Spirits of Winter
by Kelsey Mae Crane
I am Snow Maiden.
My tale begins in North Eastern Siberia, and will not end until it has reached into the aphotic depths of greed. I am in search of the Spirit of Winter.
Setting out from the Northern far East in the last week before Summer Solstice, I have been on the move for many months since — along modes both slow and expeditious. I crossed Siberia by sleigh, pulled rabidly along by the relentless running of my snow wolves, and continued with the sled across the great frozen Pacific. Shortly after hitting land, I was greeted by a group of 3 Eskimos who carefully explained that I was in a place once recognized as Alaska — now an Anarchic Free State, like the rest of the once cooperative and long since dismantled United States.
I threw my satiny sac across my left shoulder and nodded to “Grandfather Frost” to lead the pack on. We would sniff out the trails separately and come together again when the time was right. He howled in loyalty. I walked with the Eskimos — Kayi, Tlapa, and Mentlana — for slightly over one phase of a lunar cycle until we reached Canada. The warm hearted Eskimos wished me well and said that they would now walk back. Together, they left me with a uniquely shaped snowflake charm and the words “Go with Sila”. They advised me to keep the charms close, claiming that these sparkling crystals would shield me from Amarok.
It was only after we had been parted for many hours that I realized these Eskimos were of the Angakkuq culture, and I immediately felt protected by their Shamanic blessings. I opted to use some harmless alchemy to acquire a shiny silver hover craft for the remaining arduous phase of my travel, crossing the well-guarded Canadian border into what was being called “AFS”. Arriving in the North Eastern part of the Cascadia Bioregion late at night, I decided to temporarily ditch my craft, and stashed it above the clouds where I could pull it along — channeling mine and earth’s energy simultaneously. Today was the last part of the 24th day of the twelfth month, in the year 2067.
The harsh winter wind howled warning of cold nights ahead, and the resplendent pines echoed in this sentient. A long-blue — run-down city bus sloshed up beside the soggy old bench where I sat, breaking my nostalgic remembering. I stood quickly, and golden glittery particles filled the air. Methodically abandoning my tarnished round coin to the metal box of reckoning, I took a seat as far back as I could squeeze. This whale was as full of fragile hopes as an orphanage in December, and I grappled with every one of them.
Peering out the cloudy glass window, I took a moment to give thanks to the season in which we are — flighty and transformative — burning in the orange red hues of almost naked deciduous golden trees. Just about to turn blue.
I let out a heavy sigh as I closed my antique Russian accordion music box. Every time I did that I felt like Piotr Sterligov in the Golden Age, as if speaking the reedy tones of high altitude lakes bellowing to an even higher mountain.
The man next to me seemed startled to hear the organ-like rasping of my Bayan. He jumped in his seat awoken from a sneaky doze, staring deeply for a few long moments. The old looking man spoke cautiously and asked, “Do you think things will ever be merry again? Will it snow… flakes glistening white?” He went on. “Do YOU have someone to ease this cold?” I smiled, amused by such genuine inquiries into a magic I feel so much concern for. “I am thoughts like these.” I replied comfortingly.
“That is to say… these are my kind of wonders too.” I remarked that “I dream for just these kinds of happenings — of warmth and merriness, of love to keep strong, and of snowflakes layering the earth in pure light.”
The man repeated my words with layers of his own romantic prospect. “I am thoughts like these.” His lips curled, and I immediately registered his sharp protruding canines, likely passed down through a long lineage of folks good at grinding up all sorts of toughness. A strong feature in today’s gristly world.
Standing up with a tinge of sweet recharge, I pronounced that “This Yuletide was bound to those who thought thoughts like we…” I held out my hand to his, bearing a small blue stocking. The man quickly accepted, and reached inside.
Beaming in awe, he proclaimed that he hadn’t seen an orange in over half a century — since he was but a young boy.
I pushed forward stepping carefully off the big blue transport vessel, and drifted into a crispy moon lit evening. My Acc continued in its tremulant wheezing.
It was wheezing for tradition. It was wheezing for renewal. It was wheezing because I had left it unstrapped.
The violaceous robe that adorned me floated like a swan against the twilight breeze. I felt a spike of hurry brush upon me, recalling the importance of my mission: To reverse the gluttonous clenches of red desire toward the pure hold of blue tradition. A young boy blew past me and bellowed backwards, “The freak show’s that way!” I closed my eyes and held my chest. Pulling deep from my treasured reserves, I launched a bright blue package into the night behind me. Upon the boys return home, he would find this gift sitting upon his pillow, and inside, a shiny golden sun-shaped coin etched with a bundle of grain. There were many like this boy, lost and cold, having faith in nothing… respect for no one.
The sacred was not of their culture any more.
Indeed the earth had fallen into deep disrepair, and much needed fixing. A distant howl calmed my spirits, and I cried aloud. “Grandfather Frost!” I must be getting close. The snow fell and then thickened. The night became increasingly torpid. All things became embossed in a grey sheet of arctic cold.
