Ana started out into the forest one afternoon to gather firewood. She trudged out into the deep snow looking for new fallen sticks from last night's storm. Ana walked and walked and walked. It was February so winter had been going on for many months now and there weren't many sticks near her house. Ana walked and gathered and walked. A log or two would have been nice to find, but all she found were little sticks.
Ana carried the sticks tied up in a bundle with the ribbon from her hair. It was the ribbon her mother had given her as a present when she turned five. Ana was now nine though, and her mother had been dead for two years. Her father had gotten sick last month, in January, and died as well so now Ana lived all alone in her cabin in the forest.
Ana walked and walked and walked until she came to a clearing where the storm had knocked over an old pine tree. Ana put down her bundle of sticks and pulled her hatchet out of her belt. Slowly she began to scrape the small, needled branches off of the larger ones. Slowly she chop, chop, chopped away the larger branches and piled them together.
The sun, which hung low in the sky all day this time of year, began to set. Still Ana cut and chopped and piled. The snow reflected the waning light as night crept ever closer. Still Ana cut and chopped and piled. The muffled silence of the snowy forest seemed eerily quiet in the gathering dark. Still she cut and chopped and piled. Ana was getting very tired. More snow started to fall. Still she cut and chopped and piled. Soon Ana's tracks into the clearing were covered in new fallen snow, but she knew the way home so she cut and chopped and piled. Ana took two of the bigger branches and laid them out to form a travois. She tied her pile of branches and sticks to one end of the travois and tied the other end together astride her waist. Slowly she pulled the travois out of the clearing, across the new fallen snow, and into the forest toward home. It was already dark, but the moonlight from behind the clouds was enough, she thought, to guide her path.
Ana walked and walked and walked. She got the travois of sticks and branches caught in some briars and stopped to free them. This took time though, and her fingers were getting very cold. Several times she had to take her gloves off to get them unstuck from the briars as she freed the travois. Once it was free she trudged through the snow again, pulling it behind her. Ana walked and walked and walked. After a while Ana came to another clearing in the forest. Ana did not recognize this clearing.
Ana was lost!
Ana sat down in the snow beside her travois and started to cry. Soon I will be dead, she thought. Surely there are wolves out there in the forest who have smelled me by now, I have been out here so long. My mom is dead. My dad is dead. And now I will be dead. As she cried, Ana did not hear the soft, padded feet creeping up across the snow behind her. Creep, creep, creep as Ana cried. Then, between sobs, Ana thought she heard a snarl.