She swallowed her panic, trying not to think of worst-case scenarios: if Ben had gone outside she might never find him. She brushed away the image of the millpond that came into her mind, inky-black water beneath an acid-green coating.
Cass jumped down the last few steps and her ankle gave, but she recovered and kept going. She went to the entrance and pressed up against the glass. Light spilled onto the snow outside, turning footprints into deep black arcs. Cass grabbed the handle and had started to turn it when the light behind her went out.
She stopped. Think
She waved a hand, triggering the lights. The footprints reappeared. She recognized Ben’s, but her own prints were there too, facing in both directions, crisscrossing. Ben’s could have been from this morning, earlier today, even yesterday. But the lights—the lights at her back had already been on when she came down the stairs.
The lights went out again. She turned. The ground-floor hall was dark now, but it felt present somehow. Had the lights really been on when she came down? She wasn’t sure, but she thought they probably had been. It felt as though they had.
She mouthed his name as she headed away from the front door. The hall lights came on with a low buzz, but just before they did, she saw a pale moonlit glow coming through one of the doorways: the empty apartment. Apartment 6. That must be where Ben had gone.
Cass took a deep breath and padded softly along the hall to the apartment that lay beneath her own. The door was open, and when she looked in she saw Ben at once. He was sitting motionless on the floor, muttering something over and over. It made her think of an elderly person trying to remember something long forgotten.
Ben didn’t turn around as she stepped toward him. The light was dim, the air granular, and Cass’s ears rang. She couldn’t make out what he was saying.
“Ben,” she said, but her voice cracked. She cleared her throat, took a step closer. And then she froze.
Excerpted from A Cold Season by Alison Littlewood. Copyright © 2013 by Alison Littlewood. Excerpted by permission of Jo Fletcher Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.