The Sound of Icicles

Posted: January 10, 2011 in Flash fiction
Tags: , ,

“If its edible, wearable, or useful, kill it.” That was his motto. He was dirty and smelled from the animal furs covering his skin, and when all was said and done, mostly insane. He had lived a solitary life for the past fifteen years. Cast out at 12 years old, he learned to fend for himself and learned rather quickly to stay away from other humans. Up in the mountains, in a small one room cabin he built, he lived off the land. When she showed up his first thoughts were “Is it useful? Scrawny, no meat and thin-skinned, killing it will be more trouble than its worth.” He turned away from her, leaving, until she spoke.
“Hey, can you help me? I’m starving, and so very cold. I’ve been wandering these mountains for I don’t even know how long. Can’t really believe I’m still alive really. Been trying to find someone, and you’re the first person I’ve seen since getting lost. Do you live up here? Is there a village nearby? a town? Anything? Please?”
He turned back, shocked and afraid by the sound of the only voice he had heard in years beside his own. He had almost forgotten what he was. Had almost forgotten that sound. She had a voice like the wind whistling through the icicles that hung from his beard. A comforting sound, and terrifying all at once. The sound of a person he once knew, who cared for him and loved him. The sound of a person who made him leave, who sent him off to live on his own and fend for himself, to live or die, because he did something…something they called bad.
He looked at the girl then, raven haired and pink, lips blue from the cold, her clothes tattered and worn, and a feeling came over him. A desire to keep her safe, to warm her and protect her. He stared into her eyes curiously.
“How are you here?” He said haltingly, his voice rusty from disuse.
Fear and curiosity filled her eyes then, warring with each other. She summoned her bravery, realizing that no matter what her decision, her life was in his hands.
“I got separated. I wandered off to explore, got lost, and when I finally found my way back, they were all gone, leaving me alone. I tried to search for them, but then the snows came, and I did the best I could just to survive until I found you.”
So many words, all at once, they hurt his head, vibrating off his skull.
“Come” was all he said in response, reaching out a hand to her, wondering all the while why he did it. She put her hand in his, too cold and weary to question her decision.
He led her to his home. She stayed silent the whole way there. Silence he knew, silence was comfort, yet a pang of sadness hit him when she didn’t speak. She was barely able to walk by the time they got there. He brought her inside as the last of her strength left her. She collapsed into his arms, unconsciousness claiming her. He put her on his bed, wrapping her in furs and starting a fire with the embers that still glowed.
She slept most of the time for the next few days, only waking long enough to eat and she spoke rarely. He never responded with more than a word or two, but he started to crave her waking hours and the sound of her voice. When she was back to full strength, she stayed still, talking of her life. He never questioned her. He realized he wanted her for himself. He needed her to stay with him. He didn’t want to share her with others. He didn’t want her to leave. With a growing fear, he knew that she would. The day would come when she would want to go back to her people and she would ask him to take her there. She would want him to go among others, with all of their noise and pain, and he knew he couldn’t do that.
She looked into his eyes and just stared. She took his hand and held it to her cheek. They stayed that way for an eternity, for a passing moment in time. She leaned in and kissed him tentatively at first, and then longer, deeper. Too soon, she pulled away. Love filled him, and pain. He wasn’t ready. She had reminded him of what it was like to be human.
“I lied to you.” She said, surprising him with her unexpected words. “I didn’t wander away. I came to search for you. For fifteen years you have lived here. All know your story, but I know your truth. Just a boy you were. So young, and I was even younger. All they knew was that you killed them all, sneaked into their homes in the dead of night, slaughtering them while they slept. What they didn’t know was that you did it for me. You did it to save me. To protect me. I was so young, and so scared, and I couldn’t tell them. I don’t think it would have mattered if I did, not really, but I still curse my cowardice. I watched as your mother cast you out, and I watched as she withered and died at the loss of you, and still I kept silent. I have lived my life with you in my heart and in my head. And now the time has come for me to return to them, to live out my days alone yet surrounded by people, loving you from afar, knowing that I have destroyed you twice.” She turned to go then, guilt in her heart that would never leave. When he saved her that night, he had also destroyed her.
“No.” He said. He reached out to pull her back. “No.” and “Forever.” Holding her to him, he remembered, remembered pain, remembered vengeance, remembered love, and peace, and happiness.

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