She’s having difficulty opening her eyes, blinking rapidly behind closed lids to try to free them. Slowly she manages to free her eyelashes from the frozen tears that cling to them, and looks up. The moon is directly above her, an almost perfect circle in a velvet sky, studded with diamonds. She has no idea where she is.
She’s been in the snow for about an hour, and her body temperature now will be below 95 degrees, despite her winter clothing. She’s in the range now where the enzymes in her brain are becoming less efficient, and her cerebral metabolic rate will diminish by 3 to 5 per cent with every one degree drop in body temperature from now on. Amnesia, which will already be preventing her from recalling how she came to be here, will gradually creep further across her faculties. In this weather, her core body temperature will drop by one degree every 30 to 40 minutes.
At 90 degrees she will slip into apathy, and at at 89 degrees, stupor will overcome her. And then, of course there’s the effects of the drug that was slipped into her drink which might accelerate this process. There are no clinical studies to quantify these.
She lifts her arm to check her watch, though her brain will not register what it sees, and she will lift it again within seconds. Time slips by, her life force drifting away with the fine mist from her breath, rising and dissipating into the cold night.
Her body gives up the attempt to warm itself and her shivering ceases. Her blood is now thickening and her oxygen consumption will have decreased by almost a quarter. She lies still, steam rising from beneath her body where she has wet herself, her body working overtime to dispel the fluids caused by the constriction of blood vessels in her hands and feet. She sobs, just once.
As her body temperature reaches 87 degrees she will no longer be able to recognise anyone, and with a further one degree drop, her heart will begin to beat irregularly.
It is time now for me to emerge from the bushes and say goodbye to my wife. My feet crunch across the powdery snow, the sound echoing through the surrounding forest. She turns her head, and looks at me.
She does not know who I am.
She has never known who I am.
“Goodbye my love,” I whisper, before turning away to head back to the car.
As I walk, I sense a movement behind me and I turn. She is tearing off her clothes, or rather, in her weakened state, she is attempting to do so.
I smile; she is not trying to strike a last minute bargain. It is called ‘paradoxical undressing’; the constricted blood vessels near the surface of the skin suddenly dilating, producing the sensation of burning. I’ve researched this subject diligently over several months. I’ve always been thorough.
When her body is found, if her body is found, that will lend a whole new perspective to the crime scene.
I get into the car and sit for a moment admiring the feathery patterns drawn across the windscreen by the wintry night air. My breath produces a similar pattern on the inside of the windscreen.
I’ve always loved winter.
But not, I must confess, my wealthy, and rather irritating wife.