elliem

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Message to Readers

That's a month of writing and editing in one piece. Wow. I hope you like it! (I know it's long so I don't expect anyone to read it all lol but thank you if you did.) I would love some suggestions on how to improve this piece if anyone wants to help out, but no pressure. Have a good day! <3

The Ice of North #boredwriter

June 30, 2020

FREE WRITING

2
    Arlyn
    
I had never met anyone who dwelled under the ice before. I had heard of them, sure, the ones who closed up the lake and hid under a protective ice wall. I'd even seen a photograph once. It was blurry, and the Ice Dweller was moving fast, but the picture caught his face. Ghostly skin, hair as pristine and pearly as snow, milky white eyes. He could have been a phantom. And that stare. It was a stare of hatred, one burning through the camera lens. I knew when I saw the picture who they were. Like I had been told, they were vicious, ice-manipulating beasts. I wanted nothing to do with them.

    Not until I met North.

    ***

    "Thanks, Markos," I call, and give him a two-dollar tip. Markos, a giant man who owns a hilariously small shop, grins and claps me on the back.
    "Anytime, kid," he answers. "And be safe out there." He leans closer as if he doesn't want anyone to hear. "There was another attack last night."
    I scowl. Every night for the past week, the Ice Dwellers have been sneaking up onto the land and stealing from the folks before retreating to their hideouts. Protestors have tried to break through the ice wall, but no one can break through three solid feet of ice by themselves.
   "Anything stolen?" I ask.
    Markos chuffs out a heavy breath, one meaty hand stroking his beard. "Broke into Paul and Myra's convenience store. I don't involve myself with those two anymore, so you best ask them yourself."
    I shrug on my Moleskine overcoat, pulling it close to my skin. "Will do. Thanks again, Markos."
    He smiles through his bushy beard and opens the door for me. I grab my brown paper package off of his counter and slide it under my arm. I wave goodbye as I stoop under his arm and scurry out into the street.
    The biting cold of icy dawn stings my face. I bury my nose in my scarf, whirling snowflakes lashing at my eyes. My feet shuffle along the ground noiselessly. I nod once or twice to neighbours, but for the most part, I keep my head down and hurry home. One glance at the sky tells me there will be another storm. I don't want to be caught outside for it.
    I hate winter.
    A blast of warmth from the hearth hits me full blast when I return home. A buzz of chatter from Rachie and Mom fills my ears. I smell fresh bread. In the cluttered front hallway, I deposit my coat on the chipping coatrack along with my hat and scarf, then struggle with my boots.
    "Want help, loser?" Rachie asks, long black hair whipping to my view. Before I can answer, she bends down and rips off a boot. I fall from the momentum. She laughs.
    "Pathetic, man," she mutters, shaking her head. "Did you get my package from Markos?"
    "Yeah, yeah, just hold on," I grumble, and fish for the package. It's slightly rumpled and wet from the cold. She narrows her eyes before snatching it. Rachie leaves without another word. I roll my eyes.
    A rumble of thunder shakes the house. Glass tinkles somewhere in the bedroom. Lights flicker. I widen my eyes, looking outside instantly. Nothing to see except the usual grey clouds and blasted snow.
    Except--I frown. A slip of white hair darts between the trees.
    I stumble back with surprise. An Ice Dweller. One of the elusive, secretive Ice Dwellers, and...in the daytime. They usually wait until night to strike. They're generally too fast to spot. So why was that one different?
    I press my fingers and face against the window like a child. My breath fogs up the window. The dweller is long gone, but something else draws my attention. A spatter of red. It sticks out among the snow, sharp and scarlet.
    The Ice Dweller is injured.

***

    Seeka
   
    I wanted to prove them wrong. I thought: "I'm only a year under the minimum raiding age. What could go wrong?" It was foolish of me to follow them, unbeknownst to the others. I wanted a peek at the curious people above. Idris scorned me, told me I was being ridiculous, that the Land Dwellers are cruel and merciless. We may shape the ice like clay, but we function just like those above. And they won't share their food. They force us underground, and still they try to attack us with their hammers and fire pokers and wheelbarrows of hot coals.
    Idris told us to make the ice thicker. They attacked; we protected ourselves. We only took what was needed, what had been left out in those funny little stores. I had been taught to fear them.
    I never imagined I'd love one.

