I wake with a start, moving my hands gingerly. Frost coats my face, and my jacket - my eyelids are frozen shut. With difficulty, I try to pull them open, and they come apart in a scattering of frozen crystals, the ice sprinkling over my face. I raise myself up off the ground on one elbow, grimacing against the glaring sunlight - I am on a hill, it appears.

I push upwards and clamber awkwardly to my feet, ice cracking and falling to the ground as I stand. I have no idea where I am. All I can see is endless frozen hills, horizon to horizon; not a tree in sight, not a jetstream in the sky, only hills coated in frost stretching out forever. Those, and the sun. The sun is a searing lance of pale fire burning across the sky, hanging just at the edge of the horizon: an incendiary star suspended in ice. Despite the sheer strength of its searching gaze, no heat reaches me, standing as I am in ski jacket and jeans, teetering on the precipice that separates land and sky. Instead, a cold chill reaches me: there is no cloud cover, just distant wraiths of mist hanging at the edges of the great blue expanse above.

I am exposed to the deathly chill of space, that bottomless vacuum of stars like the one that transfixes me on this hillside. I shiver, feeling suddenly alone. I am on my own. I unzip my jacket, searching its pockets for anything of use. The breast pocket is empty, as are the inside pockets. However, the right-hand side yields something unexpected: a small packet of mints. I'm feeling hollow and empty, so I unwrap the packet, take one out and place it in my mouth. It tastes refreshing, cold like the frozen wasteland that surrounds me, but with an aftertaste of slight staleness. I chew thoughtfully, placing the packet back in my pocket, and begin to walk, hoping for some sign of civilisation.

My name is… my name is strangely irretrievable, lost in broken folds of memory. Descending the hill, I frown in consternation, trying to recall what I am doing here in this surreal bleakness. I draw a blank - my mind is foggy and unclear. All I can remember properly are the events since waking up, the chill swirling around me. Everything is incredibly sharp and vivid, the edges of everything cutting into my vision.

I start up the incline of the next hill. It isn't particularly tall, or steep, but then again, neither are the rest of them, from what I've seen. I can't think why I wouldn't be able to remember anything, but perhaps that's why: I can't think straight about not thinking straight, which hurts my head, causing me to not think straight. I shake my head to clear it, instead revelling in the sensory experience provided by the crisp, clear air. It smells fresh, and clean of pollutants and dust.

I crest the hill, and look back. I see no difference from the view that I received from the other hill, except for the footprints marking my passage from the last summit. I turn back to the sun, hanging blindingly in the sky, and stop. I feel a sudden urge to hear something besides the unnatural silence, and open my mouth to speak. I can't bear the absence of noise.

I attempt to call out, and stumble back in surprise when an alien call unlike anything I've ever heard emanates from my mouth. I crease my brow in a worried frown, and attempt to speak again. A broken note sings out into the sky, pure yet somehow twisted. It sends chills down my spine, a primal tone of loneliness. I realise that I haven't heard my voice in ages. I attempt once more, this time trying to sing. And I do.

A chilling, emotional tune winds its way through the air, scything through the sky until the music fills the world, or at least it seems to. I take several slow steps, turning to identify the source of this strange sound; for my mouth is once again shut. I feel an urge inside me to move, to the tempo of the music. I begin to run, the music propelling me up and down the twisting frozen landscape, dancing on the clouds. The cold wraps around me like a cloth, fluttering in my wake like a torn ribbon, and I move fluidly through the frost and the glaring light, time appearing to speed up.

Not once does the sun dip in the sky over the hours that I must run for: instead it remains in the one place, perpetually burning with a chill, surreal light. I live in the moment, eyes closed, yet dancing along the crests of the hills as if possessed. I feel so detached, but somehow flooded with life. The song brings in fresh melodies, intertwining choral voices mixed with dramatic strings and quiet, fast drums.

There is a break in the song as I skip a step, taking a leap through the air. A piano begins to play softly, with a violin, or possibly a flute, in the background. I spin, flying over the frozen hills as the music draws me along. The main melody returns, and begins to build steadily to a dramatic crescendo.

I can hear the music building, reaching a climax, the steadily raising pitch and culmination of sound giving me a sense of something approaching. In fact, I think I can just about begin to see something in the distance. A city appears vaguely, shimmering in the glare of the sun, insubstantial as a heat haze, with three twisting edged spires rising from the ground like the claw of some great buried monster, lying in wait.

I strain to see, but with horrifying suddenness my shoes skid on the wet grass and my feet fly from under me.

I slam into the ground, winded. I cry out in pain, hands stinging - they are cut where the icy grass has sliced into them. I try to wipe them on my shirt, but the blood keeps coming. I let out a gasping sob, and I realise that the entrancing music has stopped. I push my hands together to attempt to staunch the bleeding, but the dark red liquid runs down my arms into my sleeves.

It seems impossible that something so beautiful could turn this quickly into a painful reminder of the harsh landscape that I now find myself in, but it has. And as I push myself to my feet, I find that my hands are no longer bleeding. In fact, my coat is once again coated with frost. Footprints are notably absent in the grass around me, and as I plunge my hand back into my pocket I find that the packet of mints is unopened. I am back on the hilltop where I started.

I sink to my knees in shock, crying with surprise. The half-glimpsed city is gone. The sun- no, the utterly alien blaze of light that lights the sky on fire - still searches across the hills, spearing me. The air is still bereft of cloud. The land is still empty of anything but frozen grass and endless hills. I look upward, and see the blue of the sky darken to a near-black above; the chill of the empty void still reaches for me. I shiver, and hug my arms to myself, tears running down my face. But to my horror, some of the tears are not water.

They are blood.

And what is worse -

The blood is not my own.