The Frozen Beginning – Daphne Robynson

“You’re coming back tomorrow right?” The young girl turns at the sound of the boy’s voice. Looking over with a happy smile on her lips, her chest swells with content. She nods her head. “Of course! I need to help you take care of Mink, don’t I? You might burn her to a crisp if I’m not there!” Referring to the small furball in the boy’s palms, she reaches out to pet it gently. Her joke frightens the boy. His eyes widen with fear, quickly glancing down at the tiny creature in his palms. “I-I don’t want to hold her anymore…” His chest surges with fright, his heart beating wildly. The girl notices his panic. She rests her hand delicately on his shoulder, calming him. His skin cools at her naturally icy touch. “It’s OK, you won’t hurt her. She likes how warm you are.” The girl likes it as well. He is like a furnace of endless warmth. For her, it is nice to feel something.

The boy studies her. His eyes capture hers, and he falls into her hypnotic stare, two different colour irises watching him carefully. Never has he met anyone like her – no one as friendly, or gentle, or calm as her. Her company, and her touch calms his temper. He has learnt to be serene around her. He has learnt to control his warmth. I can’t hurt her—I won’t hurt her. “But I might burn Mink…” His voice is tender, nervous. Anxious. His eyes change, now swirling with the gruesome image of the little pup burnt like a rodent on a spit-roast.

His body convulses with tremors of disgust. The girl smiles again, her teeth showing. “You won’t. She trusts you.” She pauses, watching him, “I trust you.” The boy looks back to the fox curled in his hands. The animal’s nose presses against his thumb as it huffs in its sleep. Mink’s body had been shaking like a leaf earlier, so the girl forced him to hold the cold creature until it is warm again. “I really have to go now. My father will be wondering why I’m still not home…” The young girl gives the sleeping animal one last scratch behind the ear before rising to her feet.

The boy looks up with sad eyes, frown lines marring his forehead. “You’ll be back tomorrow, right?” Both are only eleven – just kids. But they know they have a bond. Friendless and bullied, they need each other. She nods her head once more, her eyes dancing brightly, “If it is still snowing, then I will come back tomorrow.” Her mind races with the excitement, her thoughts surrounding the concept of having a friend. It’s nice to be wanted. Unconvinced, doubtful, the boy pesters, “You promise?” She crouches down until they are eye level, surprising him with a quick kiss on his cheek. The heat radiating across her lips warms her flesh with a bright blush. She leans back, a small smile on her summery lips.

“Yes, I promise.” ONE DISCOVERED The thick ice crunching beneath her feet shatters the silence surrounding her. No one else dares to take a stroll in a weather like this – not unless they have hopes of freezing to death. She never feels cold. Frigid air doesn’t make her shiver, and her limbs don’t lock from the frostiness. Her nose and cheeks never blush pink at the icy biting, and her teeth never chatter. But the heat, Glacier could definitely feel that. Like being trapped in a small room with blistering sunlight streaming in with defence. She can’t bare the heat, the feeling of suffocation, of the sweat trickling down her forehead; the thought has her shivering with disgust. The ice that surrounds Glacier clings to all surfaces, the house roofs, windowsills, porch railings, broken or forgotten bikes, and abandoned First-Generation Hovers that litter the run-down streets.

The dank brick walls of the overgrown buildings are tagged with Alluvium’s symbol, the two weaving stripes with three different sized circles between each curl, and a giant red ‘X’ across the image. It feels like I’m hiking through this bloody snow. She climbs through the thick slush in her tatty snow boots and dark jeans. The ends of her jeans are soaked with melted snow clinging to each fibre. Walking along the icy road, the ice crushes beneath her worn boots as she pulls her navy cotton sleeves over her hands for some comfort. To her left, Glacier can see the old glasshouse behind the crumbled brick-stone church. The church had been a small place for humans to congregate and pray, until the land was sectioned off as Hydren property. The small cracked glass shack had always been a form of solitude, where she could hide away from those who called her names. It’s been a long time since those days, now the other kids just ignore her all together. For 17 years, Glacier has been presumed human.