***

    The boy's head disappears from the window. I slip through the trees, biting my tongue to stop myself from screaming in pain. I stare down at the long gash running up my leg where the farmer speared me. We're faster than Land Dwellers, but my injured leg has slowed me down considerably. Thankfully, he got me in thigh, where the skin is thickest and the damage least.
    My thin, white hair whips around my face. The falling snow is refreshing on my wound. I need to get to the ice. It will heal me. To do that, though, I will need to escape the thick trees protecting me and venture to the great frozen lake. That's a whole lot of open space, and the Land Dwellers have crossbows and guns. My best weapons are the dagger hidden in my boot and my connection to the ice.
    No, I decide, best to wait until nightfall to make my move. When Idris sends the Raiders for supplies, I'll slip into the entrance hole.
    
For now, that means bleeding out in a dark forest. How fun.
    I haul myself through the woods, clinging to trees to support me. The path becomes narrower and more unkempt the further I go until I have to navigate through unpaved woodland. I pull myself into a clearing blanketed in powdery snow.
    I lower myself against a tree, panting heavily. Sweat rolls down my face.
    My hands tingle with the buzz of the snow. It falls in intricate snowflakes. I close my eyes and simply feel its heartbeat-like thrum. Can the Land Dwellers really not feel this? It's a harsh trade, advanced weapons for snow connections.
    I gingerly touch the reddened flesh around my stab wound and stifle a scream. It digs deep, bloodying my entire pant leg. That will need some addressing.
    Remember what Idris taught you, Seeka, I think. I fish for my dagger, and with it, slice a chunk of fabric from the base of my shirt. I hold up the cloth to the sky, collecting mini snow droplets. I close my eyes and count them by feel as they fall. Two hundred and ninety-eight. Two hundred and ninety-nine. Three hundred.
    Next, I place the handmade-bandage, now filled with snow, over the wound. I hiss in pain. Wrapping the cloth around my leg and tying it in a firm knot, I stretch the leg back out. If only I had paid more attention to the Healers class.
    "So, what's next?" I ask the falling snowflakes. Of course, they don't reply. I already know the answer, anyway. Wait. Wait and heal. Then, I make my move.

***

    Arlyn
        
    "Please, Arlyn?" Rachie whines through the phone. I roll my eyes.
    "Rachie, no."
    "But the walls are swimming, Arlyn," she babbles. The heavy bass of the music pounds through her phone.
    "That's because you're drunk, Rachie. If you don't have a ride home, you shouldn't have gone to a night club in the first place. I'm done being your babysitter."
    She makes some incoherent complaining before I hang up, scowling. I press my head into my hands, eyes straining to look at the trigonometry whirling before my eyes. I sigh. Of course, I have to pick up my drunk sister the night before my exam. Just perfect.
    I stand from my chair, planting my hands on my back to stretch. A few of my vertebrae pop in succession.
    My coat is in my hand before I realize it, my movements on autopilot and my brain feeling fuzzy.
    "I'm picking up Rachie, Mom!" I call. I leave before her response comes, slamming the door behind me. I know what she would say, anyway. She'd scold me for going out alone in the night when the Ice Dwellers are likely on the prowl. Then she'd scold me for letting Rachie go out alone. As if that's my fault.
    It's a cold night, and I pull my coat tighter to my skin. Looking up, the snowflakes stretch on for as long as I can see. They continue to bombard the soil, ruthlessly attacking every beautiful flower and blade of grass in sight.
    I curse at the state of the car. White powder covers the roof and windshield, and the door is frozen shut.
    The ground is icy. I hold my hands in front of me in case I need to protect my poor shins from a fall.
    The car is slow to start, and I grumble while continuously revving the engine. White breath fogs up the windshield, and I curse a little more. At the snow. At Rachie. At the car, and at my stupid math teacher for giving me an exam on such short notice.
    When the old lemon finally starts, I speed off. I'm surprised I ever passed my drivers' test. Especially in this weather, the car slips and slides over the road, back wheels little more than useless.
    I flick on the front headlights. Neither comes on, and another string of vulgar words streams from my mouth. Wow, I think with a dark chuckle. I'm colourful tonight.
    My phone rings with another call from Rachie. I glance down, reaching with one hand to answer. That is until a thud rocks the car.
    I yelp in surprise. My eyes shoot up in time to see a flash of white hair as the girl falls.

