Ruth shivered as the wind swept through her light shift. She looked up. The moon was playing hide and seek, hiding more often, as dark clouds raced across its face.
She could almost hear words, her name, carried on the wind. She listened closely, but couldn't make sense of the sounds.
Ruth was lost. She knew this. She looked around, seeking anything that might look familiar. Nothing.
She made her way through the bare trees. The ground was covered with leaves that had fallen in the prior months. They made for unsure footing.
The wind roared through the bare branches, whipping them back and forth, a danger to all who entered this dead wood.
Ruth cried out as one slim branch, more supple than the others, slashed across her neck. It drew blood.
With a start Ruth sat upright in her bed, her hand pressed to her neck. Her skin was wet with sweat and when she looked at her palm she found a trace of blood there.
She felt the sweat drying on her skin, glueing her nightdress to her body. Her breasts rose and fell rapidly, in time with her breathing.
Ruth spun her head at the sound of her name. Her hand flew to her mouth, stifling the scream rising there,
A pale figure stood off to the side of her bed. A woman, a white shift covering her body, dark hair flowing over her shoulders.
The figure moved closer and Ruth found herself staring at her own face. But pale. So very, very pale. The expression in the woman's eyes was immeasurably older than any Ruth had seen looking back at her from a mirror.
"Who...what are you?" Ruth asked.
"Look how you have grown," the woman said. "So full of life."
The sound of the woman's voice was as a wild wind through bare branched trees. Ruth pulled the blankets up around her, partly to cover herself, partly to stop shivering.
"I heard you calling me..." she said, "...in my dream. I heard you calling my name."
The woman nodded. "I have called you before," she said. "But it was too soon. You were too young to hear."
"Why are you here?" Ruth asked. She looked around the room. The windows were closed. The door to her loft apartment was closed. The streetlights threw patches of light across the floor, leaving other areas in deep darkness.
The woman stood in one of those inky patches.
"How are you here?" Ruth asked.
The woman smiled, a smile filled, it seemed to Ruth, with great sadness.
"I've never been far from you, Ruth," she said. "I was there when you were born. I saw them take you from your dying mother's body."
Ruth closed her eyes and trembled. When she opened them again the woman was still there.
"Yes," she said, "my mother died as she gave birth to me." Her voice hardened. "What of it?"
"So much blood," the woman said, her voice trailing off on the last word. "So much life in the little thing you were."
Ruth shook herself and let the blankets drop. She fixed her gaze steadily on the woman, her breathing calmer.
"Who are you?" she asked.
Some time passed before the woman's answer came. Ruth looked at her calmly, her face intent.
"I am...I was...Anna," the woman said.
Ruth nodded. "Why do you have my face?"
"We are of the one bloodline," Anna answered. "I am mother to your mother, though years, generations, separate us."
"A ghost?" Ruth asked.
The woman appeared closer now. Ruth felt the air around her chill. Closer now she could see the flawless skin of the woman's face, her bloodless lips, the dark eyes so like her own.
A scar on the woman's neck. A paler line against already pale skin. Ruth touched her own neck. She winced. The wound from her dream was still there.
"Did you do that to me?" she asked.
Though she was closer now the woman's voice still sounded like far-off wind through far-off trees.
"You dreamt it," she said. "Think back. Have you not always had this dream?"
The woman reached out to her, her fingers long, gaunt, the nails sharp, pointed.
Ruth drew back on the bed, away from her. She heard laughter, and then the woman was gone.
"We will meet again." The voice came, far away now. Wind through bare branches.
Ruth shivered. The room was still cold. She touched her hand to her neck and winced.
When she looked at her fingertips, she saw that they were coated bright red with blood.