Everyone knows her name, and not for the right reasons. She turns away from the glasshouse, as memories of water flooding her lungs reminds her why she is isolated. Shoving her naked fingers into the pockets of her thin jacket, her unruly white curls flutter in the light breeze, knotting behind her ears. Her footsteps falter when she hears a strangled sound echoing from her right. Staring down the alley the gurgles float from, she watches for any disturbance or movement. She is greeted by quiet murmurs. Seconds later, she hears a different sound, similar to a ticking clock. That is too loud to be a clock… Glacier follows the sound down the alley until the air is silent. Soon after, she hears a thump, followed by another scream, much louder this time. “Ge’ off my prope’ty, critter! Don’t need thieves stealin’ ma food!” The angry voice is muffled from distance.

As she jogs closer to the end of the dank alley, she recognizes the path leading to Mr Michaels’ old shack. Her father had warned her about the ‘crazy old lunatic’ countless times. From where she stands, she can smell aged wood coupled with the putrid stench of an unhygienic timeworn man. Glancing over to the front porch of the aged shack, she spots Mr Michaels standing over the quivering body of a young boy. Glacier immediately recognizes the boy’s messy black curls. Mr Michaels swings a large rod against the boy’s ribs. A sharp thump echoes in sync with the boy’s pain-filled squeal. Instinct kicks in like a sudden bolt of lightning. She propels herself across the short distance, launching her small frame onto the hunched back of Mr Michaels. “Stop it! Stop it, you crazy old man!” Her arms squeeze around his flabby neck, clinging to him as she leans backwards, pulling the old man away.

Glacier’s frizzy lump of hair flips over her head, covering the old man’s face before blowing widely in every other direction. “Ge’ off me!” His voice is harsh with time, and raspy from exertion. His balding head flies back into her face, catching her nose with a swift smack. A loud click echoes across the bridge of her nose. She squeals loudly as pain erupts through her cheekbones. Glacier releases her hold on his shoulders, falling gracelessly into the snow. The slush begins to prickle against her skin again. Blood spills from her nostril. She doesn’t bother to wipe it as she crawls over to the little boy. Her coat provides little protection when the rod hits her thinly veiled back, cracking against her spine.

She screams in pain as it throbs through her backbone. “You wa’ stealin’ from me, weren’t ya? Ya filthy mutt! I’d kill ya both!” For an old man, Mr Michaels is tough. Sounding winded from Glacier’s unexpected attack, he seems otherwise unaffected. His arms hold enough strength to bring the rod down against her shoulder blade, causing a jagged grunt to pass her lips. The ice now itches at her skin. Glacier ignores the sensation, slinking over to the boy. He needs protection. Mr Michaels’ footsteps scream loud in the crispy ice as he follows her slow crawl. The uncomfortable sensation of blood gushing from her nose, down the side of her mouth has her stomach heaving against the ice beneath her. The boy lies still in the snow, sunken in the slush, unmoving.

Not dead, just unconscious. The moment she reaches the boy, a sharp knock to her forehead throws Glacier to the side, disorientating her. She rolls over the boy’s body onto his other side, her head exploding in pain. She tumbles before settling back on her stomach. As she manages to gather her bearings, she hears a nearsilent click, followed by a short zap. Glacier’s mind nearly split when the little boy’s sharp, drawn scream pierces the panting air. It resounds through her head like stabbing nails for less than a second before he suddenly jolts and wiggles in the snow like a snake writhing in fire. She covers her ears with her hands, squeezing her eyes shut from the pain erupting across her forehead, electrifying her jaw. “Stop, please!” Her voice is non-existent. When she opens her eyes, she knows Michaels hasn’t heard her plea.

He grips the rod in his hand, one end pressed against the centre of the boy’s back. An evil grin blisters Michaels’ brittle lips. Still disoriented, Glacier swings up, punching the evil man’s elbow inward. There is a small crack that vibrates against the barren walls surrounding them. The boy’s screaming stops suddenly as the rod drops from Michaels’ hand. “Ya ugly imp! Ya punch’t me!” The blood throbbing through her skull pounds against its walls in the new silence. Glacier shifts over the boy’s body to protect him. He quivers and quakes harshly beneath her. His sobs surround her ears as she watches Michaels for his next move. The man’s snarl is deadly as he glares down at young elementals with menacing dark-blue eyes.

