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Kathrine sat comfortably in second class, looking out through the train window at the snowy and mountainous landscape. When one door closes, another opens. She felt the anticipation of starting over in a new place; she felt it in her stomach. She liked to believe that her mind was superior to her feelings, holding her primitive emotions in check. Much like holding a hand over a burning flame.
The train service in the Alpine region was punctual. A few minutes later, Kathrine walked through the station hall with a big backpack and a large ski bag, looking for her name. She found it, handwritten on a piece of paper held by a young, blue-haired, Asian-looking woman who was smiling broadly.
“That’s me,” Kathrine said, pointing at the piece of paper.
“Hi! I’m Lin! Nice to meet you!” the woman exclaimed, following it up with an enthusiastic handshake and a hint of a bow.
Kathrine followed Lin’s short-but-rapid steps out of the station and into a car, swapping between trivial subjects such as travel comfort and weather. Lin was wearing a tight pencil dress with a push-up that was doing its job, plus an oversized winter jacket whose color matched her dyed-blue bob cut. On their way out, their attention was captured by television screens flashing local news about record-high winds creating traffic nightmares.
“Crazy conditions,” Lin said, fastening her seat belt. “There was an intense search and rescue operation yesterday after a school bus got trapped by a snowstorm! It has been crazy. We have had heavy rains and floods the entire winter. Very bad for tourism. And it is now at the end of March, that the snow really started to arrive. And it did as intense snowstorms! Nobody was prepared.”
“A lot of avalanches lately?” Kathrine asked out of real curiosity. She wanted to know how intense the coming weeks were expected to be.
“Avalanches? No, luckily none. But there have been a lot of storms. Storms this intense are not common here, but we have had over fourteen people needing rescue this season! You have good skiing technique, right? I read Scandinavia is done with the snow for this season. Weird weather over the entire world. Here, we are starting the season. Great you are joining us. We have limitations. We can’t reach anywhere with the snow scooter, you know.” Lin took some air, then added, “But the group was already established here because of all the fires in summer, as you know. We moved in mid-summer.”
Lin looked and sounded very energetic, and Kathrine wondered if she’d bitten off more than she could chew – if she could keep up if the entire group was the same. She knew that her quest for finding new meaning would – and should – bring her into contact with passionate people and present her with challenging tasks. She was wary, however, of getting things out of control.
“Have you been with this group for many years?” Kathrine risked asking.
“Me? I was the newest before you came. I joined them one year ago. But I had worked in different Red Cross Search and Rescue groups before that. But this group is unique, you know. You will be meeting the others soon. We all live together at the headquarters. They have been there for a couple of years. With you, we are four, now, plus Father Francisco of course.”
Kathrine had also joined rescue groups as a volunteer before, but only in her home country. Still, she hadn’t shied away from relocating from city to city inside of it. Many people did so following love or career opportunities, but she’d done so to go where she’d thought her help was most needed. Her mother, of all people, had first mentioned this group to her in a letter. It was supposed to be based on a non-conventional set of values. What that supposed to mean? Kathrine tried hard not to think about her mother, though. Instead, she tried to focus on her conversation with Lin.
“I’ve heard the group takes a lot of risks. I’m glad you’re all safe and healthy, but I admit I’m a little surprised that the Red Cross is willing to remain affiliated with you.”
“Yeah! Right! You know how rule number one of rescue work is to avoid endangerment and risk to one’s own life? Well, that’s the main difference with us, you know. Some might say we take too many risks, but we know what we’re doing… we think.”
She laughed at her own little joke. “We also take care of each other… a lot,” she added with a wink.
“But yeah, maybe we are all half broken from our past or something; I do get that feeling some days.” Lin laughed some more. “You are really beautiful, you know. Your face, blonde hair, blue eyes. Are all Norwegians like that? You are only 19 years old; you have the face of a girl and a body to envy.” She smiled broadly without any sign that she’d known she’d said anything inappropriate.
Yeah, to an Asian, all Europeans seem beautiful and look alike, probably. Well, my mother was originally from Lithuania… Kathrine again stopped herself from thinking about her mother. No! Now’s not the time or place.
