Eternal Frost

Image of Long Story Short Award - Fall 2020
Image of Short Fiction
Shimmering sheets of ice streaked the land for as far as any eye could hope to see. That’s all there would ever be. The sun scarcely penetrated the thick clouds of fog that rolled endlessly on what used to be beautiful lush plateaus. Now everything was laid to waste.

A cloaked figure stood, gazing across the wasteland that haunted his dreams. As he breathed, a cloud of mist emanated from his cracked lips. He licked them in a feeble attempt to temporarily mask the pain. A painful memory stirred deep within his broken mind. Something he tried to bury years ago. Yet, it was as clear as day. Or what day used to represent before this wretched memory plagued his very existence. It was the only thing that chilled him more than the ravaging hoarfrost.

The beginnings of a raging storm buffeted the man forwards, who barely managed to catch his balance before plummeting into the chasm in front of him. He didn’t know why he bothered to stop himself from falling. After all, this was what he knew he deserved. The opportunity to prevent this nightmare was his to take all those years ago, but he didn’t. He often wondered why. Again, he was sucked back into the awful memory. Before him was his brotherhood, cloaked in the robes of torment. The incantations that cascaded from their mouths sounded like birdsong in the moonlight. As they spread themselves in a circle around a desecrated altar chanting the words of their own demise, comets streamed their way towards the planet. By destroying the place of their creation, they thought they were saving it. It felt like the right thing to do at the time, but reality set in when he was the only of his brothers to survive. He hadn’t even tried to stop it. Why didn’t he break away from the circle and try reasoning with them? How could he have been so foolish? Questions such as these wracked his brain in an endless cycle. Nothing could make him forget.

When the first comet hit, earsplitting cries filled the midnight air. Fear told him to stop and run, but something supernatural held him in place. He thought he heard laughter that night. It wasn’t laughter that could have come from a human; It was the laugh of sheer joy. Hopelessly, he watched as one by one his brethren were consumed in flames. Accepting his fate, he closed his eyes and waited for the sweet escape of death to come, but it never did. After the fires stopped, the weather turned to snow throughout the entire world, and never ceased. Ever since, the man traveled the world for any sign of life, but to no avail. He was alone. And it was his fault.

Awakened from the memory, he again stood in front of the dark chasm. No. This wasn’t the right thing to do. The punishment he deserved was to live in unceasing torment. That’s how he’d pay for his mistakes. As he turned to walk away, something sprang at him from the shadows and bowled him into the fissure. Confusion sparked in his eyes as he looked at who had fallen with him. It was a face he knew all too well. He stared into the face of himself.