***

    Seeka

    My heart jumps nervously in my chest as I wait for my chance. I cling onto a thick tree for support, watching the glowing yellow eyes of those mechanical Land Dweller-carrying beasts flash by. When the coast is clear, I'll slip across the road. No one will see me. I just have to wait until there are no more glowing eyes.
    My leg is much better thanks to the snow, although the scarring process has barely just begun. I glance down at it anxiously and worry my lip with my teeth. It will slow me down, although I should still be faster than the average Land Dweller.
    The stream of beasts stops, and I take off without another look down the pavement.
    My leg is slower than I had thought, and my energy is drained from snow healing. Even worse, the night sky is starting to clear up, which means that my snow healing won't work anymore--and visibility will be better for the Land Dwellers.
    I hear the shriek of the beast before I see it. The metal creature slams into my side, throwing me across the pavement. I land roughly on the loose cobblestone at the side of the road, my leg screaming in pain. I smack my head against the ground. Instantly, nausea washes over me as my vision blurs. A word races through my head. Concussion.
    The side of the metal thing opens and shuts with a bang, and a worried voice follows.
    "Oh no," it murmurs. "Oh, no, no, no..."
    The boy kneels beside me. It's too dark to see his face, but I know who it is anyway. A Land Dweller. I try to move, to run, to jump away, but my body doesn't obey.
    "Are you okay?" He asks worriedly, too scared to do anything else. When I don't respond, he continues, "Okay, it's okay. It's okay, right? It's okay."
    It's absolutely not okay.
    "I'm just gonna...I'll take you to the hospital, okay? Okay."
    "No," I moan, head throbbing. Everything inside of me aches. "Ice."
    This time, he jumps back, scrambling away from me. I worry for a moment that he's going to get right back into his contraption and make it push me again. He stands a few meters away, trembling.
    "You're..." he begins. His eyes trail down to the bloodied makeshift bandage on my leg. "You're that girl. The one in the woods."
    My eyes droop heavily, and I can't nod. I close my eyes and mutter, "Ice."
    On the opposite side of the road, a second metal beast, bigger this time, squeals by. Its bright eyes pass over me before the machine halts. The boy before me looks anxiously back and forth. A woman steps out of the new mechanical thing.
    "Is that..." she starts, then begins to laugh. Her hand claps the boy on the shoulder. "Well done, kid. You caught yourself an Ice Dweller!"
    I want to scream, to run, but I can't move. The boy fake laughs and gives her a weak reply. My eyes can't even open. Since when were eyelids so heavy?
    I stop listening. Surprisingly strong arms lift me, and it's all I can do to keep my head from tipping. The arms put me somewhere gently, somewhere soft that smells dusty. A slam follows that can only mean they put me inside one of the beasts.
    "No," I groan, my voice sounding warped and distant. But it's too late. The mechanical creature roars back to life.

   ***

    When I wake, my head still pounds. My eyes feel heavy, but my mind runs as if on an electrical current. The air is pleasantly cold. When I blink myself awake, nothing spins anymore. My stomach doesn't churn with acid. I breathe down gulps of winter air, white puffs of air rolling from my lips.
    A fire crackles in its pit a little ways away, a figure in a dark brown coat hunched over it. He pokes the fire halfheartedly with a twig. It crackles enough for me to think I can get away without him noticing.
    Big mistake. I shift slightly and realize with a jolt that my hands are tied around the tree behind me.
    If I can just shimmy out of--
    My foot crunches in the dry snow. The boy's eyes snap to mine immediately, and I swallow the lump in my throat. Panic settles newly into me.
    Until he does something unexpected. He smiles.

