The woman let the sword scrape the asphalt as she walked towards the pay phone. She could not drop it nor wield it, despite its weight, as she did not have the strength to untie the rope that bound it to her wrist. It sparked and clattered at her side. It tilted and slit into her bare, frostbitten ankles. Nipped at the edges of her bare, bluish feet, leaving small paper cut-like wounds that should have bled, but merely darkened as though she had been marked by a quill, instead.
It was clear she was discomfited. Her eyes bulged out as though she had been staring at a single point for days on end. Here, a few ragged white bed-sheets knotted and twisted around her form to protect her from the elements, to provide a modesty that felt laughable to concern herself with.
But still she drug that anchor forward. She couldn’t lose it, not if she wanted to, and she didn’t want to. It was, on some level, as necessary as her own spine. She didn’t even mind the suffering that came right before a resurrection. It never lasted as long as it should.
It was too early in the morning for many cars to pass her as she stumbled forward on the small 2-lane road that smelled as though it were Northern. Her nose had not always been better for dodging blows than differentiating the delicate blooms, tasting the terroir between wines, but for now, all she knew was this idea of North of before. Of colder than Then. Of the phone call she had to make now that she was utterly and completely exhausted of all other resources.
It wasn’t much further if she remembered correctly. It was less that she hoped that she remembered correctly, and that there was nothing else to hope.
If she were seen, this spectral figure on the road, she would appear as a ghost. Some banshee, some eidolon, some half-known creature. She would not register as a person in need of aid. No one would stop to inquire, no one would dare. Another hope that by necessity was fact.
It was some time, step after step, pain after pain, when the wooded roadway opened up slightly and revealed a gas station. She ignored the security cameras, she ignored the smell of North, the feel of not-Then as the here and now became corroded with gasoline and bitter coffee beans. She clattered up the graffiti’d phone booth.
Rather than fumble through pockets for a quarter, she plucked a greying red hair from her wounded temple, one of the few long enough to pull free. She held it in her hand until it trembled, spun around itself, and slowly shifted into a bright, shiny piece of U.S. currency.
The phone number was several digits longer than any international call, and the silence much longer than she, nor any soul with reason, would endure.
She could feel this body beginning to mutiny, beginning to chase the foreign captain at its helm onto the plank.
“Thank you for calling your local Vitamin Spree!” An aggressively cheerful female voice chirped in greeting. She frowned, a reflex the body could not deny her.
In her own voice, rusty from disuse, she whispered “It’s done” before fainting on the cement pad of the Loaf and Jug. She did not hear the subtle ding of assent as it replied through the receiver. It was some time before she heard anything again.