The story below is a winner from our Fiction Fantastic Young Writers Contest, open to all youth in Lane County. For more information on this contest, including how to enter, visit here. Support this program with a donation.
You can purchase this story in the 2020 Winners Anthology Fueled By Fire here.
“Heart of Ice” by Brianna Bird, Eugene Christian School
Honorable Mention, Middle School Level, 2020
Heart of Ice
By Brianna Bird
Eugene Christian School
It was a cold rainy morning that Jack saw her. He had been walking his path to the mill, when he glanced up beneath the window of the master’s house. Her skin was white, deathly pale. Her chest rose and fell in shuddering gasps, and her eyes were hollow and empty. She was clearly human, but she was otherworldly, as though from another side of the sky. But she was beautiful. Jack stared, as she slowly turned her eyes toward him. Her hair was dark, and she smiled sadly at him through the window. Though her voice was soft and the rain was fast, Jack could make out the words as though they had been whispered in his head.
“They say I’m not long for this world.”
Jack nodded, grimly. “Do you mind it?”
She smiled. “No. I only wish I could have been strong enough to be someone in this life.”
Chills ran up the boy’s cold form. “I wish I could have married you.”
“I know you not, yet the feeling is mutual.”
She turned away, and Jack continued along the road, letting the rain wash away the horror of moments ago.
The next day, he saw a stone coffin trekking along the same road. Few mourners trailed behind, an older man, a priest, and another older couple. The rain had doubled. Jack joined a little behind, not caring if he was late for work. The coffin was lowered into a freshly dug grave, the smell of earth seeping out of it. The body of the girl seemed like a stain never to be healed but washed by the rain. Jack wished he could have kissed her deathly pale lips. Jack did not even know her name. He knelt beside the head stone, sinking his trousers into the mud. He sat there for hours, not minding cold, nor hunger. At last, as the dark began to come on, the village boys dragged him to his feet. He went.
“Did you know her?” It was Simon, the oldest boy.
“Did you love her?”
Jack’s breath was not his own. It was a machine’s. Thousands of beeps rang in his ears, the sound of nurses and patients discussing health care issues. Jack was done with that. He didn’t have a lot of time before his heart burst out of his chest. He had only one daughter, and she was in Chicago. He had forced her to stay on her honeymoon, insisting it only happened once. Jack’s only companion was a small tabby cat, curled upon his chest, snoring. She was only allowed on when the doctors were gone.
Jack looked out the window, praying that it would be the last time he ever did. An older teenage girl, possibly sixteen, balanced on a curb. She looked extremely familiar. The wind was raging, but her hair, however, was not stirring. She leapt onto the brick ledge, and soon she was scaling the wall. Jack, too startled to respond, simply stared. She was immensely familiar, and there was something not quite right about her. For one, no one in the crowded courtyard below seemed to notice her, except Jack. The closer she got, the more he noticed odd things about her. Her chest did not expand and deflate like it should have, and her eyes stayed wide open at all times, never blinking. She was so familiar. He also had not realized the window could open. It rather surprised him when it did, and the girl, looking very sure of herself, stepped in. She walked toward him, coming to stop beside his bed.
“Hello, Jack. Are you ready? I’m sorry, but you’ll have to leave Storm here.”
Jack looked at her, stunned. “How do you know her name?”
She laughed. “Don’t you recognize me?”
Jack nodded, confused. “Yes, although I don’t know from where.”
“Let’s just say I’m not long for this world.”
“So, this is what’s become of you then?”
“Raptured, you mean, yes. Are you coming?” She reached out her hand to the man.
It was beautiful, but healthy, like he remembered it. Slowly, he took it, and suddenly he was standing outside the window, butterflies flying around him. Storm was sitting up on the man’s body, pawing his face. Jack looked away, gripping the girl’s hand. He was surprised to see that he was six feet tall again, and that he had dark brown hair, green eyes, and a daring eighteen-year-old smile. He stepped forward, and soon he was gliding forward across clouds and rivers. He looked over at the girl, suddenly knowing her name was Rebbeckah. She looked at him, tears in her glowing eyes. She threw her arms round his neck and whispered two words, “Welcome home.”