“When will you be home?”
“When the snow clears and the smoke stops rising,” she’d answered.
Jasmine cursed again. He’d only wanted to know how long to wait. He’d asked an important question. He’d put his heart out there.
Of course, she had to be a heattramp to him. That’s what she was. That’s always what she was.
Three months now. Three months ago she left. And now the blizzard raged around her tent. On the plains. Without a pit to protect her. With only her own body as heat.
She was going to die, and her own husband would never know how much she missed him.
It was an important job. Someone had to find the next digspot. Someone had to show the community the next place. Eventually all the pits would run dry and they’d have to settle somewhere else for heat. Eventually.
The canvas of the tent shifted around her in the wind. The storm wanted to blow her little home over, to fling it out into the dark night. Not enough snow had fallen around it yet to anchor it. The floor trembled in the strain.
Jasmine wrapped her hair into a bun and slid into her overcoat. She wanted to go home. She wanted to feel Matt’s heat again. The heat of his skin. Of his heart.
“When will you be home?”
Why did she have to be such a heattramp to him? Was he still waiting?
She didn’t deserve his love.
She zipped up the overcoat and slipped the goggles over her eyes. The screen still showed the way back to the Pits. She could go home. It would take two weeks or more of hard travel, but she could do it. After the blizzard.
The canvas shook again. The tent rolled under the wind. She felt it drag over the ice, creaking in the gusts.
It wasn’t worth leaving the marginal safety of the tent to try and fix it. There weren’t any cliffs – at least none she’d spotted—so she shouldn’t have to worry about any falls. It would just be uncomfortable. The beacons would hold for her goggles. They’d guide her back, as long as she had them.
Night dragged on. She couldn’t sleep as the tent kept moving in every gust. Dark tried dragging her down. She tried to sleep in the marginal warmth of her coat.
Dawn came. The ground under her was uneven and hard.
Great. She landed in an ice field. Those were always a blast to navigate.
She unzipped the tent and stepped out onto –
She looked around. Spots of ice and snow clung to the rock, but around her she saw a plain largely of black rock. How far had the storm taken her?
She scanned. The beacons were faint. Another two or three days of travel, easy.
She’d explored for a long time. It’s what she did. It was why she was so hard. She’d never seen so much ground uncovered by snow. The sun shined weakly through the clouds. It was still well below freezing here. Why wasn’t there any snow cover?
Jasmine put her hand against the ground.
The rocks themselves were warm.
She set her goggles to record. She turned on the thermal filter. Yes, the ground was warm. A huge patch of warm ground. Heat springs immediately below the surface? Was it possible?
She grinned, ear to ear.
“When will you be home?” She remembered Matt’s voice.
Now she had an answer. “As soon as I map this out, baby. I’ll be home soon. And I’ll have a huge check with me. I won’t have to leave again.” She paused. “If you’ll have me.”
Read more of the world of Snow and Smoke here.
Read the previous story, Sprouts, here.
Read the next story, Catching Fish, here.