Miki was twirling atop an ice cube when Vida first saw him. Each time he leapt off the edge with his fist in the air, her heart followed. Perhaps it was too soon, but she couldn’t help it.
She’d heard the stories about the children from Hiemslandia. The ice thieves. The giants. And the rescue—of course the rescue. Even with the condensation droplets in the way, Vida could see Miki’s wounded eyes that shone through the chilled glass.
Vida sat down at his empty table and smiled. And Miki sat down on the ice and looked back at her. He extended his arm to the foggy covering and polished it with his sleeve. His action was nothing—not really. But Vida, seeing his openness toward her, giggled and loosened her shoulders.
I like my hands—small, translucent. As I look at them now, I see that my fingertips are pink with cold. Strokes of black soil are embedded beneath the fine slivers of pearl. I touch the bark of a tree. I can’t feel it.
On my feet are red, satin slippers. I always wear them, even in the woods, even when it’s cold like this and pebbles press painfully through the soles. Droplets of blood mingle with the seeping dye. The cold has burnt all feeling away so that my hands and feet are no longer mine. I dance through the woods on numb toes.
“Red,” I called her. It was because of the red, hooded cape she always wore. No one else could have worn that cape. Anyone else would have looked ridiculous. But my little Red could never look ridiculous. Maybe it was the thick, straight eyebrows, the simmering, liquid-gold eyes. She was such a dark, little beauty, the eyes stood out in sharp relief. Looking at her then, you would not have believed she was only fourteen.
Perhaps that’s why no one ever worried about her, not even when she walked alone in the woods. The mother was awful. The grandmother was worse: all day in that musty bed, in that hideous nightgown buttoned all the way up to the grotesque glob of chin. They took advantage of poor Red. The girl had no childhood at all. And, like a child, she stuck religiously to that path.
Folk called her Queen Frost; her voice glittered like frozen moons. In a kingdom of snowlit forests, she sat beside the king. The castle was warm with her laughter. She taught her children songs as bright as low stars and told them tales of lands which never were. In the winter, when the nights were as long as black winds, she trekked food parcels to old folk in the deep woods.
One day, she became ill. Wise women gave her herbs grown from icicles and owl song, but her eyes dimmed and her voice became as thin as frost light. Her children stayed at her bedside. Candles burned through the quiet night. When the sun rose over the snow lands, she didn’t wake. The silence in the castle was as vast as mountain skies.
There was once a wolf and two rabbits. The wolf killed the rabbits.
Now let me tell you the story again.
In a place imagined by imagination there was a mountain on which grew vegetation so rich it ran like husks of dense green fur in the summer and remained browned and stubborn in the winter. On this mountain there lived two rabbits and a wolf.
The two rabbits were white save for a sandstone brown spot between their eyes. Twins were these two rabbits, and large. Each was as large as three rabbits their normal size. Neither spoke, not even in their own rabbit language. They communicated in their own special way and had since birth and too-soon abandonment. The rabbits felt safe in their size and private thoughts. They did not know they shared the smooth-ridged mountain with a wolf.
A long time ago, in a land of magic and faerie dust, lived a witch.
She was not unlike any other witch you may have heard of: her grey hair ran wild, her face was wrinkled and spotted with warts, and she wore a black cloak over her humped back. But she wasn’t like any witch the land had ever seen, for her magic had one purpose: to grant your heart’s desire.
Her career in wish-granting—for lack of a better term—began years ago, when her afternoon tea was interrupted by a knock on her door. It was an odd, shocking sort of sound, for her cottage rarely attracted visitors; nor was she expecting company.
When she finally opened the door, she was astonished to find a weary traveler who had nearly collapsed at her feet from hunger and exhaustion.