The rivulets of blood slowly coalesced on her abdomen, just below the wound. The gun shot. She had been shot.
This wasn’t in the plan. She wasn’t expecting to be out here. Not in the January cold, slowly bleeding out from the stomach. A hole somewhere it shouldn’t be. A monkey wrench in the clockwork. The clockwork machinations of a billions year old clock. The biological gears of evolution, turning and driving the gears of entropy to this very moment, where she found herself, stumbling along the arctic tundra, in the middle of winter.
The Northern Lights are magnificent. They shined above her head now, drifting into each other, spawning fractal children, and combining once more. A natural beauty, without an artist. Just as she was. A clockwork creation with no designer.
This was a fitting death. One unexpected, but only because she could not perceive the machinations that had lead to this moment. For how can the gear perceive the tick of the clock, if only through its participation in its creation. Her roll in the clockwork universe was coming to a close. And yet, she stumbled on. Knowing there weren’t even trees for at least 50 miles, and humans, humans that could, or rather would, help so much further beyond.
Looking back, she heard the crunch of the snow, just barely audible over the rushing wind. The scent of the sea. He must be following her. But she didn’t turn to look. There was no point. She knew her fleeing was futile. And that the man pursuing her had already sealed her fate. Both their fates. But she did not blame him. At least not as he was now. Madness serves its purpose in the clockwork as well as sanity. Maybe better.
Sliding down, she got the wind knocked out of her. Not that there was much left. She could feel him standing behind her, watching. The incline was growing. Beyond that is the sea. She stumbled back to her feet, not noticing the red snow she left behind, the steam from the flesh she left behind fading into the eternal darkness around.
She didn’t feel the pain of the wound anymore. She didn’t even feel cold. In fact she was feeling warm. Warm enough to remove her parka. This is hypothermia. She felt more comfortable as it slid down the gentle slope behind her, gently scraping the pack ice. Stopping abruptly.
It was more beautiful than she had imagined. The northern lights danced above the half frozen sea. Not far off she heard the unearthly scream howl out into the frozen night. It hardly mattered now. She felt sleepy, like she had taken a warm bubble bath and had a glass of Champaign. The end was close. Tick Tock. She crumpled to the ground, resting her head on a rock, staring at the flood of starscape, the glowing aurora dancing among them above a shimmering sea of ink. This is a beautiful way to die. At least there is this.
Behind her the bang of single pistol shot doesn’t rouse her from her sleep.
“There’s another one up here Sheriff!” The deputy shouted, stumbling up the hill. The glaring sunlight making him squint as he tried to make out the outline of a figure, mostly buried in snow, only a shoulder exposed, the flesh picked away, probably by an arctic fox, the bone not yet bleached white from the mid spring sun.
Below several men stood around a crumpled figure in the snow. Snow shoveled away from the corpse. A large hole extended from one temple through the skull to the other. He was clutching a book, the title in some foreign language. The pistol still lay in his frozen hand.
After a few hours both corpses were brought to the beach, awaiting the ship’s return. The men now smoking their pipes and sitting around a fire, roasting seal blubber.
“Best I can figure it, that white man shot the white woman then himself. He musta realized they were dead already, once that cabin caught fire.” Said the Sheriff, passing his pipe to the deputy.
“But why like that. She was trying to get away. Hypothermia aint the worst way to go. Why shoot her?”
“Hell I don’t know. Why do white people shoot anyone? If we knew that we wouldn’t be here.” The Sheriff and his deputies had a good laugh, as they passed the pipe around once more and ate their fill.
Not far off down the beach, one of the deputies discovered very strange tracks in the sand. He shook his head and spoke a small prayer as he turned and headed back to the party, whispering to himself Wendigo.