    ***

    Arlyn 

    "You're awake," I say. Her icy eyes glare back at me as she struggles noiselessly against her ties. My cheeks flush red, and not from the cold.
    The awkward silence lingers. I scramble behind her to release her from the cloth binding her wrists to the tree. "Sorry, sorry, I just--I didn't want you attacking me or something in my sleep."
    She rubs her wrists. I hadn't bound her with anything more than the cloth she'd been using as a bandage, but it apparently held strong.
    The girl stares back at me, unblinking. Her silvery eyes are cold. Unforgiving. Locks of her thin white hair blow across her, bright in stark contrast to her dark face and full lips. She looks ethereal.
    "Arlyn," I blurt out. "I mean, my name is Arlyn. My first name. I mean, I have a last name too, but...nevermind."
    She stares back.
    "What's your name?" I ask hopefully. She blinks, furrowing her eyebrows. Still no response.
    I continue, "Do you...do you speak my language?"
    Her eyes narrow, and she scoffs. "Of course, I do. It's the only way I can survive." She speaks with a peculiar accent, one with sharp "r"s and deep, bubbly vowels.
    "Oh."
    I don't know what else to say.    
    We lapse into another silence. She pushes past me forcefully and sits in the middle of the clearing. She can't settle, for whatever reason. She squirms in the thin layer of snow, fidgeting. When her eyes snap open again, I realize why. The fire.
    She tilts her head to the side, casually evaluating the fire with those captivating silver eyes. Orange flames flicker yellow in her irises. Her fingers tap in a seemingly random rhythm on her knees.
    "Uh," I start. "What are you doing?"
    She shushes me. "I'm communicating." Her eyes don't move from the licking tendrils of fire.
    Communicating with who? Other Ice Dwellers? I open my mouth to ask the question, but a ripple of wind through the trees silences me. I shudder. That wasn't a natural gust, whatever that was.
    The wind twists around us in a haunting dance. The girl tilts her head to the side. In a burst of cold air, the wind sweeps over the fire, extinguishing it.
    She opens her eyes. I hadn't even noticed she closed them. A small smile comes over her face, just as shock comes over mine.
    "You did that," I mumble. "You controlled the wind. That was what you were communicating with?"
    She stands noiselessly, back straight, eyes radiant. "You should not have saved me. You should have thrown me to the side of the road. If your people find out what you did, they'll arrest or kill you. If I took you to my people, they'd likely arrest or kill you, too."
    I glance at the snow beneath my boots, cheeks flushed. "You're welcome for saving you."    
    The girl barks an outright laugh. "I wouldn't have even needed saving if you little metal pet didn't attack me first."
    "Metal pet...you mean, my car?"
    "Oh, is that what those are called? Terrible name, if you ask me. In my culture, one-syllable names are a sign of simplicity, insignificance, or ignorance. Two-syllable names, like yours and mine, are the best; they symbolize levelheadedness, intelligence, leadership, control. Any names longer than two syllables mean you're spoiled, stuck-up, or stuffy."
    "You never did tell me your name."
    She blinks. "Correct."
    Before I can delve deeper, she rips a section of cloth from her shirt and soaks it in snow. I sit cross-legged behind her, curious. My fingers grow cold even through my gloves, so I stuff them in my coat pockets. The girl takes the now-soaked piece of cloth and wraps it around her head. Heat climbs up my stomach as I avoid looking at her bare skin where she ripped her shirt.
    "What's that for?"
    "It will heal me." She finishes fastening it like a headband around her head and lies down in the snow. She places her head on my knee. I freeze, my whole body stiffening up. I try to focus on the snow carpeting those pale eyelashes. After a moment, she closes her eyes and remains like that. I feel myself relax, though my heart seems to stab at my chest.
    "Seeka," she whispers, so softly I barely hear it.
    "Hmm?"
    "My name," she repeats, eyes closed. "It's Seeka. In your language, it means North."
    She settles further into the snow, smiling against its soft bite. I watch silently as her breathing evens. I brush a lock of white hair from her face. Her skin is cold as ice, and I yank my fingers away.
    She is stunning.
    Seeka. It fits her.

