Prompt for June 9, 2016

Complete the short story/flash fiction, that has the following opening:

She stumbled into the clearing, falling into the thick snow that covered the ground. Large flakes continued to fall, continued to fill the clearing as she lay on the ground, panting, trying to fill her lungs with precious oxygen. Each breath hurt as her body, so deprived of oxygen was forcing her to take huge breaths of frigid air. The cold hurt her lungs, but so did dying from suffocation and she had come so close. She continued to gasp like a fish out of water and the sounds of struggling to stay alive echoed through the clearing.

She rolled over, more out an attempt to stop breathing in snow than anything else, and lay there prone on a bed of snow, letting the new flakes settle on her skin and melt. It was cold, but not excessively so, and the heat from her wild run through the forest caused the snow around her to melt away through the layers of snow. She should move. She should get up. But her limbs no longer responded to her brain and all she could do was pant.

She had no idea how long she lay there, but her breathing had calmed down to near normal levels and the heat that had once threatened to melt her very bones was now more manageable. She opened her eyes and blinked away the snowflakes that had partially melted in an attempt to keep her eyes sealed. The blinding white of the snow was all she could see until her eyes adjusted to the blinding glare of the snow. As the world came into focus, as colour finally seemed to spring into being in her washed out world, she looked around at where she had stopped, at where her headlong dash into the cursed Forest of Gwynn had taken her.

The clearing was small and oval, not more than fifteen paces in one direction and twenty in another. The ground appeared flat and clear of anything other than the thick carpet of snow that covered the entire opening in the forests domination. The trees on the perimeter of the oval were somewhat evenly spaced with no more or no less than an arms span of space between them. The trees themselves were pine, with trunks as thick as her thigh and the bark, grey and covered with moss, looked cracked and mottled as if it were the skin of an old man.

She rolled over and started to stand, her legs screaming against the demand to support her body and her arms shaking as they tried to push herself off the ground. She wobbled as she stood and for a moment thought she was going to fall to the ground, but as her body tipped past the point of no return a hand reached out and grabbed her by the upper arm holding her steady. She tensed, ready to run even though every cell in her body was exhausted. And then she heard it, not much louder than wind as it whipped the snow, but distinctive and unforgettable.

The sound she had been running from. The voice she had been running from. It had caught her. All of her running had been for vain. She stood, head bowed in resignation, as the words penetrated to her core.

“Welcome home, daughter.”

Post a link to the story in the comments.

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