The Boy in the SnowA Chapter by Rocki-san
The snow covered the remnants of nature’s labor into a blank slate; the fuss of autumn silenced in a cacophony of white. The winter silence was nearly deafening as the snow captured all the life around the forest, erasing the previous year in one night’s storm.
The boy ran through the knee-deep snow, the beauty of the bleached forest lost as it only seemed to keep him from his goal. His skin was reddened from the fierce cold and his breath had long lost its frost. He wasn’t prepared for the snow, in fact his clothes provided no protection against the cruelty of winter. His legs burned from pushing the snow aside, his chest aching from his rapid heartbeat and his lungs desperate for more of the frozen air but he forced himself to carry on.
A root hidden by the blizzard tripped him and he soon appeared to be erased. His legs turned against him, refusing to pick him up to carry on. He coughed, choking on the icy air and somehow managed to push himself off the ground and look around him.
Ice clung to his prematurely gray locks, his face numb as he looked up at the tall birch in their jackets of crystallized water. The sun was quickly setting and he pulled himself up, using the trunk of a maple to steady himself. A willow tree with gnarly branches and protruding roots caught his eye; there was less snow there and a dry spot to maybe start a fire.
Summing up what little strength he had left, he let go of the maple and tried to run for the willow; if he walked or crawled, the snow would have over taken him. The boy made it to the tree, using its roots to pull him closer to the trunk and out of the snow. He patted off the snow that clung to him and hugged his body into a ball.
The cold hurt now and he looked down to see that his bare feet were turning blue and he could no longer wiggle his toes. He painfully stood, grabbing branches off the tree and trying to start a fire with the wet wood nature provided.
It took him several tries and a few moments of giving up before a small fire started and he put his feet close to the tiny flame and hugged his arms around his torso. He shivered, his eyes burning from exhaustion but he tried to force himself to stay awake. He couldn’t sleep out there, exposed to winter’s harsh rules.
Before he knew it, he was dozing off, no longer cold and no longer afraid. He didn’t mind so much about sleeping anymore. He was tired and didn’t mind the frozen air; far off he almost heard voices but he didn’t pay them any mind.
“Hey,” the boy with the group of hunters said and pointed through the trees. The men all turned, expecting to find a deer. The tag-a-long ran to the sacred willow tree and looked down at the unconscious boy laying there, blending in with the snow. “There’s a person here!”
The men ran over, the leader dropping his spear and removing his jacket to cover the lost boy whose fire was flickering away. He rubbed the limbs and feet of the child to start the blood flow again and turned to his second in command. “Take Niji and this boy back to the family. Have Mael treat him. Quickly, before he freezes.”
“Father, why do I have to go?” Niji, the other boy, asked with disappointment.
“It’s much too cold and the snow’s too deep, I don’t want you getting lost.” The leader stood up, handing the bundle to his second and accepting the jacket given to him.
“But you need my good eyesight! Look, he’s wearing all white but I found him!”
“Niji, go!” the leader said. “You’re not old enough to hunt.”
“Come on,” the second said and started back at a fast past the boy had trouble keeping up with. Within the hour they were back at their camp, the women and men left behind came from their tents to see what happened as the second in command carried the leader’s jacket back.
“What’s going on?” Niji’s mother ran up, noticing the young feet.
“Don’t worry, Anne, this isn’t your son,” the second turned to see Niji walking into the camp, looking exhausted. “Tell me Mael is in?”
“Yes, he’s in his tent having tea,” Anne said, hugging her son. “Why? Who is that?”
“He’s a boy we found under a willow!”
There were murmurs around the camp but the second in command ignored them, moving to the tent in the center of the village.
“Mael,” the man said outside, waiting to be turned away. When he wasn’t he stepped inside. The old man sat with blankets pulled around him, holding a cup in his hand with a grimace.
“This tea doesn’t deserve to be called such. It’s water with a few evergreen needles in it.” Mael said. “I miss real tea.”
“Mael,” the man sighed and set the boy down on the sick bed. “We found him under the willow. He’s unconscious, nearly frostbitten. Can you help him?”
“Of course I can help him!” Mael sighed, moving over to the boy. “These were the only clothes he had?”
“Yeah,” the man said and watched the elder pour warm water into a bowl and gently set the boy’s feet in to warm them back up.
“Go back to your hunt, Jacque.” Mael said.
The hunter stood and left the tent with the leader’s jacket, leaving the stunned members of his clan to wonder what had happened. Niji wanted to follow but he held back, obeying orders and looking over to the tent.
“Anne!” The oldest man in the clan called from his tent and Niji’s mother let go of him and went into the tent. “I need medicine before this boy comes down with something we won’t be able to fight.”
“A boy?” Anne looked over to the sickbed curiously. “Where did he come from?”
“I don’t know,” Mael said. “Go. Medicine, quickly.”
Anne nodded and moved past her son quickly. Niji knocked on the wooden post of the tent and then quietly stepped inside.
“Where’d the boy come from?” Mael asked as Niji sat down.
“He was under the willow tree, grandpa,” Niji said. “I saw him.”
“I don’t know, I looked up and he was there.”
“He’s very peculiar looking,” Mael said as he looked at the boy’s fair skin and light hair. His thin, white clothes adding to the mystery of how he was spotted. “You must be connected.”
“How else would you have spotted him?” Mael lay a warm clothe on the child’s head. “He’s not wearing a mask.”
“He must be a loner,” Niji said. “Anyone in big groups wears a mask.”
“Loners aren’t as well fed, the lesions on his body seem to be human-made, too.”
“So he’s a runaway,” Niji shrugged. “Either way, what are we going to do with him?”
“It depends on if he lives,” Mael said and sat back as the newcomer coughed violently, shivering uncontrollably. “He’s lucky he’s not going to lose his feet.”
“Niji, we should leave Mael and the boy alone, come, we have to sterilize the village.” Anne left the herbs to the elder and then started towards the door.
“Don’t worry, Niji, you’ll be the first I call when he wakes.”
© 2011 Rocki-san
Added on December 5, 2011
Last Updated on December 5, 2011
AboutHey, I'm Rocki! I live on a 14-mile long island where there isn't really anything to do so I write. I'm an Anthropology major and willing to read your stories or books if requested as long as you give.. more..