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Winter 2017 Writing Contest: Untitled

By: Fluzzy

Life started out as an empty thing where little lived or flourished. Winter was the most silent of them all until The Being came into existence. None know what made things appear or be born, or why they live their lives as they do. Not even the being in question knew when it was born but unlike mortals, it did not have a reason to question it. In winter it awoke. It ran laughing across the snow-covered ground without leaving a single print but its passing was felt by The Wind which chased it and the laughter which sounded like silver sleigh bells.

The Being would run around a mortal walking through the village and watch their clothing and fur ruffle and fly around. It would wait for others to step on it and then slide their foot so they crashed into the snow. Always it was chased by The Wind, and it grew to love it. Together they moved in a dance through pines and silent birch, through falling flakes of snow which would dance with them too. For ages it would continue its game in the silent winter.

As with all living things, comes knowledge that life is not always kind. The Being began to notice not just the wind and snow around it but the creatures below, whom it had only pranked and toyed with. It watched as they would grow, as they had families. It started to become lonely. For as much as it loved The Wind, they could not speak as the mortals could nor could they experience the embrace of the other. So The Being grew in sorrow and the snow fell heavily across the land, The Wind howling through dead trees in sorrow.

The weather was horrid and did not let up even as the cycle should have given way to the grass and stirred the creatures that slumbered. The snow never wavering, piling higher and higher. It seemed as though it would last forever. The Being did stop in its sorrow and The Wind did not relent its howling as it tried in vain to rein The Being back to laughter and games.

A single person wandered out into the weather, climbing hills and valleys far from the village. An old rabbit that stood upright and wore cloth to keep the bite of wind and snow away, wondered if winter would last forever. With a wheeze he called to the gray sky, “What ails the winter that you would attack us, what ills you so that you scream all night and day?” His words were scattered in the howling of The Wind and The Being heard and paused its tears. Never before had it been named but winter, it felt, did not suit it. Yet winter was all it knew. Is this what it was, winter? The rabbit looked all around, its aged ears straining to hear a response.

The snow had slowed and he could hear The Wind calming and quieting. None of the other villagers expected him to get the season’s attention, let alone a response. It was expected that the storm’s fury would freeze him solid, and no one cared if an old buck passed a few days before his time. Still he listened and heard not a whisper. He drew a ragged breath of icy air and called again. “Winter, you bury us all. The children grow old trapped inside and the home grows colder without a fire for we can’t get lumber.” His nose twitched and wiggled, cloudy eyes watching as the snowflakes seemed to fall lazily before his ears did indeed hear a voice.

Like the sound of falling snow and footsteps crunching across thin ice, the voice surrounded him. “A name, I do not have one, but I am not winter warm thing, I am something else.” The rabbit’s ears twitched as he listened. It was hard to find the words in the chorus of sound but he was old and knew how to listen. He heard what Winter had said and grew puzzled for if not winter, what could this being be? “The wind howls and the snow falls heavily, what else could you be if not the winter and to, what ails you?” The being thought and wondered but it did not know. What was in a name, or a label but a sound a mortal mouth could shape?

“Then if you must call me something, perhaps winter is not the worst.” It paused as if to breathe. “I am sad and lonely. I cannot be near you warm things without your death. I see no animals or plants like my friend you named Wind. I am alone.” As it finished The Wind howled in sorrow and the snow began to fall heavily once more. The rabbit, whose kind is known for their cleverness, had an ingenious idea. “I promise you this; if you stop your sorrow I will talk to the animals and the plants. Then when you return I will have something for you I so swear it.” Winter, the being wore the name like a coat, softly whispered its acceptance as the snow slowed.

The old rabbit stayed on the hill and spoke to Winter. Telling it of his family and of flowers which Winter greatly wished to see. Then the old buck had to leave but before he did, he gave Winter his own name. “Edward, funny name that, but my grandfather had the name too. Winter, when you wake up, call my name and I will come up this hill and speak to you with what all the animals and plants have said.” So, the buck did leave and the newly dubbed being stretched back out across the lands and to The Wind.

