The Winter Queen

Don’t much remember the warm these days. Warm went way-away, with the birds, the cars, and the man who sold papers on the corner. Used to buy papers. Now I sleep in ‘em. Mags sleeps in ‘em too. She’s a good girl.

Went looking for food again today. Walked the big road, ash-snow falling down. Mags don’t like the ash-snow. She tries to hide in burnt-out dead-cars. I call her back. Other things hide there too.

Not much food on the big road. Most of it nicked long-back. Found some candy bars. Stuffed the wrappers in my gloves, plug some holes over these old gnarled hands. Gave the candy to Mags. She needs it more. Can see her ribs now. Can see mine too, but I’ll be right. Need to keep going. Need to push past this ash-snow storm and get to the tower. Get to her.

 

Next day, found a man. Ain’t seen one of those in a while.

“Whaddya want?” he says.

No time for nice-nice now. “Food. Shelter.”

He nods and we follow him to box-town. People move under papers. Gives me a bowl of soup-stuff. Dunno what’s in it, but it’s hot and I’m starving. Give it to Mags first. She only eats half. She’s a good girl.

“Where going?” man asks.

“Tower.” I point. “Gonna bring back the sun. Gonna kill the Winter Queen.”

He laughs. Calls me crazy old bat. Don’t care. Mags and I know the truth. Queen lives in the tower. I seen her. Kill the queen, kill the winter.

 

We keep moving. Stick to the big road, easier that way, even with the dead-cars. Mags trots ahead, nose to ground. Nearly there now. Climbing the tower is tough. More stairs than my old bones can take. Halfway up I think I’m done. Air too cold and ash in my lungs. Burns. Mags nudges me. One more step. Then another. By the top I’m crawling, but we make it. Mags doesn’t let me quit.

Room’s full of racks, rags hanging off them. Warm stuff’s all been taken. Jackets worth more than gold now. But not for long. Mags hunts through pile of shoes. I look for the queen.

She looks worse than last time. Silver hair lopsided, and eyelashes hang off. Face is cold and smooth, just like always. Fur coat’s been nicked, but she still wears her shirt. I can almost read the letters. Ice Queen.

I push her. She wobbles, but stays. Push her again. And again. I ain’t got much strength left in me. Takes everything to knock her down. But she falls, and she breaks. Hollow head cracks. Glass eyes stare up.

I go down too. Knees hit hard floor. Mags comes running. Heart feels tight. Hold onto her. She lays down beside me.

“Over now,” I say. “Sun’ll come back.” Can’t say much else. Trouble breathing. Can feel the warm now. It creeps up. Mags whines. She’ll be right, though. Spring is coming.


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