I came upon a wide bridge with shapes like linkages along its edges, and began crossing over what appeared to have once been a great river fed by two separate waterfalls flowing into the North West. Out from beyond the shadows, a hunched over old woman snuck up behind me, smacking her splintered wooden cane hard across my back. “We want nothing to do with you heathens!” She screamed. And it seemed to me that she moved much faster than any cripple I had witnessed ever before. I looked to the sky welcoming frozen crystalloid vapors into my eyeballs, and sent yet another package off to the night. My strength meter sent a sharp contraction up my spine, signaling vastly diminished reserves. When this woman returned to where she slept under the abandoned train tracks that night, she would find a small shiny blue package — and inside a small wax doll holding a bushel of grain.
I began to command my Acc into the song of Garmoshka’s “Father Frost” signaling the ancestors to my position. My woolen purple cape fluttered behind me.
Twinkling dust floated down over the edge of an increasingly icy Monroe Bridge, and I thought, “This sad crumbling crossing must have been a great monument of its time.” My wolf brethren began responding in haunting encouragement, following the old-world hark of my brassy Acc. Upon the final stanza, they began to cry in choir, one after the waning other. These creatures were of the most hunted of all the beasts remaining upon our spoiled earth — Iconic of a wild traditional melancholy from a Christmastide very few still recall.
I moved forward along the old depreciated bridge with haste, passing row after boxy row of vacant and dilapidated structure. Paths of cracked cement long since void of any automobiles touch guided me onward.
While careful in my approach upon the edge of a Third Growth Forest — skinny and tall — Bony in the shadows of the Second and the extremely rare Old Growths of my homeland… I was violently stopping by a hate-filled vision, more startling than the darkest guise of man. The freshly robbed guts of what must have been an entire pack of endangered timber wolves — messily strewn about the wintered landscape. Shrilling tones of the red claw of nature screeched at my brain.
Crashing hard upon achy knees, I felt a shallowness in my womb. This savage and genocidal act of the greediest of men — black like their recent desecration of the forest — sucked out my own blood and took me to the ground.
“This was why Sir Nicholas of Myra had become lost here in this place.” I whispered weakly to the Earth Mother. In our clan, wolf was brother, and much like one might feel after the loss of closely cherished kin, desperation stirred inside in an anger that I was unfamiliar with. Releasing hallow face to scorching red earth, I wept to the ancestors…
The narrow green eyes that defined me stung as water heavy with salt streamed down a pale white face. Snow Maiden salt water fused with the the blood of sacred animal wolf.
A sharp howl struck my ear drums from the eastern part of the woodland where I mourned.
Grey wolves emerged from the trees as Spirits or gods would — moments before all hope was lost. Grandfather Frost lifted me upon his back and ran unflinching into a moonlit night.
When I awoke, I was laying outside a small barn somewhere deep within the forest, placed comfortably upon a stack of frozen hay. I heard a deep cackle echoing from inside — and slowly began to crawl towards an opening in hopes of discovering it’s source. “Sir Nicholas of Myra… could that really be you?” I gasped in dismay.
Reaching behind me for assurance, I confirmed that I still possessed the all-important sac. I grabbed it firmly and ran into the dimly lit barn.
There sat a round and almost unrecognizable Sir Nicholas of Myra — chocolate milk in one hand, double chocolate layered mint cookie in the other — crumbs sticking in his full white beard. A bottle of Dry Fly Whiskey lay empty beside him. He was surrounded by things strewn about a tree… stacked to the ceiling and bulging out the windows. I never imagined that he too would have fallen into the pit of bottomless wanting and mindless consuming. “Oh Sir Nicholas!”
His belly burst out of his thick fur-lined red coat as he spoke. “They call me Santa.”
I panicked for a moment, realizing that there was no way that he would fit into his slender blue suit… pulling it worriedly from within my sac. “Magic will overcome this.” I spoke surely. “Put this on!”
He moved sluggishly and peered down at me through small glazed over and embarrassed eyes. The oh so famous twinkle was not to be seen, even to me. I shivered.
Seconds after the original blue coat and hat were on, his eyes began to clear white. Soon the shrouded twinkle shone so bright it flooded the dark barn like a blazing fire. The previously out-of-shape man shrunk into the size 36 waist that I recalled so pleasantly. The piles of “stuff” surrounding him disappeared.
I let out a full-mouthed howl to the night — calling for Grandfather Frost and the rest of the pack to return. Brushing my long braided blonde hair back gently, I summoned the hover ship down from clouds above and winked coolly at the handsome Sir Nicholas of Myra. “Wolves versus Mag Lev?”
Could we restore the true meaning of magic moon cycles and love this Christmastide… to be passed down, shared, and remembered beside the uncharted anarchic campfires of some futuristic earth?