the melody of winter

a price is asked by nature so the balance can be kept.

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the world held its breath during winter.

    in the forest, the trees held double the weight of their branches in snow, and the lake in the middle of the clearing froze over completely.

    the world went to sleep early in winter.

    the sky lit up with vivid, brilliant light shows, streaking across the night air like a natural display of silent fireworks.

    but during the witching hour, the sky went black. that is when the Other come out. they lived in hollow tree trunks and in the lake. for the most part, they were benign, sometimes even helpful creatures. but like all things in nature, nothing comes for free.

 

the young girl hadn’t grown up around the area; she did not know of the consequences of her actions. fascinated by the heavy silence that blanketed the forest behind her new house, she’d slipped out of the warmth and into the frozen wonderland. she’d never seen so much snow in her life; it looked like something out of a postcard.

    what the postcards never told her was that the cold extended further than just the air; it seeped into the hearts of the inhabitants, made them hard as ice and twice as prickly.

    unawares, she picked her way through the trees, wonder on her face.

    when the sun began its’ descent in the sky, she stopped chasing rabbits through the frozen leaves and went home.

 

her parents tucked her in, and she slept a peaceful, dreamless sleep of the young.

 

when she woke, she was wearing different clothes, and her boots — which she still had on, under the thick blankets — were caked in mud.

    her mother took one look at the muddy sheets and lost her temper. she asked questions; why had she felt the need to sneak out? did she think this was funny, giving her more work to do? and finally, why on earth didn’t she take her damn boots off before climbing back into bed?

    unsure of what to say, the girl stood mutely in her room, eyes on her boots, curious. once her irate mother finally left with the dirty bedding, the girl’s brown eyes flickered up and to the window. the sight outside was the same as yesterday — white everywhere, with only hints of brown peeking out from under the snow.

    without much thought, she followed the pull in her to be outside again. on the way, she passed her mother, who shook her head in exasperation and reminded her to please, please take your boots off this time when you get back. the girl nodded to show she’d heard and understood, before letting her feet lead her outside. 

    instead of following the trail like she had the day before, the pull within her seemed to be coming from deeper within the trees. she followed it to the frozen lake.

    in the depths of the water, something glinted and she approached, curious.

    a frozen breath.

    one

        two

            three

                four

                    five

    she leans over, fingers skimming the surface of the ice, yearning for the object in the depths that glints up at her, like a ray of sunshine in the black and white world surrounding her.

    six

        seven

            eight

                nine

                    ten

    from the underbrush, a thousand whispering voices seem to sing on the wind that whips her blonde hair into her face. undeterred, the girl steps out onto the ice. she takes slow, careful steps towards the middle of the lake, until she stands directly above the glinting object.

    unseen to her, the leaves in the trees surrounding the lake glitter with little eyes that follow her movements closely.

    a crack, and the girl is falling, falling down into the lake. she doesn’t make a sound as she falls. in the split second before she falls, she looks up, locks eyes with one the creatures watching her from the trees. her eyes flash white, and then she’s gone.

 

the forest thaws when spring comes, and flowers bloom; they fill the black and white world of winter into an explosion of colours and smells. rivers bubble happily, and the sun streaks in through green leaves, bathing the floor in hues of gold and green.

    the only glints in the summer forest is that of sunshine as it hits the water.

    eventually, the flowers wilt and die, the leaves turn brown and red and fall, and when the first snow touches the ground of the forest again, another family moves into the house at the edge of the woods.

    deep in the lake, a force stirs and a glint appears again.

    when the young boy wanders into the forest this time, he swears he can hear a girl’s voice, calling out softly to him, telling him to turn around, go home, leave nature be. he pays the little voice no heed, and eventually he, too, follows the pull to the lake in the middle of the forest.

 

everyone knows now, that the house at the edge of the woods is cursed; everyone who lives there looses a child. so the house stays empty. and over the years, the forest grows and grows until the house sits in the middle of it.

    in the summer, passerby swear they hear the giggling of children coming from the ramshackle house deep in the woods, but no one has ever gone near it; they way it’s protected by wood sprites, and anyone who goes near it will find the same fate as the stolen children.

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