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Card Challenge: Day 5

Card Day 5: A dark haired woman walking through the snow toward a red rose.

Alaina walked swiftly through the snow, enjoying the sound of the icy surface snapping beneath her quick steps. She was on her way to the market today, and that meant it was certain to be a lovely time. From the nearby pines, birds chirped cheerily in the early morning air, hopping from branch to branch and shaking snow from the branches as they climbed. She smiled, enjoying the feelings of the sun on her skin. Snow was all she had ever known. Hers was a world of glistening crystals and frozen silence in the air. It was a world decorated with white garlands along every tree limb, set to twinkling by the tender rays of the sun.

Some of the oldest elders in her village told of times where there was no snow, or at least very little of it. They pointed to the gnarled fingers of empty grey trees and told tall tales of times when those had been filled with broad, thin, green leaves. Alaina scoffed at these stories, especially as they tried to claim those same trees held orange, yellow, and red leaves. They could not even keep their stories straight. These were their fables, alongside stories of talking animals and immortal gods. It was on days like today that she felt the true weight of their foolishness around her. Old timers were simply so close to death; they had to imagine some paradise, she thought. Though why their paradise demolished the pristine beauty of this world she would never understand.

The woods were up ahead. The boughs of the evergreens there knit together, turning the bright morning into early dusk. It was where she often went to think, to calm down, to breathe when life got hectic. She had been spending more and more time there recently, and her feet knew the paths all too well after the past few months of many thoughtful walks. But today, she had a goal that meant she could not explore and meander. Today, she must go to the market to buy sewing materials for her mother.

The trees creaked with a staunch breeze from the north, snow drifting from their branches as the trunks swayed rigidly. She felt a cold hand moving up her spine, the hair on the back of her neck rising at the darkness and the unsettling sound. The sun had disappeared behind some fresh, steel grey clouds, and the cold around her served to deepen the chill. She knew, of course, that it was merely the wind and clouds, but it nevertheless left a knot in her stomach. There must be a storm on the way, she reasoned, which began to calm her nerves. She had noticed the snow growing thin in some areas, so a replenishing storm was just what was needed. The chill along her back diminished, but refused to dissipate entirely. It arced with ferocity at each grown of the tall trees above her, making her jump at the sound of damp snow falling from the heights. Just a storm making its way in.

Her mind fled from the thoughts of the uneasy feeling in her bones, marking out the path ahead of her. The stream crossed her path ahead, a sheet of pale white that would be indistinguishable from the surrounding snow if she had not walked this path so many times. After that, she had another seven minutes to walk through the trees, and then would cross the river. The market should be set back just a short jaunt from the river, full of smiling people and brightly colored oddities to tempt her purse strings. She had been saving, and, perhaps after picking up the threads and fabric for her mother, she could buy something herself. She needed a new skinning knife, she remembered, and certainly there would be a nice one for reasonable coin. Her disquiet ebbed as she thought about the lovely things awaiting her. After such a walk, a hot chocolate and hot pastry was certainly in order.

Her thoughts led her, distracted, to the stream. She was already imagining the warmth of her lunch, and neglected to give the proper attention to the slick ice. Her feet suddenly betrayed her, skating along the clear surface in opposite directions. She flew backwards, her head cushioned by a drift of snow. Her hands, however, shot along the jagged ice, skinning her palms an angry red. She blinked a few times, the breath knocked from her, and took a quick assessment of the aches and pains. Her tailbone hurt, as did her hands. One ankle throbbed dully, but she judged it unlikely to be indicative of a sprain or break. Otherwise, she felt mostly intact, excepting her bruised pride. Fortunately, there was no one there to see her splayed across the ice like a toddler on her first outing.

Alaina pushed herself to sit, glancing around to reorient herself. It happened to the best, she thought, and gingerly moved towards the bank to get to her feet. She was not certain she could yet trust her ankle on this ice, and another fall certainly was not going to be helpful. She shuffled to the edge, and then froze, her eyes not certain how to interpret what she was seeing.

The bank was not snow covered. There was a distinctly open patch, dark, muddy brown that contrasted with the vibrant purity of the snow. That was not all, either. In the midst of the ugly brown, something green reached from the surface, ending in a deep red bloom. Alaina had ever seen anything like it, and her mind raced along the old timer stories. Some red flower, not the snowdrops she was used to, but something stark and rebellious in its brilliant color. She blinked, as if expecting the illusion to vanish. Had she struck her head, she wondered?

With shaking fingers, she reached out towards the strange flower. She touched the petals quickly, drawing back as if they might immediately bite. Yet the flower stood placidly, innocently, smiling in the snow. Alaina reached out again to feel the velvety sooth rows of petals standing in their symmetrical formation. She reached to the stem, grasping it suddenly, only to withdraw. This time, it had bitten her. She glanced at the thorns along its stem, then at the small pinprick of blood on her finger. What a dangerous thing.

More careful this time, she plucked the red flower from its planted spot. If she had never seen such a thing, surely others would be interested as well. Alaina hurried along her way to the market, excited to show off her prize and amaze those around her. Perhaps she could cultivate these things, make herself a healthy living selling the lovely plant. She held the flower gingerly, showing it to all who would look, and easily gained a moderate crowd. Suddenly, the crowd parted, letting Marjorie through. The old timer took one look at the flower, her eyes growing wide with amazement.

“The thaw,” whispered the old woman. At her words, the clouds opened up, raining for the first time in years on the frozen world.

Day five done, which is pretty cool! It’s a pretty minor victory, but I’m proud of myself.  I also spent most of today making fantastic cupcakes–dark chocolate with strawberry filling and dark chocolate icing. Love it, and love having different ways to be creative on what is, in my neck of the woods, a snowy quiet day. Soon, my vacation is over and its back to the grind, but it has been great. I’m really enjoying this project so far, though it is daunting. I hope you have been enjoying the stories as well! I’m trying to vary the style, theme, characters, and genre of different ones, though I am just generally writing whatever comes to mind from the card prompt. Also, these are pretty much first-pass stories, meaning I have done basic editing and proofreading, as well as making sure I stay in the word count, but they are otherwise unedited. So, please let me know if you have any suggestions on how to improve. Happy reading!

Creative Commons License
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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