    **

    Two Months Later

    Seeka

    
I wait in hiding until the Raiders leave. They huddle around the surface and press their hands to the thick ice. It drops in chunks, raining down on them until there's a gap big enough for them to leave. Idris, who leads the group, shakes ice shards from his hair and motions for the others to follow.
    I'm small, thin, and one of the fastest in our dwelling. They don't even notice when I carefully slip through the hole after them.
    I dart behind the trees, careful to wait until they're long gone to make my move.
    The Land Dwellers' town is on high alert after our nightly supply raids. Arlyn is generous enough to share his food with me whenever I visit. He says he can purchase his supplies with coins. When he showed me what coins are, I was confused. Why would anyone trade food for a slab of metal when they could barter valuable goods with each other? Currency makes no sense.
    The streetlights are powerfully bright, putting Idris and the others in the far distance on display. If any Land Dwellers are still awake, Idris could be easily spotted and reported to authorities. Security patrols the town, watchpeople with their strange weapons and handheld lights sneaking around.
    Don't do anything stupid.
    As I pass by a quaint shop that reads "Markos' Antiques", a hand grabs my arm and yanks me back. I let out a yelp and prepare my frost in case I need to freeze the attacker.
    "Hey, hey, it's just me," Arlyn whispers, pulling me further into the slithering pool of shadows. I let out the long breath I didn't realize I was holding.
    I smack his arm. "I could have frozen you alive, Arlyn! You told me to slip through your window again!"
    He hushes me. "I know. I know. It's just--my sister's friend is sleeping over tonight, and they're still up watching a movie. They would hear if you slipped in."
    I shrug. "Rachie has caught me four times already. She loves me."
    "Yes, but her friend won't necessarily love you. Her mother is the chief of police, and her father was...well...frozen alive."
    My heart squeezes. "Oh. Yes, that would be a problem."
    A flash of light bends around the corner, accompanied by echoing footsteps. Arlyn stiffens. Frost blossoms along my arms from shock, and a sudden chill warps the air.
    "An officer?"
    Arlyn nods grimly. He turns around and rattles the door handle of the shop. His fist pounds against the door. I glance behind us cautiously. The light comes closer. Within less than a minute, it will find us. Find me.
    Arlyn drops to his knees, pulling up the doormat and searching along the ground with his hands.
    "Come on, Markos," he grunts. "Pull through for once."
    "What are you doing?" I whisper, laying a hand on his shoulder. Even through his coat, he shudders at my cold fingertips.
    "The owner of this shop is my friend," he replies. "He must have a key lying around here somewhere. I know Markos."
    The puddle of light looms closer. I shrink back into the shadows of the shop's overhang. We don't have more than fifteen seconds until the officer finds us.
    "Tell your friend not to hate me," I mutter. He looks up at me with concerned eyes.
    "What are you--"
    I grasp the door handle with both hands, pressing the ice surging through my veins into its cool metal. It shudders with a thick layer of ice.
    "Seeka, no," he urges me.
    "It's better than getting caught, right?" I tighten my hold on the handle and snap it off with a sickening crack. My lips curl up. Finally, Idris taught me something useful in my Raiding training.
    The door opens with only a gentle push. I sneak inside and pull Arlyn after me, closing the door behind us.
    He breathes out a sigh of relief. "That was--"
    "Shut up," I hiss, pressing us against the back of the door.
    Through the shop windows, the pale, taunting glow of the officer's light floods the room, lighting up tables piled high with strange items. My heart flutters in my tight throat.
    Please don't notice the handle. Please don't notice the handle. Please don't notice the handle.
    
The officer doesn't notice the handle, and passes by without so much as a glance to the door.
    After a long while, Arlyn lets out a shaky laugh, breath coming fast.
    "That was close."