“We’ll etimesgut escort be arriving at the Headquarters soon,” Lin said. The last few minutes of the journey were spent in awkward silence, only briefly interrupted by Lin adding comments on places she drove by that were too irrelevant for Kathrine to pay any mind.
The sky was gray, and the winds were strong. The Headquarters were half of an old, small school that had been repurposed. It was not only the group’s operation center; it seemed it was also the place where they lived, prepared food and slept.
The door was opened by a woman in her mid-thirties. There was a wrongness to her gaze. “Hello,” she said, “you must be Kathrine. Welcome. I am Claire. I will show you the place.”
Kathrine followed her in, and soon realized that there was nothing wrong with her gaze, only with her actual eyes; Claire was blind. Still, she moved through the Headquarters with efficiency, showing Kathrine the common sleeping room, planning room, and kitchen, where there was plenty of food read for her. She was hungry, so she accepted it without hesitation.
If Lin was dynamite, she thought, Claire was the opposite: infinite calmness.
“We are only missing Theresa and Father Francisco,” Claire said. “They are on their weekly visit to the Alpine hospital and might arrive late.” Kathrine was relieved to be done with introductions for the day. She was an extrovert, but meeting new people required energy – in some cases, too much. The rest of the meal was uneventful. Lin and Claire were well acquainted, and Kathrine knew she would need time to feel at home.
Kathrine excused herself, feeling tired from the trip. She went to the common sleeping room to unpack her luggage. There were two double bunk beds there. She’d been assigned a lower bed, and, to her surprise, realized she had her own commode.
As the evening turned to night, Kathrine went to take a shower. Only two out of three showers – divided only by glass walls – were working. The water was hot and the pressure was decent. The shower stream massaged between her shoulders and up her neck. When it hit her head, she relaxed and felt like urinating, so she did, despite being a bit unsure on how acceptable it was when sharing facilities with other occupants.
She then looked at her naked body in the mirror above the lavatory on the opposite wall. Her build was strong. Her pubic hair was blonde with hints of red, and matched nicely the tattoo of a burning flame on her belly that nearly reached her belly button. She possessed a beautiful, feminine body – a woman’s body. Kathrine well understood its power.
Her thoughts ran through the events in her life that had pushed her to arrive at this place, looking for something – maybe spiritual salvation. She remembered those few times as a kid when she hadn’t been discovered playing around those blue construction barracks. She remembered the construction men walking in and out of that dark place. Kathrine remembered her mother talking with all the women there, because that was one of the responsibilities of a madam. She remembered in particular one of the women imprisoned there.
She remembered how that woman had always looked like a sad slave when her father had taken an inspection round. But Kathrine also remembered that woman’s lusty eyes when alone with the working class – mostly immigrants – and what was done. She remembered witnessing how that woman’s body had made them feel, and how that woman had not gotten cold when wearing those chains, but had made the chains hot instead. That woman had been good at her job; she had had a good teacher. Kathrine felt something creeping up her spine, her muscles tensing, and an abyss in her stomach as she remembered her mother being everybody’s teacher in that place. She had taught them everything, from something as simple as foot massages to things that Kathrine would not dare put into words – not even in the privacy of her own mind.
Kathrine leaned towards the lavatory to place the shampoo bottle back in her toilet purse, and to discreetly – as if someone was watching – retrieve the small, waterproof vibrator bullet hidden there. She could be quick and efficient if needed. She turned around, putting her back towards the door, in case someone walked into the common shower room.
The bullet glided quickly between the top of her outer labia. She moved it just to the left of her clitoris. The humming sound was drowned out by the shower.
Kathrine remembered those lusty eyes, and moved the toy to the other side of her clit and slightly down. It vibrated against the base of her swelling button. Around those eyes congealed the memory of the woman, and then the man taking her. Sometimes it had been two men – more efficient, businesswise.
She held the bullet there, enjoying its vibrations, and she remembered those same eyes looking at her customers’ cocks, seconds before they were forced etlik escort down the woman’s throat. Some of those men felt satisfaction using force, as if it was against her will. Kathrine remembered her reluctance – faked, she’d known, because the eyes had told the truth of the woman’s hunger.