Winter continued gently after that and as spring came it went away without a fuss. The being slept deeply and as winter should have returned it did not wake, for the sun decided to stay. For two winters the being did not stir until the third winter came after Edwards promise. It became aware of itself when the little snowflakes covered the ground again and the world was cold and quiet. Something had changed and with The Wind by its side again, The Being moved to the hill and called for its new friend.

“Edward, I am here again!” Winter’s words echoed and it waited there and saw not the old buck of last time but a spry white rabbit. Never before had Winter seen a rabbit in white, and her fur was plush and soft looking with only the tips of her ears showing black. “Winter I hear you and I come to you with much news sad and good.” The Being settled there and watched in surprise as unlike Edward this rabbit did not shiver, her pink nose twitched and breath came out in warm swirling clouds. “My grandfather passed away, but he did as he promised and spoke to everyone he could. The tree’s laughed at your name and said you were not winter.” Her ears were lifted high and proud, such a beautiful white.

“They said that you were something that came before us and had died in the snow but did not go away. So, grandfather thought long and hard on a name for you. Ember is what he picked. It is a little flame that’s warm and nice, he thought it was a fine name for you.” She waited then, ears tilted back in nervousness. She had now told the spirit, which wielded the winter’s winds and snow to its bidding, everything and now awaited its response. “Edward is gone but has given me a name, I am both sad and happy. What then is the word you are, your name?” She smiled and turned her head about finding she did not know which way to look.

“Lucia, I am named after our first winter holiday. You will like this too Ember. We sing and dress in white with candles on top our heads and boys dressed like the stars!” She was an excitable child; the being did not think she was so old by his reckoning of a mortal’s concept of age. “Grandpa spoke to everyone and we all decided we should have holidays in winter, he spoke to the animals and plants too.” Here she paused nose scrunching before she tugged on a thin little sweater. A far cry from the layers Edward had worn previously.

“The animals all spoke and some of us changed our colors and fur. We will be up in winter and warm so that you can touch us and we will not be harmed. Polar bears, seals, reindeer and us rabbits! Some foxes and even birds have changed so you won’t be alone. Of the plants, only the pine and fir would answer but they too will stay green for you.” She had to then wait, having unloaded it all in an excited rush. Ember, now with a name all of its own hummed and cast itself out as wide as it could without discomfort. There it saw them, all of them awake and warm in its snow and playing without any sign of its frosted embrace.

The child called to it again and Ember turned to her. “Thank you, it said.” She smiled before pointing towards the mountain range. “We buried him there, far up. He said he wanted to always stay in the snow for you.” Ember brushed against the white fur, feeling the warmth without stealing it away. She laughed and wished it well with a wave. Ember took to the mountains, gazing far and wide and saw a single upturned stone now at the peak. There on the ground of rock and soil, was a small delicate flower growing through the snow and against Edwards name, Edelweiss. He had kept every promise, that cunning rabbit.

The years and seasons passed and Ember kept that given name as it kept watch over the village. It grew bigger there in the ice and the creatures that came grew larger. Every year Ember would go to the village and watch their holiday celebration no matter the name they gave it, it always happened in winter. The mortals stayed there and grew, had families and friends. Very subtly the snow began to stay longer. One year, it didn’t melt. Ember stayed awake and aware and for the first time could see that mortals didn’t just appear and disappear. Some were born, others passed away as Edward.

It was amazing to watch them build and work. New plants started to grow and were harvested for food. The village was given a name of Tigereye Peak, and none were upset that the snow did not melt. With time Ember learned to enter the piles of snow children made. Giving life to snow rabbits, or big giant bears. The mortals took note of what was happening and started to make amazing creatures of snow Ember then inhabited. Its favorite was a cat with leaves for ears and red berry eyes, a bushy tail made from a pine branch. Like this Ember could play with everyone and be seen.

Life in Tigereye Peak was new and wonderful, more people coming all the time. Ember now couldn’t wait, and if people grew a bit annoyed with the wind shoving and tugging at their sleeves, they would just hear Ember laughing and sigh.