Out in the frozen wasteland, Michael hasn't got much time if he wants to survive
|Snow pounded on either side of Michael’s frozen head. His furry hood was blown back by the blizzard, his icy red cheeks so cold it was painful. His hair was soaking with snow, his eyes were screwed tightly shut to stop the snow and ice hurling into them. He was all alone now, trying to fight the blizzard.
He dragged his feet through the thick snow, stumbling and holding back terrified tears. He pushed onwards, further and further till he was waist high in snow, shivering and coughing, his mouth filling with snow every time he opened it. His eyes had frozen shut, his eyelashes littered with icy frost. Suddenly he collapsed in the snow and lay, frozen stiff and sobbing beneath eyelids frozen shut.
Diana lay in the thick grasses, the hot sun beating down onto her light skin causing freckles to slowly creep across her skin. Butterflies danced around her head, one landing lightly on her nose, and scattering when she sneezed. She wondered at this sneeze- who ever heard of getting a cold in the middle of summer?
Eventually, she picked herself up off the ground and picked up her small basket, and began to dance through the fields, barefoot and with a long swaying dress, singing the sweet hymns she had been taught at school. She leapt over a fence, heading towards a little homely cottage, and noticing that a bitter coldness was surrounding her more with every step she took.
Michael struggled to his feet, spitting out the snow that had collected in his mouth. He looked at the imprint of his body in the snow, and thought how easy it would be just to lie back down and let the world whisk his spirit away, to lie down and fall into a long sleep where he would be warm again, and where soon a white blanket would cover him. He looked at his snow-soaked mittens, and thought of what his parents had told him. He knelt in the snow, digging his mittened hands and scooping a pile, while the snow-filled gales still battered him, knowing that he didn’t have time. Soon he’d freeze to death.
Even in front of the hearth fire in the cottage, Diana felt cold. She pushed her hands closer and closer to the leaping liquid-amber flames, wondering if their heat would soothe her numbing skin. Eventually, she plunged her hands right into the flames, and screamed, as steam hissed up from her blue hands. At the scream, her mother ran into the room with a pale face and an anxious expression. Diana held up the hand she had burnt, and showed her mother the red burn mark. However, her mother was more interested in the blue colour creeping along Diana’s arm.
Michael was halfway through building his igloo, when a scorching pain soared through his hand. He gave a yell that was muffled by the snow that flooded into his gaping mouth, and tore off his mitten, looking at the red, burnt swelling, licking it in hope to relieve the pain only to find that his hot saliva aggravated the burn more. He plunged his hand into the snow to cool it, and watched as the coldness of the snow made his arm turn steadily blue. He stuffed his hand back into his mitten, and continued with his igloo, desperate for it’s insulation. As he shoved the last ice bricks together and crawled into his crudely made shelter, he could smell a thick smoky odour. This surprised him, as there was very little chance of any fire surviving while the snowstorm ensued. He curled into a ball and screwed his eyes shut again, glad to finally feel his body switching off and falling into uneasy sleep.
The doctor’s house smelt of smoke. Cigarette smoke, smoke from the fireplace, and smoke from the burning dinner.
“I’m sorry. There’s really nothing I can do. I have no idea why she’s reaching such freezing temperatures, I really don’t. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” the doctor said to Diana’s mother. “Do you have a fire on in your house?”
“Yes, even though it’s summer. My daughter could not have caught a cold in my home.”
She pulled Diana out of the chair, thanking the doctor hastily. On the way back to the cottage, a strange thought hit her.
Now that heat had been established, now that sleep had been allowed, Michael felt hunger rolling in his stomach. He could hear the wind decreasing outside, he knew the storm would be over soon, but would the walk back to the village be too strenuous on his empty stomach? He struggled with the few options he had, and decided to remain in his primitive igloo till the storm passed. Then he could at least attempt the struggle back to the village.
