White flakes swirled around the girl as she stood up, the cold stinging her pale skin. Her turquoise eyes blinked in the sudden blinding light as she peered through the drifting snow.

She began to walk, trudging through the snowy expanse. Passing a few snow-laden evergreen trees, she stopped for a moment to watch a squirrel skittering over a branch to its hibernation hole.

She then kept walking, until the snow began to thin. The wind howled, shrieking, screaming its story to the world as it whistled by. High up in the indigo night sky, the cold stars twinkled gently, adding their familiar presence to the silver moon’s comforting light.

The girl knelt by the lake’s shoreline, her fingers running over the smooth, thin ice sheet that covered the expanse of water lapping at the frosted pebbles below. The moonlight sparkled off it as the wind began to subside, leaving the girl to stay by the lake, marveling at the peace she had never felt before.

Staring out at the ice, she could see the midnight sky reflected across it. However, there was only one star, blinking cruelly with a harsh glare that made the girl recoil in shock and fear. The ice began to turn red as the water beneath began to change, and she gasped, terrified. She withdrew her fingers from the ice and stood, ready to turn and run from this new horror.

The wind howled once more, calling to her. “Hope, hope,” it whispered. “Hope is your answer.”

She began to run as the blood and darkness threatened to engulf her, stumbling through the snow. Ahead, she saw the squirrel scampering away, only to fall prey to a tendril of darkness that reached out and grabbed it, dragging it back to its death. She held back a scream as she felt it loop around her own foot, knowing she would meet the same fate.

As she fell down in the snow, scrambling for a grip, she heard a distant call. “Hope!”

She answered it. “Yes! Help! Please, someone… anyone… help…”

“Hope, wake up…”

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