by Rhiannon Guzelian

That November night fell swiftly but gracefully, draping the dense New Hampshire woods in impenetrable darkness. Elias panicked. He should have made camp nearly two hours ago. As the wind whipped harder and ushered in an icy cold, he cursed himself for allowing the evening to creep up on him. Though, to be fair, it had an advantage. Elias was moving slowly. Buried deep within his left leg was a constellation of lead and shrapnel that made his thigh muscles scream. His feet screamed right along, searing from 87 days of trekking north to Maine in his worn-out, military-issue boots. And between the weight of the pack and his limp, Elias’s back had taken to joining in with the cacophonous chorus, too. When the pain didn’t slow his pace, the laudanum did. It quieted the burning in his thigh, the ache in his back, and the sting in his feet. It warmed his chest like whiskey and made his limbs heavy and sluggish. 

As the wind whipped fat, wet snowflakes at him, the cold seeped into his bones, awakening that familiar ache. He was overdue for another dose and some rest. He turned slowly in a circle, looking out for a suitable place to bed down for the night, but he could see no further than his sniffling nose. Then, blessedly, the clouds parted, allowing what remained of the waning Frost Moon to cast its miserly light through the leafless trees. 

That’s when he saw it.

Barely visible, maybe twenty yards off the trail and surrounded by thick woods, stood a small structure. He moved closer, scarcely making out the shape of it. The slant of the roof. A chimney. The rounded contours of the logs that made up its walls. It was a cabin.

If the cabin was abandoned, he could shelter for the night. Perhaps start a fire. He imagined the sweet comfort of warm, dry socks the next morning. If the cabin was inhabited, well, it was a gamble whether he’d be met with charity or with the business end of an eager rifle. As he approached the door, Elias prayed for the former. And as he knocked—twice, firmly—he prayed again for good measure.

The door swung open, and the first thing Elias saw was a person-sized figure silhouetted against the yellow light of a fire. The second was the muzzle of a shotgun—inches from his face. Instinctively, he raised his hands and stepped back slowly. His eyes followed the twin barrels. On the other side of the sights, he spotted a pair of green eyes—one focused tightly on him, the other half-closed. If those moonlit eyes were the last thing Elias saw, he decided, that would be all right with him. 

“You poor soul,” the woman at the other end of the shotgun whispered. She backed up into the cabin. With both hands still on the weapon, she gestured for him to come inside. He entered, shutting the door behind him.

As he untied his boots, Elias surveyed the cabin. “I’m Elias. Elias Collins.” He smiled the warmest smile he could manage in his frozen state.

She pressed her lips together, calculating something. Finally, she said a single syllable: “Grace.” 

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Author Bio

Rhi is an emerging screenwriter from Maine. She is an alumna of the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, where she earned her Certificate in Television Writing in 2022, and of the Writers Guild Foundation’s Veterans Writing Project (VWP). Currently, Rhi is enrolled in Emerson College’s MFA Program in Writing for Film and Television.

Instagram, X, & TikTok: @RhiLovesTV