalline surface below.
The sleigh has been on this path for miles, and still, it was unprepared for this journey. This is evident in the increased weathering of the sleigh itself. One of its doors will not close, and is on the verge of snapping. The paint chips slowly as ice fragments continue to pour from the bleak sky.
The distinctive scent of frozen water is lifted to the nostrils of the passengers. Devorah buries her face in a woman’s black fur coat. It is her mother’s, a woman named Ofira Adler.
Her expression is worrisome. Her cheeks reveal icy tears upon white skin. A gloved hand of white fur is held in the large, bare hands of her husband. His face is stern, while his lips are pursed. Wherever their path is headed, it is taking a toll.
Ofira has her mouth slack, her eyelids open. She stares into the great beyond, with hopes of some extra mode of comfort. Her husband squeezes the gloved hand whenever she releases a quick sigh. Devorah perhaps only chooses to hear the occasional crack of a whip, followed by the loud grunt of the coach. This coach’s face is ignorance in its picturesque beauty. He is the slave of command. His beard rolls down with beads of ice, creating weight, and making his skin sag.
Winter yet remains an artist, even in its miserable moments. Above, the clouds clear, if but for a moment, revealing a pale moon. The sight could inspire Van Gogh to swipe long strokes onto a fresh canvas. Winter, the harbinger of poverty’s most terrible nightmares in every poet’s wish for slumber, is still the artist of immaculacy. In contrast to the knowledge of the well-known over the mother and father’s face, Devorah’s countenance is nothing short of abstinent. She does not mind the encroaching loneliness, as it is either due to blindness as her mother’s coat obscures her dark eyes, or acceptance. Her fingers are bare and the flakes of snow sometimes stick and melt on that white skin. Each taste sends a tremendous reverberation through her body. Still, there is something a child can find comforting in ignorance. It is reassurance. For that is the only comfort a child can comprehend; to be reassured of the knowable, even when the unknown is dire. The cold causes Devorah to shiver, but within her mind, she is warm.
Until the next moment.
The sleigh comes to a sudden halt. All at once, Devorah’s father grabs her. Since he is on the right side, and Devorah is on the left, he needs to drag her over to Ofira’s lap. Ofira can do nothing but look on with a vacant gaze. She forces two silent gasps before the sleigh moves on.
Devorah is in the street.
She landed hard. Perhaps a bruise might result on her little shoulder. She does not notice the pack beside her. Devorah is nothing but stunned, even appalled at the reassurance that is now lacking. She lies on her belly for five minutes or more, before regaining her composure.
Finally, stockinged knees are touching the cobblestone. They had raised her into this position for her frail mind to think. So, think she will over the situation. “Mother. Father. They raised me. Yet, here I am. Alone.” Her thoughts are never in words. They are shut tight. “Why? Mother? Father? Are you there?” She looks around. All is blackness. They had deserted Devorah on a road where there are countless trees on either end. Utter silence lives under this lone girl’s feet as she begins to pace through the snow.
Even childish ignorance has its limits.
Devorah lets her eyes wander. There are smells which even the foolish and ignorant cannot ignore. All is evident in the wilds. Wolves howl, and the wind wails. Such sounds never come two at a time. Can Devorah make use of the misery? Her vision is washed in darkness, and the falling snow, which has faded into a slow glide, waves of confusion breaking on the rocks of her consciousness. Even in the silence in this air of sadness, there is something soothing, like a lullaby a mother whispers. It could be Devorah’s warm blanket, an instrument of comfort in a moment of woe. The pale moon peeks behind the clouds, pouring a silvery light upon the snow. Its clean white texture is the paper on which Devorah adds her thoughts.
The strength that Devorah displays dwells within many, or perhaps within us all. The surrounding isolation has become a motive. It is not strength of willpower, or spirit, but a strength hailing from inevitability. It was corporeal, as though an instinct of Devorah’s legs had lifted her body and made her walk. Where to? It does not matter. The strength is the desire to go, to create from nothing, out of nothing.
Clarity has its moments.
For the hour or so Devorah has walked, a few homes have appeared. It is up to one’s manner of doubt to make a correct decision and call for aid. She walks on, preferring to go to a certain place.
Monsieur Bernard’s inn is a quiet little hostel of cheapening wine and inexpensive boar. She remembers a roaring fire, in winters long gone, providing the warmth to thaw reddened fingers, and to cease chattering teeth. She remembers a tall man holding her hand, who dons a long, black coat. It is her father. A vivid appearance, sharp as a blade, and the held stern expression, throw a shadow over Devorah’s face. His acquaintance with Monsieur Bernard raises uncertainty that Devorah cannot fathom. All she remembers is a shambling stride of a figure with a strong odor, pulling her away from the fire, and exiting the inn.
Someone walks towards Devorah about a mile in the distance. It seems to have spotted her. She is frightened, as though the cold itself could not bring any quicker death. The figure walks as though it has a limp. This latter detail has a resemblance to her father, quickening dreams towards fulfillment, a bottle held tight in his hand.
It comes closer, and Devorah looks at the figure with pity, like a doll she once held in her arms. When the figure reaches her side, it does not turn. It walks past Devorah, with a shade over its face. In its closest to Devorah, she hears a soft groan, as if her feet disturbed its light.
By now, ice has molded over her fingernails.
The homes to Devorah’s right are numbered to infinity, as if she’s wandering further into a town. Where her mother and father abandoned her is at least somewhere familiar to her. She has trodden down this road before, on hikes with her father. Some scent of burning wood releases an atmosphere of delight when traveling up her nostrils, towards that part of the brain that signals joy.
She must stamp a path through the snow, towards Monsieur Bernard’s inn.