One Hundred Years: Ice

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Enjolras was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

They walked over the frozen fields that surrounded the House, and under their boots came a cracking noise, and he could feel hard earth crumble into harder, smaller pieces. He whispered to his father, "Is this ice?" and his father whispered back, "Not yet."

They passed the trees, and the trees were blanketed over with a quilt of grey and white, from the sky and the snow. The slender, tall trunks were covered with a clear glass, and too cold to touch. He whispered to his father, "Is this ice?" and his father whispered back, "Not yet."

The wind danced about them, and kissed his face, and every time its lips were pressed to his white cheeks, he felt less, numbed. Wind caught in his eyelashes and his curls, and slumbered there, lacing him with its cosmetic. He slipped his hand into his coat pocket, reaching to the very linings, and his small fingers closed around warmth.

He smiled a little, and his young, innocent eyes sparkled in delight. The small paper dragon his father had made for him writhed against his palm, and snakelike skin brushed dry against the line that meant life. Tiny claws hooked around his fingers, and tinier teeth nibbled his wrist. He stopped, childishly enthralled.

Suddenly he realised he was left behind, and he walked on, hurrying to catch up with his father. His breath made white clouds in the air as he panted.

He caught his father's sleeve in his free hand and hung on, stumbling over a stray rock and giggling in surprise. His father looked fondly at him, and brushed snowflakes from his golden hair.

They went on, and the dragon singed a hole in his pocket.

At last, they reached the top of a hill. He looked down into the valley below it, and saw a huge flat disk nestled in the bottom. It was white as snow and white as his skin, and white as his breath, and he whispered, "Is this ice?" His father whispered back, "Yes, this is ice."

And it was.

They walked slowly down the hill, however, to show respect, and they came to the ice. He stepped onto it wonderingly, and his boots skidded. His eyes widened, and he took another tentative step. When nothing happened, and he didn't fall, he bravely rushed out.

This time, he did fall. The dragon hissed, and crawled through the hole in his pocket. It climbed onto the back of his hand, and blew a little cloud of crimson flame into the frosty air. He laughed, and stroked along its scaly back, feeling it arch to his touch. It yawned, throwing out another blaze of red, and he withdrew himself so as not to be burned.

When it curled up in a nest of powdery snow and slept, he lost interest. He stood and looked up at the grey sky, and the grey moon that shone in the afternoon. He felt the solid, sacred ice beneath himself.

He thought he heard his father speak, but wasn't sure and didn't want to find out. He had no wish to spoil the pretty magic. He stayed still.

It seemed like years later when his father came out on the ice and took his hand, telling him quietly, "It's time to go home." He began to obey unquestioningly, but stopped at the thought of the dragon. He turned back for it, and found that all that was left in the mark in the snow was a little yellowed paper figure. He picked it up and put it back in his pocket, and then he followed his father home.

He never saw the ice again in that place, and when he was old enough, he left the House. The paper dragon stayed in his bedroom, asleep forever on the pillow. He forgot about it easily, and it crept behind the door in his mind where he kept the good things about the House. A slithery tail yanked the door shut behind itself.

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Enjolras remembered that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. And he looked down at the blood trickling from his throat, and thought for a moment how much it looked like crimson flame against white ice.

It pleased him, and the little child he thought he'd killed or locked away couldn't help but ask his nonexistent father, "Is this ice?"

The Municipal Guardsman raised his dark eyebrows at the falling angel. "Not yet." Have to wait for the River to Hades for that, sonny.

Then the young man died, with a smile of anticipation gracing his pale lips.

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