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He was a cartographer, and part of a team that mapped the Arctic. He doesn’t say when. He stops to clean his glasses and cross his legs. There were no real landmarks, so they measured the distances between rocks. They were there for a very long time. He doesn’t remember just how long. And it was cold.
He does remember just how cold.
He stepped outside for a cigarette and the ember froze, just like that, still burning inside and red and glowing. And the ice and the cold find their way inside you, inside your body and your mind and not just your coat and gloves. In the Arctic, the wind can drag away your mind if you aren’t careful. So the team spent all their time remembering, and keeping their memories safe or else they’d wake up empty.
Between rocks, he was home, he was in his mother’s arms and he was a child. The isolation had been bearable, but with his mother’s smile on his mind, he felt wolves crawling out of his skin. They were all of them lost in the Ganzfeld—blinded by immeasurable white, sharing ghosts in the corners of their eyes. The loneliness, the loneliness, the cold and bitter fingers snatching at his thoughts and stealing them until nothing new existed but the hallucinations and all he had to stay sane was the contemplation of a dead woman.
And then; she.
Joined their team by dogsled when the cook finally lost the last of his mind to the frozen north. She, with a smile he could remember from infinite angles. Chapped by the cold, which only gave more variety to the planes of her lips. And they made new memories, and sheltered one another from the worst of the cold. And when the white overwhelmed, they looked into one another’s eyes for color to break the field. Her eyes were green, a soothing shade. He doesn’t have the catalogue of knowledge to describe them succinctly. But they were green and that color appears in spots in the corners of his vision to this very day.
They measured and recorded all the miles between stones on the icy plains, the angles between them and their distance from the sky. But after all these years, he can only remember the curves of her mouth and the space between her eyes, the lengths of each of her fingers, the rise and fall of her chest with every slow breath.