TUBE, DRAFT 1, CHAPTER 50 (EXCERPT)
The cabin was no more than a dark weather-stained box with a cable roof. A solitary chimney pipe pierced the thick snowcap like an admonitory finger. Recently shoveled banks framed a hardpan path that led to a small porch. Mitya fumbled with the keys, turned the latch, and the heavy oak door slowly swung inward. He staggered in, stomping the snow off his boots, helping Olesya step over the threshold. A warm lived-in smell welcomed them, and they both feasted on it, inhaling it, tasting it, wanting to touch it.
“We made it, Olesya, we made it.” Mitya’s voice caught at the end.
She nodded. She couldn’t speak, overwhelmed. Here was a place someone inhabited, someone who had a connection to the outside world, someone who had food and water. But best of all was the feeling of solidity, of permanence. The cabin didn’t move, it wasn’t a box on wheels, it was planted firmly on the face of the earth and not in a hurry to leave it.
Olesya sunk on a bench by the coat rack. She leaned back into the softness of coats and closed her eyes.
We’re alive. We’re out of that dreadful train. Papa is dead, he can’t get to us. It’s over. It’s all over.
A shy tear spilled down her cheek. Something touched her legs. She flinched and stared down.
“It’s just me, taking your shoes off.” Mitya kneeled by her feet, unwrapping what was left of the pointes and revealing her frozen feet that she felt no longer.
Mitya sucked in air at the sight of them. “We need to warm you up and get some medicine in you, ASAP.” He rubbed his hands over her feet, massaging them. Olesya winced. It hurt. Once some blood flowed into her face, he swiftly tucked his arms under her frail frame and carried her into the only room.
Inside it was plain, spartan. A single lamp pooled in the circle of yellow light that spilled over a writing desk littered with papers. A window over it, dark and frosted, with barely a sign of a horizon in all that inky blue—it must have offered a splendid view during the day. A wooden chair with a pillow and a blanket folded over its back. Rough unpolished wooden walls, tufts of insulation in between laths, no pictures, no photographs. Concrete floor with an unadorned rattan rug. Nessy didn’t seem to need much.
Mitya turned around in search of a bed. There it was, a narrow truckle in a corner, and next to it a shelf stuffed with books. There were books on the side table, books on the floor, and one on the bed, with a bright red bookmark sticking out in the middle.
Mitya laid Olesya on the bed, propping her head on the pillow, and picked up the book and read the title.
“Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie.”
“What’s that?” Asked Olesya.
“A book, it’s a book this woman is reading. About a murder on a train, of all things.”