By Ama Anwar (‘21)
E P I G R A P H "Watch me. I will go to my own Sun. And if I am burned by its fire, I will fly on scorched wings. – WARRIOR, SEGOVIA AMIL
i. FROST COATED BODIES laid in the forest, breathing when they were surely thought to be dead. It was only the beginning of a long winter’s wrath, and their small shaped limbs were slim to the bone, with only snowflakes scattered across hollow cheeks and wispy hair. There were no footprints in sight except those of the woodcutter’s; he had expected to see the children’s imprints at least. They couldn’t have slept peacefully for so long with bare branches at their feet and a blanket of snow.
The snowfall had paused momentarily, as he paced around the sleeping children. Each breath they took was visible in the cold, as it funneled out of their lips and into the air. But nothing came out of the little boy. He never heaved nor released a breath; the woodcutter was startled, afraid the boy had a fatal heart attack or so.
But when he checked the boy’s pulse, his heart continued to beat rapidly, oddly fast for a young boy sleeping. He next checked the girl, careful and slow to avoid any stir of movement. Her heart did not make a sound at all. ‘What strange children.’ Maybe it was best to leave them, his fear told him. Perhaps they were vile creatures that would snap his body in two.
He wondered about their closed eyes, the color that it would hold. Would it be one of a monster’s with darkness in an abyss, and orbs that could swallow souls?
The thought makes his knees tremble and quiver, petrified at their presence. A wrong move could result in a deadly awakening. He kneels on the snow, and clasps his two hands together as he whispers a prayer for the children. ‘Oh thou gods, goddesses, angels and lords, bestow upon us your blessings and rid of evil.’
And with that, his words blew with the wind. He looks up at the sky, waiting for an answer but there was no reply.
When he had kneeled, he noticed the snow was not pure white. Instead a layer of red seeped from the midst of the bodies – blood, faded and dried beneath their clothes.
The man tried tearing his sight away from their small rounded faces, and helpless limbs curled into a sphere. If he left them, they would certainly freeze. He found himself between fire and ice – he could lean into neither. It was only a matter of time before he must set off to work. Trees were waiting to be chopped and wood to be collected, it would be difficult to complete both tasks if the snowfall began.
‘Alas, I am their only hope.’ Deep inside, he knew not one other passer would find these children in such dense woods and if they did, he doubted they would care less about two minors while the nation was on the brink of starvation. Normally, the man would not go this far into the forest but the children were easy to spot against the stark contrast of the snow and empty branches, captivating his curiosity.
Without another thought, he drags the children by their feet. He would heal them, and consider them as his own.