Jane Moore was thirty years old when she adopted Diana. At the time her inability to have children had been putting a strain on her marriage to her husband Owen, a small corner shop owner who desperately wanted to begin a family. Jane wanted a child as much as he did, but fertility treatment just didn’t sound like an option. She had decided to adopt.
On her first visit to the care home, none of the little children had caught her eye straight away, especially not the strange little girl who sat in the corner. Her face was slightly oriental, but more reminiscent of Inuit, and she had a thick black braid of hair. She was very short, even for a two year old, and silent for the duration of the visit. It was only just before Jabe left, when all the other children had ran to watch television, discarding their toys messily, that she noticed the little child, who moved from her little stool, and neatly stacked the toys away, piling all the building bricks up thoughtfully, into a strange igloo shape. It was then that Jane decided that such a strange perfectionist, so young, yet so smart, was the only child she wanted. The child’s name, the social worker informed, was Diana. She was part of a set of twins, the other, a boy, having remained with his parents, somewhere abroad, while Diana had been sent away as it was too expensive to feed so many mouths. Diana Moore settled happy into her new home, and gradually, the little building blocks she played with were used to build skyscrapers and blocks of flats, instead of igloos. Diana was very adaptive, and in childhood, unaffected by any emotional trauma, even when her adoptive father, Owen, died of cancer when she was seven years old. She was happy to move, with her mother, to the country, to escape the unhappy city memories, where she settled down. She didn’t use building blocks any more, but often she did drawings, of little country cottages, instead of the skyscrapers she had grown used to in the city.
Michael abandoned his igloo, setting forward, his feet making crisp prints and scrunching noises in the fresh snow. He knelt down and took a great scoop of snow, pushing it into his mouth to quench his thirst and to try to cut the edge off of his gnawing hunger. The storm had ended, but the long trek back home was ahead of him. His coldness and hunger had caused him to forget the reasons that he had set off alone so far from home, and they were unlikely to be remembered till he reached the village. Then he would regret his return, when the bullying eyes of the new settlers were laid upon him again.
Jane had no other option. She’d have to tell Diana. The little girl knew she was adopted of course, but of her twin she knew nothing.
They both sat in the living room still heated by the fire, Diana having strangely stopped shivering, her skin turning back to it’s normal colour.
“I think there’s something you should know.”
“What is it?”
“Well, you know that I adopted you when you were two years old, of course. I’ve always been honest with you about that.”
“And you know that you came from a cold country, probably the Arctic or Antarctica, or somewhere snowy.”
“What you don’t know is, I was told when I adopted you that you came from a family who had twins. In other words, you’re part of a set of twins. You have a twin.”
Diana’s mouth dropped open. Jane gushed on.
“I read books, you know, about when a twin feels things that their other twin can feel, so like, if your twin is cold, you’ll be cold.”
Diana took a while to register everything.
“But I’ve never been like this before.”
Michael walked the last mile to his village almost on all fours, his head drooped so low to the ground his nose nearly touched the snow he was walking through. When he raised his head, all her could see was a blanketed white landscape, with little distinction on the horizon from the snow and the thick grey sky. It was only when his village came into sight that he remember the new people, who had come to their village by plane, with new technology that they wanted to share. And the new people had come here to live, to industrialise, and to change everything. And they had brought their children, cruel, taunting children who had dared Michael to go for a moth alone in the snowy wilderness. Michael had barely managed three days. He felt pathetic as he trudged on to his home village, where he would have to face the western people who had come, to force his family and the others of the village out of their traditions. He knew his parents only managed to hunt enough food a year to feed a single child and no more, and he knew that he had a sister, somewhere, who had been taken away by plane because the family couldn’t afford to keep her. But now the western men were bringing enough industry and money into the village to give the family enough food to feed two children. And all this would be wasted, because his sister wasn’t here any more, and he would refuse to fall out of his ways. The western men had come too late to help his family. They would do fine by themselves.