This is another short story, in the third draft or so. Inspired by Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child, with a bit of a lovecraftian tilt. It is a fail in regards to horror, which is what I intended, but I got a lot of really good feedback and it is undergoing another big revision that changes a lot and hopefully will bring it into more of an understandable, and yet horror styled story.
Child of Snow
By: Charles S. Gilmore
Piece by piece, the body was formed, shaped by hands both calloused and worn.
That was how the child came to be, not born of a woman, but shaped by parents whose child bearing days had long since passed. They were an older couple, carving a snowman with the first fallen flakes of the year. How little they knew, how little they suspected. It had been years since their last child moved away, formed a family of her own, and bid farewell to the Canadian landscape in favor of the warmer climes of the United States.
A jab in the side, more uncomfortable than painful, then another as a second stick was planted opposite the first. The child endured, unmoving and silent as the ice it took form from, it knew its task, its mission, its life’s work, short though it may be. It could not risk the humans learning of its true nature yet, it was already at risk thanks to the canine they kept, growling at the child, well aware of the danger it presented. The beast was even so bold as to urinate on the child’s snowman cocoon. Though not yet fully formed, the child delivered a strong kick to the beast’s side while the couple was not looking, a necessary risk to end the searing pain of the dog’s warm liquid. The dog yipped and jumped back out of reach, as the urine-stained snow crumbled from the snowman’s base from the movement of the child within. The couple smirked, and joked about the dog being a coward, before replacing the fallen snow with clean snowfall. The child grinned beneath the snowman’s blank stare.
The snowman was complete, and the couple gazed on their work with approval, retiring to their cabin to warm themselves before bed, leaving the dog to return to its own resting place in the nearby barn, though it kept a watch on the child for many hours still.
Darkness descended with the setting sun, a gibbous moon reflecting only a remnant of light upon the snow. The child grew strong with the cold as warmth left the land and more snow began to fall with the arrival of a fresh storm.
Without words the child spoke to the wind, gathering valuable intelligence. Eons had come and gone, changing the land and its rulers. The beings of warmth and fire now slumbered, deep within the earth where their heat could not escape. The wind though, it never slumbered, it was not in its nature, neither did the wind care who ruled, for it maintained a freedom of its own no matter the state of the earth. The wind spoke of those who had formed the child, humans they were, an interesting race, weak and yet strong. The rocks might speak of humankind’s appearing, their births and deaths, but the wind knew more. Humankind was complicated, beings of light and dark, of their own choosing. Even in death they lived on, shedding mortality and continuing to grow into something more. The child cared little beyond that, its task involved only these two mortal creatures, beyond that was the concern of greater powers.
Soon the moon neared its zenith in the cloud ridden sky above. It was time. Slowly the child of snow shook itself free of the excess material that had sheltered its birth into the material realm. The cabin stood before it, holding the key to the child’s mission in its depth, a mission given it by a greater being of cold yet sleeping, yet stirring, the mortals would be the key to the end of the long sleep.
The child neared the cabin, silently moving through the snow, and peered in through clear glass windows. It would need to use caution to complete the deed entrusted to it. Though the child was not truly a child, being since the world was formed and only taking the shape of a human child at this time for its mission, guided by the will of the sleeping great ones. It must not fail.
Inside, the cabin was polished pine, rich with the scent of amber, and warmed by a fire contained in a stone furnace, around which sat the couple. They gazed into the flames, occasionally tossing a fresh log into the blaze, stoking the fire for the night as they shared each other’s company.
The child ducked from sight upon noting the fire, lest the conflagration should inform its masters and doom the child’s plans to failure, but soon it realized this flame had not even the presence to do that much. The fire in the cabin was weak, no more than an animal, tamed by humans and given life at their will, and returned to sleep at their will as well.
The humans themselves were old as mortals went, but still had some strength to them. While their skin was wrinkled, and brown as dirt from the cursed suns burning rays, their limbs held the strength of daily labors, mostly involving the care of some dumb beasts in the nearby barn, and the feeding of the pet flame, or so the wind whispered.
The wind cared nothing for the humans, they came and went, they dwelt with the wind, and they hid from it as any creature of mortal make.
