Reaching into the 2022 archives for a little dark fantasy snippet. My attempt at writing for a prompt last week and this week wasn’t going anywhere. I think I need to give myself a little bit of a mental break before I really hit my big projects again this weekend.
Warning for some mild body horror.
Johan showed Aria snowflakes on the tips of his fingers when they were children. The mouths of ice caves were at once jagged shelters from their warring elders and open windows to the outside. They admired the snowflake’s patterns for a moment, intricate as lace against the fur on his glove, before it was gone. Then winter melted away and spring came. She offered him soft blossoms cupped in her palms, slower to disappear than the snow but no less precious.
As adults, these childhood activities seemed like a cruel joke, an ironic twist of fate, even if they couldn’t have known what would happen. The moment that his mother died, the one he’d never been allowed to see, the change overtook Johan. It began from his eyes. Ice flowered outward to surround them before it spread to the rest of his face, then his head, then down to constrict around his neck. It kept going until it covered him head to toe. But it wasn’t content to just cover him. He became one with it.
The magic of winter. It was a magic that froze and reformed its human hosts into a tool that brought cold and death and desolation. His people worshipped it. Hers feared it. Their friendship always had an underlying tension, the knowledge that at any moment it could melt, wither, break. The ice tested it. Aria feared she failed.
They cooked a fish she caught over a fire one autumn night, trying to play at normalcy. Johan sat a ways away, arms crossed. He had learned the hard way even the sun’s heat caused him pain, never mind fire. He wouldn’t be able to eat until the food had cooled, ironically. Aria kept glancing over her shoulder to check on him.
His skin and flesh, diamond-like, shone in the firelight, almost beautiful. Still, there was an edge of horror to the new translucence. Not all of his insides transmogrified to ice. Bones and most organs remained intact beneath the surface. Gelid pits stared from where his eyes once were.
“Stop looking at me like that,” he said. “I’m fine.”
She looked back to the fish. It was at the precious point where it could either come out roasted perfectly golden or burn depending on how careful she was.
“Are you?” She asked. “You’ve been… withdrawn, lately. Distant.”
“You can say cold.”
Aria huffed a low laugh. She had thought it.