McCoy awoke slowly, feeling warm and cozy. A wonder-full fragrance graced his nose and he inhaled deeply. Something about it reminded him of home when he was a boy.
Shattering his comfy and very narrow world, he remembered extremities aching then going numb, and expecting to die, and was pleasantly surprised he hadn’t.
Compared to other manners of death, freezing wasn’t a terrible way to go.
Or so he had read.
But dying lost and alone …
Something else tickled at his memory. That perfume, or whatever it was, brought to mind tawny eyes and long, deep brown hair touched with hints of chestnut.
He hadn’t been alone.
It all came flooding back in a rush: the mission to deliver medical supplies; somehow being separated from Jim, Spock, and the rest of landing party.
Bitterly cold temperatures and thigh deep snow instead of temperate climes, grassy hills, and dinners with pretty ladies and stuffy politicians. Or maybe it was stuffy ladies and pretty politicians.
The girl—the woman—who had given him her coat.
He bolted upright. He was inside a small rustic building. At first glance, it was like an old cabin he had stayed in once on a fishing trip with his father when he was a boy.
Who had brought him to the cabin?
He guardedly searched the dimly lit room, trying to find the young woman who had sacrificed her own physical comfort to save his life. He knew the signs—he wouldn’t have lasted much longer outside.
He was on some sort of low cot and the thick parka was bunched in his lap. She must have covered him with it. Even without it, he wasn’t shivering.
The reason for that was across the room near the corner—an old-fashioned pot-bellied stove with a bright, crackling fire inside. On its flat top, wisps of steam rose from a cast-iron dutch oven. He hadn’t seen one of those since he’d last visited his Granny in Georgia.
In the corner opposite of the cheery fire was a door with a small, square window. Night had fallen. Just beyond, another window was draped with pale-colored curtains.
In the center of the next wall, not far from the door, sat a sturdy table big enough for two. A dusty oil lamp sporting a flickering frame was the centerpiece.
McCoy jerked in surprise again when he discovered the girl sitting in one of two well-worn wooden chairs.
With a tentative smile, she crossed her legs and folded her hands in her lap. The material of her pants was a faded blue.
Was a denim-like fabric a staple on every world?
“My name is Bella. What’s yours?”
The melody of her words tugged at something buried within him, and he couldn’t resist leaning forward, longing to be closer. Why hadn’t he noticed it before? His ears must have been iced up.
“Uh, my name is … my name is Leonard McCoy, ma’am.” He cleared his throat loudly. He’d almost referred to himself as doctor.
The ethereal tone of perfectly tuned bells sounded throughout the little cabin and resonated down to his very bones. It took him another moment to realize it was her soft laughter.
“You don’t need to call me ma’am. Just Bella works.”
Her smile broadened and she smoothed her hair away from her face.
Was it as soft as it looked?
“It’s nice to meet you, Leonard. You’ve been asleep for hours. I bet you’re thirsty.” She pointed toward the wood stove. “I cleaned out the pot and melted some snow in it for water. It’s kind of hot now, but I could put some more snow in it to cool it down. If you’re hungry, I found some things called MRE’s in the cupboard here.” She gestured at the rickety cabinets above the table. “I think that stands for Meals Ready to Eat. I don’t know how long they’ve been in there, but I read somewhere they last practically forever. There are a couple beef-a-ronis and a chicken parmesan.”
Those were decidedly Earth-like names for food. “M … uh, B-Bella? Could I ask where we are?” McCoy clutched at the parka. Feeling exposed, he couldn’t stop himself from inching it up his chest.
He couldn’t take his eyes off her either.
“Wow, you really are lost.” More graceful than any ballerina, Bella rose from the simple wooden chair. She picked up a speckled bowl Leonard hadn’t noticed before and practically floated across the floor to the only door.
His grandmother had had bowls like that. She’d called them spatterware.
And could he please keep his mind on the subject at hand?
“We’re in the Yukon Territory. I guess about fifty miles or so southwest of Eagle Plains—I think. I’ll be right back.”
She went quickly through the door and returned within moments, the bowl heaped high with snow. She emptied it into the kettle. After grabbing two mugs from the table, that had the same navy blue and white-spotted pattern as the bowl, she dipped first one, then the other in the darkened pot.
Leonard was still grappling with his bewilderment as he watched her take a sip from her mug while she set the other on a low table next to his cot. Bella smiled reassuringly and nodded at him as she backed toward her chair and sat down, placing her cup on the table.
She’d said they were in the Yukon Territory. That was in Canada—on Earth. He’d been there once on a vacation.
There was no way he was on Earth. He couldn’t be. The Enterprise had been more than ten parsecs away.
Colonists often recycled names of places where they had originated from, but there were beginning to be too many coincidences.
Maybe they weren’t coincidences.
While his thoughts ricocheted around his head, he shoved the parka off his lap and spotted his tricorder. He aimed it at the mug as he shifted around and planted his booted feet on an oval-shaped braided rug.
Bella’s insulated pants fell to the wooden plank floor. She’d laid them over him as well.
“That’s water,” he exclaimed incredulously. Without thought, he pointed the device toward Bella. “That table is wood. It’s pine. The walls are cedar.” He gaped at the read-out and the instrument fell from his nerveless fingers. “You … you’re not human. You’re a vampire.”
Edited: 09/24/2015, 03/28/2016