The child observed a while longer, changing appearance now and then until it believed itself fit for its role. It could not hide its nature entirely, only wear a mask of sorts. To the touch it would ever be cold, formed of ice and frost, pale as the fallen snow it had made its physical self from, but it could take on a little color, and shape itself so as to appear to wear the garb that the humans seemed to favor. The clothing would do them no good in time, the cold would win this night.
Stealing itself for the torture that awaited before it could complete its task, the child approached the door, making sure to blink its ice blue eyes and take in air, though it had no lungs to require it. The child knocked.
A minute passed, and it knocked again, unsure if the humans had heard. Then the door opened, and the man stood before it.
“What is this? A child? You must be frozen half to death. Come in and warm yourself by the fire, and tell us where you came from? Are their others caught in this storm with you?”
The child said nothing, not knowing how to speak with a human voice, only understanding the words with the winds translation. It nodded in the negative, chastising itself as it did so, because if one or both of the humans went out in search of others, it wouldn’t have to enter the sweltering cabin to deal with them, too late now though.
Perspiration broke out across the child’s body as the heat of the fireplace encircled it. Even the dumb flame recognized an enemy when it saw one, though the humans were clueless. Strange creatures to have survived so long with so little sense. The man guided the child closer to the fire, mistaking the perspiration for melting snow and potential frostbite. The child gritted white teeth against the pain of warmth, regretting its choice of form, realizing that the humans were fitter than it had at first thought. It would need to handle the humans separately, instead of together as it had at first planned in order to accomplish the sacrifice for the great ones, first the male, then the female. Sacrifices for the waking of the child’s masters. The seal of time must be unraveled.
The couple questioned the child, their faces creased as they sought to understand what had brought it to their place in the night, and where it had come from. They gave up when no answers were forthcoming, and instead brought the child a warm drink and food. Grimacing, the child accepted so as to dispel their worries and suspicions, though it left the drink untouched, it could not endanger its mission by destroying its form with such hot fluid. The food it ingested, but only after letting it cool considerably, taking the risk of worrying the couple more with its hesitation in favor of what little comfort could be gleaned from the present circumstance.
The child plotted what to do next, but the heat was so great that it had to focus its strength into not melting on the spot, leaving little thought available for more sinister thinking. It was also true that the humans were as interesting to the child as it was to them. How had such creatures come to roam the world, to survive with such fragile forms and short lives?
Above the mantle sat a row of framed pictures, showing more humans with the couple. Their family? The concept was not one the child knew, it existed and did the greater beings wills, or else it suffered at their wrath. United, these pathetic mortals had survived far longer than it seemed possible. That unity would have to be undone.
A part of the child wondered though. What a family might be like, how might its existence differ if its own worked as one by choice, rather than by force of the mighty, the lesser, like itself, always vying with each other for approval of the powerful? Could the lesser ones accomplish something like the greater did, simply by working together and uniting their strength?
It silenced such thoughts, the sleeping masters might hear and be displeased. They did not tolerate rebellion, and it had worked so long just to be chosen for this mission, to have the glory due one who undid the sleep of ages.
The couple spoke with each other quietly, features creased in a manner bespeaking concern. Had they seen through its guise? It listened intently but couldn’t make out the words, and the wind offered no aid this time. Then the man arose and brought a heavy blanket. The rough cloth was hell to the touch, trapping the fires heat and holding it to the child’s body. The couple left then, retiring to another room for their rest. As soon as they had gone, the child removed the cover and fled to the nearest window to draw strength from the cold outside. It could not complete its duty while so weakened by heat. The fire must first be slain.
The couple had shut a door behind them, leaving the child alone, it could act without giving away the element of surprise, so long as it acted quickly. The fire sputtered and spit as the child threw the cup of water on it, but even this weak flame was strong enough to endure so small an attack. Opening the door, the child called to the snow, drawing it in through the doorway with the winds aid, reveling in the rejuvenating frost that came with it. Soon the fire was smothered. Leaving only cooling coals behind. Now was the time to act, the humans would notice before long as their home lost the warmth the flame had provided.
The child drew together the melted snow from extinguishing the fire, infusing it with an iota of its power in order to freeze the liquid into a blade of ice, a sacrificial dagger to awaken the masters.
