When the night grew too dark and the wanderer felt she could not take another step, she set up camp by a frozen pond. The evening air held a deep chill even in spring, and she built a fire to keep warm. Bundling herself tightly in her coat, she huddled close to the fire. Its warmth spread through her body and permeated her sore, weary bones, and she fell asleep. The fire remained awake.The fire reveled in the feeling of freedom. She stretched towards the night sky, sending up coils of smoke and crackling joyfully as she radiated heat into the frigid night air. She intensified herself so as to warm the creature sleeping close by.

“You. You are so beautiful.

”The creature slept alone; the fire could not see who else might have spoken.“Who’s there?”“I’m in front of you.”A large sheet of ice lay before her, pale in the moonlight.“I have never seen anything like you,” the ice said. “So vivid. So radiant.”The fire had never before seen ice, and she found it quite beautiful in its own way. The scratches and scuffs on its surface glittered under the full moon, and it was as still and cool as she was fierce and hot.“I wish to be closer to you,” the ice said at last.The fire stirred. “I wish that as well.”She burned brighter and faster, willing herself to spread through the grass to the ice. It was close, so close, and surely she could touch it if only she tried hard enough.

But she could not.“I can’t reach you,” she said at last. “Can you get to me somehow?”“I can’t move at all,” the ice replied.They sat in frustrated silence for a moment before the fire had an idea. She hurled a glowing ember as far as she could.The ice hissed as her ember struck it, and a small cloud of steam rose from its surface. The puddle of water that formed underneath the ember soon engulfed it, drowning it.“Are you all right, my love?” the fire asked.“Yes. That small touch of you was wonderful. And painful. But only for a moment.”The fire and the ice regarded each other with newly-charged attention as they considered what to do next.“I desire more closeness,” the fire said at last. “I wish to feel you too.”“But I’m afraid doing so will cost us dearly. When you touch me, you cause me to melt. And when that happens, I will engulf you. If we come together, soon there will be nothing left of you.”“I don’t care,” the fire said at last. “I have only a few hours to live. When the creature wakes with the sunlight, she will extinguish whatever remains of me.”“I have only a short while left myself. As the days grow longer and the sun’s heat gets more powerful, I will shrink and melt until there is nothing left of me.”The fire crackled. “Then let us spend my last little bit of time together, my love.”With that, the fire burned more fiercely than ever before. She spit out ember after ember until the dry grass underneath her caught, forming a burning trail between her and the frozen pond. The ice. Her love.The ice hissed again as her flames reached it, and she hissed as well; the ice’s touch felt both cold and strangely hot.

Puffs of steam and smoke rose in the air around them in the place where they connected.“I’m hurting you,” the fire said.“Only a little, and not for long,” the ice replied.The ice began to melt underneath the fire. The water it released spread through the grass, dousing tendrils of flame until it reached the base of the wanderer’s fire and soaked the wood, the coals.“I am so sorry,” the ice whispered to the fire as it extinguished her.“Don’t be. This is what I wanted.”The fire sighed as she died, sending a few last plumes of smoke into the sky. And the ice, despondent at the loss of its beloved fire, began to melt until nothing but rippling water remained to greet the rays of the rising sun.The wanderer had an uneasy sleep full of dreams of passion, of lovers burning together and melting under each other’s touches. She woke up foggy-headed and cold and discovered that her fire had gone out during the night. An odor of smoke still lingered in the air. When she stood up to stretch the stiffness out of her limbs, the frozen pond had completely thawed.

Odd.Still feeling groggy, she approached the pond and splashed a little of the chilly water on her face.At once, something awoke inside her. Determination. Passion. She didn’t know where it came from, but she did not question it.She was going to reach the place she was searching for, no matter how long or how hard the journey. And she would not stop until she was reunited with the one she had lost.