He quickly retrieves his abandoned rod, holding it pointed towards them with his uninjured arm. Two sharp, vertical barbs protrude from the end of the stick, humming with shrill energy. Michaels snarls like a vicious animal before lunging forward, stabbing the barbs into Glacier’s shoulder blade. Her loud screams burn her throat as potent currents of electricity course through her muscles. Her body seizes from the sudden shocks, her eyes squeezing tightly. A sudden feeling she hasn’t felt before washes over her like running water. The impression is similar to serenity, an oasis of painless wonder and harmless light. The inside of her eyelids shine white as she feels a source blossom within her centre. It chills her bones, something she has never known how to feel. The cloth-like tranquillity silences her pain.

Her body is coated with a blanket of protection, suppressing every ache her body holds. The blanket is suddenly ripped from her body, expelling past her skin like a wave. Cracking and snapping sounds fill the space around her. The pain rushes back, all the aches and fractures in her body returning like they have been unforgivingly re-dealt. A sickly gurgling follows a loud, manly scream. Then silence. The only sounds heard across the yard are quiet cries and heavy panting. Glacier raises her head slowly, peeping through her curtain of crimpy snow hair. Fear clouds her as she worries Michaels will attack again. To her stained surprise, Glacier glimpses up to completely new surroundings.

Tall, thick shards of ice have sprouted from the snow like enormous clear blades of grass, spread around her as a barrier of enormous transparent spears. Her eyes follow the various ice picks, before resting on the large pile of red slush. It groups at the bottom of a dense, bloody trail, leading down a thick ice shard. She gawks at the nightmarish image of Mr Michaels. Hovering half a foot in the air, an enormous shard of ice pierces his chest cavity. His head lolls to one side, his vacant eyes open wide, blood spilling from his gaping mouth and impaled torso. His haunting blue eyes hold a heavy silence of death. Her eyes turn fast, the sharp movement sending everything spinning. Glacier falls to the side, her head hitting the soft ice cushion beneath her. ~ Cringing against the dim light shining from her right, Glacier’s head pounds painfully.

A blanket is tucked around her body snugly, trapping bearable warmth against her. She sits up slowly, wincing from the increasing pressure against her forehead. She is surprised when hand rises to massage her temple, and her fingertips encounter mesh fabric instead of skin. Following the gauze around, over her curly hair, she finds the ends tied at the back. Her mind runs through everything that had happened. Remembering Mr Michaels, the boy and the ice, Glacier’s mind leaps to the terrifying possibility. Did I kill him? Her breathing stills, blood draining fast from her face, leaving her skin ghostly. I killed him, Mr Michaels. A living person… I mean think I killed him… The image of his suspended body, head hanging sideways with blood gushing from his openings echoes through her mind like a heartless taunt. His eyes are haunting, at first angry, then inert shock.

Could I have killed him? Was that even possible? Unwelcome tears fall over her cheeks. Glacier’s hand covers her mouth to muffle a sob struggling to break free, when she hears a young voice. “You’re ar’wake!” She looks across the room and finds the young boy she had been protecting yesterday, now standing at the entrance to what she earlier realized to be her bedroom. He shuffles towards the bed, crawling over the covers to sit beside her. The boy wraps his tiny arms around Glacier’s waist, squeezing tight. The sharp spasm of pain she feels through her shoulder and back causes an uncomfortable wince, but she remains silent as her arms wrap around his shoulders in return. “Thanks for protectin’ me from Mr Michaels…” His little voice is grateful but desolate, as he speaks in a soft tone. He snuggles his head into her side, shaking slightly. Glacier lowers her head to rest her lips beside his ear, “I will always protect you, Castor,” she addresses the boy, squeezing him a little tighter. The young boy, Castor, gazes around the familiar room, avoiding her eyes.

