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It’s November and at night the Missouri Ozarks are cold and dark.

The moonlight barely penetrates the dense trees.

There’s a stillness in the air as dead leaves slowly scrape against the bark of dark silhouettes as they tumble to the wet rocky floor.

You lay awake feeling the cold penetrate you.

You lay awake listening and guessing at the source of every sound.

There’s always the urge to grab your light and illuminate the darkness in order to identify the looming threat.

Your mind creates imaginary monsters hiding behind every tree and moving in every shadow.

As the moon retreats over the Ozark hills your hand fumbles over the ground looking for the flashlight.

You worry it might be lost along with all hope of ever seeing home again.

Finally you find it and blast away the darkness with its saving light.

Scores of tiny eyes reflect the beam back from hidden places under frosty leaves.

Your own body heat is an invitation for these odd creatures of the cold night.

You stare back as the light dims and the horde of eight legged arachnids scuttle closer through the undergrowth.

The light is dead and your fear magnifies the intensity of the noise that feeds your fright.

You lay there shivering in the early morning frost too cold and tired to move.

Suddenly an orange beam reveals a translucent ice crystal on the shelter above you.

There’s a faint glow to the east.

There’s a hint of warmth and hope of survival.

The hostile invaders retreat into the trees as you feel a warmth on your face.

You roll over to face the west and close your eyes.

Sleep takes you and leaves you unguarded in this unfamiliar country.

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