Kathrine was soon there, the shower heating her back, her head resting on the glass wall, breath speeding up, eyes closed tight, knees shivering. She remembered those times she’d done it with her former boyfriends in the shower – remembered droplets running down or splashing on their bodies, faces, cocks, noses, eyes. She remembered them while leaving her eyes closed – practically forced to do so by the water running over them. Then she opened her eyes and briefly saw her own image reflected on the glass wall. In that reflection, she saw her own eyes, and imagined they were those lusty eyes. The climax came.
Claire knew many things. Many things were obvious for one with the inclination and patience to observe. For example, she’d learned that, while the building had been used as a school, a hole had been made in the bathroom wall through a broken tile behind the lavatory mirror. It was easy to conclude that it had been used by school boys to spy on naked girls in the shower. A blind person like herself would never have the chance to look through it, of course. However, she liked to enjoy it differently, knowing that it was being used to spy on her. Nearly as good was knowing that somebody else was being spied on. The real enjoyment was stalking others, for one did not need vision for that.
Claire was facing the upper bed, laying completely silent in hers. She heard Theresa sleeping above her. Claire sensed that Theresa was happy for having gotten Kathrine on board. Theresa had tried hard to make a good first impression when the two had finally met. She obviously wanted to keep Kathrine. They’d met only briefly before bed time. While Claire hadn’t been able to see any of the telltale signs during that meeting, she’d heard plenty.
Theresa was always the first to sleep; her breath was like a deep mantra heard over the entire room.
Claire heard the restless movements of Lin. Obviously, the newcomer had made a big impression on her. Her movements revealed her anxiety. It had increased since she had turned the room lights off and said goodnight to everyone. Poor Lin; she will find peace one day – just not quite yet. Claire could not help comparing her with the snowstorm that was hitting the window shutter.
Claire’s final thoughts before drifting off were about Kathrine. Her breathing showed she managed to get to sleep after spending some time reading. It was a good proof of her capacity to isolate herself when necessary and find peaceful privacy. The newcomer had been focused, weighting her words and revelations; and showing the proper amount of interest throughout the day. Apparently, Kathrine was looking forward to starting there, but was not willing to compromise who she was to be liked by the others. It seemed like situations did not control her, but it was the other way around. Claire had respect for that.
Francisco recognized the room as a dungeon-like basement even though it was completely dark. It gave off the feeling of having a high ceiling. It might have been by the way the sound echoed everywhere – and that he might be learning some of Claire’s tricks. Suddenly, a bright spotlight illuminated him from above. There was somebody up there, watching him, judging him. There always had been. Suddenly, showers in the dark started to run, and dampness started to close in. He waited in anticipation – one of the benefits of recognizing a ten-year-old dream which one does not want to wake up from.
He started to hear movements: people approaching, crawling towards him. He started noticing a silhouette hidden through the damp. It was a woman crawling backwards on all fours, towards him. Her ass was pointing upwards. He turned to the other side and found more female colleagues crawling backwards, moving their naked asses to him. He found the one he was waiting for. He recognized her easily by the tattoo and the dreadlocks, and the perfect roundness of her ass. He positioned himself behind her, erect cock ready and both hands landing slowly over her tattoo. The tattoo was of a bird above her ass, and as his fingers touched it, it went ablaze. The flames blinded him in an explosion.
He woke up. He was in his room, looking at the ceiling and thinking about a woman he’d lost track of many years prior. What ever happened to her? Nobody knew. He recognized the dream – a dream he had dreamed many times before. The fire had been new, though. He thought he should get out of bed and prepare for the day he had ahead, which primarily involved meeting Kathrine and going through the protocol with her. Kathrine was an important new resource for the group. He just hoped they could give her what she was eve gelen escort looking for, whatever that was. He would talk to Theresa about that. He thought one last time about burning feathers. How could he have forgotten those flames? Or were they genuinely new – perhaps part of some other dream or memory, blending into an old one?
