The Last One

The Last One

A Story by Dante Carlisle
"

Random Writing I began in a coffee shop.

"


Gil scraped at the snow crusting around the edges of his glasses. His fingers were near frozen after two hours out in the cold, so he was forced to aim by sight where his gloves scratched at the fragile glass. His vision was bad enough, with the whiteout conditions adding a layer of ice to the mix would make his task impossible.


As if it wasn't already. What came after impossible?


The search had begun with a complement of twelve men. They had ranged out from the manor in ever widening circles. The girl was only eight. Her mother had been left, weeping uncontrollably on the front steps.


There was no one in Montana that didn't know what the odds were of finding her.


Even the eyes of the younger men faltered at a distance of five feet. The snow came down so thick that Gil's tracks were covered seconds after he made them. It didn't matter.


Gil was born to snows like these. His mother had once intimated to him that she took Jack Frost as a lover. That was where Gil acquired his penchant for walking the wintry lands.


Twelve men began, but that number fell to no more than five within ten minutes. Weaklings and cowards. Men who didn't deserve the name. What kind of man could search out the warmth of a fire, knowing a young girl was out in a blizzard? The younger generations were soft. That was all there was to it.


And Gil had a debt to repay.


A lifetime before, when he was not much older than the very girl he hunted, an old, frost-bitten and wind-burned man had found him in much the same conditions. That old man had been the last one out. The last one of the search party to continue searching for a boy that was lost, scared, frozen, and alone.


Now, it was Old Gil's turn to return the favor.


His foot slid through the feet deep snow, catching something hard. The slow, measured heartbeat of the hardened campaigner skipped. His wooden hands dug at the snow, elation driving him past what his body should stand.


Layers of ice impeded his progress to uncover the girl. But he pushed through, breaking the ice off in sheets. Until he uncovered his prize.


His steps continued, dragging through the ice and snow. A frozen block of firewood disappeared in the gloom behind him. Frustration and defeat were a way of life out here in the wilderness. Gil was an old hand at taking setbacks. It wouldn't stop him finding that little girl.


An old tree rose out of the snow and darkness on his left. It was a marker, out here on the plains. Gil was almost two miles from the house.


The others had wanted to search in circles around the house, but the old wanderer had spotted the disappearing tracks at the base of the porch stairs. The girl would move in a straight line, of that Gil was certain. But, none of the other men had wanted to listen to Old Gil. Too many fools, and none of them as hardy as the weakest man of fifty years earlier.


Gil would find the girl, no matter how crazy they thought he was. Over sixty years on the plain, and he got nothing but derision for his experience. When the winters turned truly bad, and everyone left, Gil made it through. He was the son of Jack Frost, the winter held no fear for him.


His shin met resistance again, and he couldn't help but sigh in exasperation at the hope that coursed through him. He was too old for foolishness. As much as he knew his chances, his hands fought the frozen powder as viciously as it had hours before.


His eyes hurt from squinting. With a tired grumble he reached up to rub free the coating of ice that covered them.


Gil froze.


There was no pink on the plains. That color just didn't exist out there.


The girl! He had found her!


The somber old man crowed in delight. The bundle of pink at his feet shifted at the sound, and he laughed aloud.


For all his enthusiasm, the weary arms that wrapped around the fragile little girl were gentle. Her legs were stuck under the snow, so Gil pulled as slowly as he could. They slid free to the sound of snow falling on where they had been. It sounded loud in the silence of the blizzard.


Gil turned, the girl cradled in his arms like the precious treasure that she was, and he began the long trek back to the house.


If a blizzard lacked a howling wind, the silence was misleading. The serenity of a million snowflakes fluttering past him had often lured him in to believing they were safe. But even Gil was in danger from the cold.


The girl grew heavier with every step. Gil was no spring chicken. Carrying that scant burden so far would wear him out even in the best of conditions. With three feet of snow on the ground each step was a marathon, and his arms complained about every meal the waif of a girl had ever eaten.


After an unmeasurable amount of time passed, the girl stirred, her body warming from being held tightly by her savior. Gil wearily smiled down at her.


“I'll get you home, little one.” He said, but his voice came out as a croak, and snow swallowed his words.


He kept walking.


The marker tree rose on his right. The snow had covered his tracks, but he still knew his way straight as an arrow. The tree fell away behind him.


If he hadn't been so tired he would have barked another triumphant laugh.


A hundred feet later his leg folded under him. The snow seemed to jump toward his face and he viciously twisted his exhausted body around.


His back hit the soft snow, the child safe in his arms. She didn't need to have his body crushing her, freezing to death was bad enough as it was.


Gil tried to breathe, but the air rattled harshly in his lungs. Breathing felt worse than suffocating.


Actually, it felt kind of nice to not have to breathe. Gil's eyes drooped, and closed, the sight of a blizzard above him. Such a peaceful sight. Like a powdery blanket that settled over him. Over him and--


The girl!


The heart that had a moment before been abandoning a lifelong tempo jolted into activity. A spurt of energy unlike any he had known in decades hit him.


Without hesitation he stood again, settling into a determined trudge with the girl curled tightly against his chest.