“What were you stealing from Mr Michaels?” Her words are soft but demanding. Castor shrugs his shoulders against her side, refusing to relinquish his hold. “Only took a candle, cause we don’t ‘ave none left, and I can’t sleep wit’out one, and mama said she was gunna buy some, but she only ‘ad ‘nuff money for a bit’a food, not candles. I want ‘er ta get food, ‘cause then she can eat…” Castor’s speech impediment is heavy with his fast pace. Glacier has learnt to decipher the boy’s gibberish over the years. He takes a deep breath before his gaze flickers to her. Glacier’s hands fly to cradle the dark bruise across his battered face. A dark discoloration covers his left cheek and jaw, his soft innocent face seeming harsh. She traces her fingertips over the marks with sadness in her eyes. The boy flinches from contact, hissing in pain.

Gripping his shoulder gently, she assesses him. He sits crookedly on the bed with his shoulders slightly hunched. The side of the boy’s face is covered in dark splotches. “You miss’t it though, Glacier. You should‘a seen the ice that was e’erywher’! There were ‘eaps and ‘eaps of spikes‘a ice all ‘round us!” His arms motion around wildly with excitement, before they dart to cradle his ribs. “Cast, how hurt are you?” Glacier watches him with worry, but the image of ice spikes has her head spinning. Was it her that did it, when I felt that white feeling? I hadn’t shown any element until now, but ice wasn’t an element… “He didn’t get me that bad ya know. Kelly said that I just ‘ave a frack-tured rib and bruisin’.” The mention of her father’s nickname caught Glacier off guard. “So my dad knows what happened?” The thought of him being disgusted that she had killed a man crosses her mind.

Would he think I killed him? Was it me that killed him? Castor nods his head, “You fell ‘sleep, so I ‘ad ta get ‘em to get ya, ‘cause I can’t carry ya.” “How long have I been asleep?” His little smile drops at her question, “Like, a whole day.” Her face pales. I slept for an entire day? “Where is my dad now?” “In the kitchen wit’ mom. She’s real angry at me.” Glacier nods her head in understanding. The short movement sends a sharp pain through her nose, and the memory of Mr Michael’s head butting her comes to mind. I hope it isn’t broken. Glacier swings her legs over the edge of the bed, placing her feet on the wooden floorboards. The wood feels rough against her sensitive feet.

Castor swoops in under her, wrapping his arm around her waist when he sees her sway. Despite being nine years her junior, his head nearly reaches Glacier’s shoulder. “Thanks, Cast.” “S’OK.” Heading towards the door, Glacier takes short steps across a tattered rug. The palms of her feet ache as she moves sluggishly over the floorboards. Some creak under her weight. When the two of them enter the kitchen, they find Glacier’s father and an older woman sitting at the small dining table, a steaming cup of tea between their fingers. Glacier’s dad has his eyes trained on his finger, as it circles the rim of his mug. The woman’s eyes dart to the injured girl standing by her son, her lips forming an ‘o’.

Glacier smiles at the familiarity of Castor’s mother, Mill. In Glacier’s opinion, Mill is an understatedly beautiful woman. Her head was wrapped in a cloth, tied at the back and covering her non-existent hair. Her large bird nose pokes out parallel to her chin, and her skin is spotty with age marks and sunspots. Her mug of tea forgotten, the older woman raises from her chair, scurrying across the short space to envelope Glacier in a warm, tight hug. “Ah dear, ya don’t know how special ya are! Ye’are truly ‘n a’gel, purest a souls!” Her thanks are kind and gracious. Glacier nods in return. “I’d protect him from anything, Mill,” she says, addressing the older mother with a reassuring smile. Glacier’s eyes then shift to her father sitting silently at the table, his finger still trailing around the rim of his tea mug. Kellen watches Glacier with interest, studying her appearance from head to toe.

“You were reckless, Glacier.” His words sting, but they weren’t the worst she expected to hear. Glacier lowers her head, and Mill rubs her back reassuringly.

.

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