He looked at his laptop, folded on the desk not far away from his bed, and knew he had no time for that, so he made a note to himself about updating his drawing to include flames – burning feathers, perhaps. He looked out the window. Dawn showed the snowfall from the previous night. However, the trees were not moving, which meant the wind had stopped blowing. Francisco shivered, fearing the calm before the tempest.
He was already done with his morning prayer, dressed in his cassock, and shaving himself over the basin in his private room when, looking at the reflection of his laptop on the mirror, he started to wonder how much time he actually had. His internal dialog was interrupted by Claire announcing herself by knocking on the open door and stepping inside. As always, she knew he was ready, and was bringing coffee with croissants – his breakfast.
“The paperwork can wait for today,” he said, mostly to himself. “It is Saturday after all.”
“She is up,” Claire said with a smile. “Everybody is having breakfast.”
“Let’s go,” he said. “Introduce me to Kathrine. I will join you for breakfast today. I’ll do the paperwork afterwards.” He walked out of his room and towards the kitchen table. He heard the chattering of happy women, slightly louder than the background radio.
Darn, Kathrine was wearing a woolen midriff. Francisco had to look her straight in the eyes, because otherwise he knew they’d drift down to her stomach – where he knew the burning flame tattoo was.
They spent the day getting to know each other, going through the protocol, going through the equipment, discussing other collaborators – the usual. Francisco officially led the group, as he dealt with anything and everything that involved the world beyond it – including, most importantly, stakeholder management. But he relied completely on Theresa, who was the group’s mother, to manage what went on inside of it.
During a late lunch, Francisco’s phone rang, but, as was usual, it was Theresa who took the call. Her face transformed. At about the same time, an emergency announcement played on the radio.
“This is an emergency announcement for all hikers, skiers, and snowboarders in the region. An avalanche has been reported in the area, and all backcountry travel is currently prohibited. Please stay on marked trails and do not venture into the backcountry until further notice. If you are currently in the affected area, please seek immediate shelter and wait for further instructions. Rescue teams are on their way to the scene, and we will provide updates as more information becomes available. Please stay safe and follow all safety precautions. This announcement will be repeated regularly.”
Theresa put down the phone. “Okay,” she announced, “there are three missing persons that were skiing from the summit and who were probably taken by the avalanche. The top is too steep for the snow scooter, and we are still struggling to get the helicopter. They say the winds will get strong soon. I will try to get us a dog…” A short exclamation from Lin interrupted her there, but then she continued. “Kathrine, you need more time to get familiar with the place. We will continue with the rest of the protocol and finish up the welcome-wagon stuff when we are back. Let’s get going.”
“I am also going,” Kathrine said. “This is what I signed on for.” Without any further discussion, Kathrine went to change into snow clothes.
The wind gusts near the mountain summit were much harsher than at the base.
“What was your name again?” Julieta shouted to the wind.
“Kathrine”, the young woman standing next to her shouted back.
“Perfect, I got a newbie wanna-be-leader bleached blonde today,” Julieta mumbled, mostly to herself.
Kathrine, standing and looking around exclaimed, “Amazing! I’ve been in other search and rescue operations before, in Norway, but always in groups of more than 20 people. Is it really only the two of us?”
Both were standing high on a steep slope, not far from the mountain ridge, only accompanied by Salvatore, Julieta’s dog. They were waving to the helicopter, which was having difficulties maneuvering due to the wind gusts.
Kathrine communicated over the radio with Lin and then summarized for Julieta. “Lin and Theresa are rescuing those two over there,” she said, with one hand towards a dark spot in the distance while she was holding the other hand to her face, trying to block the wind somehow. “There is only one fellow completely missing, probably buried somewhere in this area. It happened about three hours ago. That is all I know.”
They started the hard work of surveying the area, knowing the odds were not in their favor. Eventually, they saw the helicopter flee though not without dropping something. They rushed in that direction. Kathrine beat both Julieta and Salvatore there. Kathrine has probably been born with skis on. Julieta had to admit that was pretty impressive, given that she was dragging a sled. Damn it – it’s getting late.
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