With weapon in hand, the child opened the door the couple had left by, dagger at the ready to rend and kill, but the door only opened on a hallway, with other doors leading from it. The couple must have gone through one of them.
The nearest door first. Just a closet. The second paid off though, opening on a bedroom. Unease filled the child as it neared the bed with steps made silent by a layer of snow pushed before it, the child raised the dagger, freezing the snow in the doorway with its power, the humans would not escape that way easily should they survive the next moment.
“Henry, close the door would you, your letting the cold in, go throw another log on the fire would you.” The woman grumbled from the bed without looking, drawing the covers more tightly around herself. Where was the husband? That feeling of unease had come because it had not confirmed the presence of both of the humans, and the man was gone.
“Henry! I said close the door.” The woman barked, turning to look for her husband, confusion creasing her features as she saw only the child. Then she saw the dagger, and screamed.
Leaping forward, the child plunged the dagger down, cutting deep into the woman. Blood spilled from the woman’s mortal wound, bubbling out to soak the blankets as the child withdrew the blade, readying for a final blow.
The man arrived then, a bellow of rage on his lips as he saw the child’s work. He slipped on the snow in the doorway though and fell to the ground, breaking his charge. The child laughed, its work would be done all the sooner, but then it was on the ground as well, pain emanating from its arm as the couple’s dog arrived and sank its teeth into the child.
The canine had the arm with the knife pinned in its bite, and no amount of pounding with the other arm managed to remove it. Across the room, the man was getting back to his feet, reaching for a weapon with death in his eyes as the woman ceased to breath. The child acted quickly, with a force of will, it severed the pinned arm from its body. It would gain a better one soon.
Caught off guard, the dog hesitated at its seeming success in stopping the enemy. The child took advantage of that pause, and gripped the dog in a one-armed chokehold until it collapsed.
The man hit the child next, wielding a wooden bat he had grabbed from next to the bed. The child rolled with the blow, grabbing its blade from the ground as it went. The man charged, bringing the bat down in a great two-handed blow that would surely have destroyed the child’s form had it hit, but it did not. The child sidestepped the blow and brought the dagger up into the man’s heart, warm blood oozing painfully down the knife and over its remaining arm.
The man collapsed and died.
Now it was time to undo the seal and awaken its masters. Taking the dagger from the man’s chest, the child began to draw with the blood, swooping runes of power long lost to mortal knowledge. The wind helped, gusting about in a frenzied hurricane that spread the blood with masterful strokes. They finished the work quickly, and the child gazed down on the complex design.
The child sensed as the others awoke, their thoughts joining with its own, not bounded by distance as they rose from slumber far away in the North and South, where glacial bodies took on new life, an army to cover the glove in glorious ice once again.
The ground shook then, and the child frowned, none of its kind were so close as to cause such a thing. Running outside. The child questioned the rock and wind. They laughed.
To the South West rose a pillar of ash and fire, which the wind said was from the place named Yellowstone by the humans. The cold’s mortal enemy, rather than falling further into slumber, as they ought to have with the completing of the summoning, were instead rising as well. Great beings of fire and heat, lumbering out of the depths of the earth.
Confused. The child hurried back inside to inspect its work. The great ones would not be pleased if it had done something wrong. No. Everything was in place, and perfectly set. Then the child looked up. There on the ceiling of the bedroom, drawn with the same perfection, were yet more symbols. Betrayal! The wind laughed at the child’s realization before replying, how could it betray one with whom it had never sided? The child served its leaders out of fear. The wind and stone served a greater power.
What power was there that could be greater? The child questioned, but the wind did not respond. Instead, a light grew in the room, not hot or cold, yet brighter than any light the child had ever seen, and within that light a human male stood, not a mortal, but one who smelled of ages, even more than the greatest ice beings.
“So begins the great battle, and the judgement of the world.” The man said, with a voice that while gentle, shook the cabin like the brashest thunder. “Gog and Magog, humanity and the world. A great battle to usher in the millennial reign. You frost born have served out of fear, and been instrumental in bringing this about, a tool in hands you did not even know were there, for your kind have forgotten the one who formed them so long ago.”
The man was gone then, as quickly as he had appeared, and the child did not know what to do, until, from across the world, the great ones spoke, calling it to battle.