His face was a mask of snow and ice, resolutely frozen in a grimace of pain and focus. He would get the girl home. If nothing else, he would do that.


The world was nothing but a shadow behind his snow covered glasses, but he could look down and see the form against his chest. He could feel the little arms that snaked around his neck. Every once in a while, he could even hear her teeth chattering.


She was alive, and he would keep her that way. Eight years old was too young to die out here in the cold.


His feet were heavier than they had been a moment before, and his arms began to bend from the weight of the little girl in them. It took a conscious effort to keep her pressed against his chest. He could feel nothing below his elbows anyway. She was lucky he didn't drop her outright.


Then his left foot failed to push through the snow.


Gil pitched forward, this time unable to react fast enough to twist and save the girl. They both grunted when they hit the powder and broke through to the ice beneath.


A shaky breath whistled in through his teeth, “S-s-sorry.” He chattered.


Strange, Gil couldn't remember the last time his teeth chattered. The cold never had bothered him before. It had been years since his hands and feet went numb from the cold, but they were then.


He huffed and panted, and finally got back to his feet. His glasses were too frozen to be any use, and his gloves were barely up to the task of cleaning them off. A grunt of shock erupted from him when he leaned down to pick the girl up.


He could see again, and what he saw on her cheek was impossible.


It wouldn't wipe away. No matter how he rubbed at it, and the girl opened bright blue eyes and looked at him in confusion.


“What is it?” Her little voice was trusting. And strong. Stronger than it should have been after two hours out in the cold.


She sounded the way Gil normally sounded when out in the cold. Not a hint of her teeth chattering any longer. Not a hint of weakness while covered in snow, out in the middle of a blizzard on the Montana plains.


On her cheek, standing out starkly against even her light skin, was a perfect blue snowflake.


If Gil wasn't mistaken, it was the same snowflake that had adorned his own cheek for as long as he could remember. It had become his totem when he was a child. The thing everyone knew him for, and the reason some people thought him touched by some kind of icy demon. His mother told him it was simply because he was the son of Jack Frost. That was his father's blood in him.


But, if this girl had it...


“Are you okay?” The little girl climbed to her feet, suddenly as tall as he was.


Why was he on his knees? His breath came in gasps, his lungs unable to cope with the cold.


“It-,” he coughed, struggling to find the words. “It's...okay. G-Get...to, the house.”


“But, what about you?” The little girl asked, her face more expressive than any child's should be, her blue eyes watery in the cold, giving them a luminescence reserved for weddings and happy moments.


Gil smiled, honestly happy to see her so strong in the cold. “J-Just go...back. I'll, be...Fine. Your m-mother, wants to...see you.”


She nodded happily, trusting him implicitly, “Okay.”


The little girl started away, but stopped after a couple steps and turned. The impetuosity of her next action brought tears to Gil's eyes.


Her little feet traveled over the snow so quickly he never saw them until he felt her little arms around his neck.


“I love you, Grandpa,” her voice was muffled in his thin scarf.


“I...L-l-love you, t-too.”


Then she was gone. Her pink jacket was flapping around her, and Gil smiled to himself. He knew how she felt.


The cold was her home now. She would never feel it again. The snow and ice would reveal to her a world that no one else could know.


Gil sank down, lying on his back in the snow that had for so long been his friend. It was only fitting that it should be the place he found his rest.


His eyes closed, and he took another breath. Now that the fight was over, he couldn't help but smell how sweet the freezing air was as it traveled through his body. He loved this place.


The pink jacket was long gone, and his granddaughter with it. She would live a full life now. Without his gift, she would have died out here. No one the wiser. Just another victim of the storms. Instead, she would now be the ruler of them.


It was a happy thought. And he wondered if the old, wind-bitten man who had saved him years ago thought the same thing.


That old man breathed his last under a snowy blanket, just as Gil did then.


They were the last ones looking, and the last ones to find. They were the only ones to rule the snows, and see the world through Jack Frost's eyes.



© 2014 Dante Carlisle


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Reviews

Great writing, I especially like the transference of the power of Jack Frost from one generation to another. Grandchildren are very special and I've found from personal experience that values from previous generations are priceless.

Posted 5 Years Ago


I like the supernatural elements and the blue snowflake, the way there could be a descendant of Jack Frost. The people of the snow. Since there's not a lot of people around here, it's nice to recollect that there are people who live almost year-round in snow and for generations

Posted 5 Years Ago


This is a great story, and I knew it would be the minute I saw your name on it. I'm not going to jut give you praise; ;you're too good for that.

Fix this sentence:



That old man had lay down in the snow, just as Gil was then.


Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Dante Carlisle

5 Years Ago

If you wouldn't mind, the word lay is one of the few I've always had trouble with, and I've wondered.. read more
Marie

5 Years Ago

The proper usage in this case, since it is past perfect tense, is "lain." I didn't offer any suggest.. read more

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Added on December 10, 2014
Last Updated on December 11, 2014
Tags: blizzard, fiction

Author

Dante Carlisle
Dante Carlisle

Chesterfield, MO



About
I published my third novel last Christmas. Working on the fourth, but fair warning none of them are connected. So if you're looking for a stand alone novel to read, check out Regret Nothing, Hiding Bl.. more..

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