    **

    Arlyn
    
    
Her eyes light up as they search Markos' cluttered shop. His display of glass paperweights. The russian doll. The teapots and cast iron pans. The dusty rocking chair in the corner.
    Her hands close around a snow globe, eyes full of curiosity.
    "What is this?"
    I smile and take it gently from her hands. It didn't take me long after meeting Seeka to know that the Ice of North is strong; however, after these two months, I take pride knowing that I've begun to melt the layers.
    "Watch." I shake the orb, and flakes of snow whirl around the little statues of a snowman and ice skater inside. She gasps, then giggles. It warms my heart.
    "Can I touch it?"
    I nod and hand the snow globe to her. She pats the surface, watching the flurry dance around the inside of the glass ball. She closes her eyes, her hands turning the sphere over and over in her hands.
    Her head tilts to the side, a white lock of hair falling into her eyes. "Pretty. Not real, but pretty."
    I chuckle softly, then take her hand. "If you think that's cool, come look at this."
    We bump around in the dim moonlight. I nearly knock over Markos' prized bobblehead, but stop myself.
    Finally, I find the gramophone. She runs her hand over the golden metal horn, collecting a layer of dust upon her fingertips. A stack of records is piled up beside the machine.
    With a smile, I pull one from its sleeve and put it on the turntable. It slowly begins to spin.
    In a moment, the machine sparks to life with a crackle and a spurt of static. Seeka jumps back, eyes wide.
    The song begins to play. It's an old one, slow, with a plaintive saxophone and drums.
    Her eyes don't tear away from the gramophone. She looks as though she either wants to play with it or tear it to shreds.
    "It's okay," I murmur, taking her hand. "It's just music. It's not going to hurt you."
    She gives me a terrified smile. "Is it communicating messages?"
    I laugh, putting her arms around my neck and mine around her waist. "No, it's for entertainment. For dancing."
    She raises her eyebrows.
    "Ready? Just move along with the music. Follow me." She does as I say, although not without tense, nervous shoulders.
    I give her a smile I hope is comforting. "You're doing fine, North."
    "I do not know who invented the dancing, but it is terrifying," she says.
    I grin. "Yeah, dancing is the worst."
    Nonetheless, she lays her head on my shoulder.
    We slow down, moving to our own beat, until we don't even follow the music anymore. The next song plays, and the next, and when the album stops playing, we continue moving. Her heartbeat hammers softly against my chest.
    I bury my face in her white ring of hair.
    "Maybe the dancing isn't so bad."
    I chuckle.
    I stifle a gasp when she kisses me. Her fingers reach up and play with my hair. My fingers tighten around her waist, and we stop dancing altogether.
    Her lips are soft and taste salty. A hot flush climbs up my neck and settles in my ears.
    She pulls away, a grin playing across her features.
    "I think that was a little better."
    I bite my lip, blushing. "Me too."

    **

    Seeka

    The sun is already splashing salmon pink and indigo across the sky when we return to the opening in the ice.
    Arlyn whistles. "You guys can just...do this? Make ice holes this big with just a sweep of your hand?"
    I nod. "You can hit people with cars. That's pretty impressive, too."
    He grimaces. "Not for my driving skills, it isn't."
    I pat his shoulder, looking across to the fading inky dawn. "I have to go. Idris and the others will be back soon, and they won't like it if I'm gone."
    He smirks. "Whatever you say. I know you'll be back tonight."
    "Your place?"
    He nods. "See you then, North."
    I smile back and slip into the hole. The air is comfortingly cold down here.
    I glance back up, spotting him through the thick layer of ice. His face is twisted by the glass-like surface.
    He gets down on his stomach and presses one gloved hand against the ice on his side. I smile, and line my hand up with his on my side.
    I had been taught to fear him; I'd never imagined I would love him.
    "Until tonight, North."
Prompt One: The Wall Between Us

Words: 4737

WOOOOO this took me a LONG time to write. This is for Just_A_Memory's contest, #boredwriter. I have literally been working on this piece since one of the first days this contest was open, and I just made it in before the deadline. There's been lots of planning, character development, writing, editing, rewriting, and proofreads that have gone into this little project, so Corinne, I hope you like it! I'm sorry it's so long, so thank you for putting up with me for that. Sort of a slow burn into the between-a-wall prompt, but I got where I wanted to. Thank you to anyone who actually read this whole thing, and I hope you all are having wonderful days! :) <3

For J.A.M.: I saw that you're taking a small break due to mental health and other issues. I am sorry this is happening and I hope that everything gets better. Keep being strong, love.

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  • June 30, 2020 - 2:41pm (Now Viewing)

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1 Comment
  • Anne Blackwood

    Woahhh. This is really quite magical. I'm very impressed with you for writing it (and somewhat impressed with myself for snubbing my impatient nature and finishing it).


    5 months ago