• Royal Register

A Frosty Camaraderie

Karen Mai Amaya, Grade 12


I remained low behind a log, peering through small gaps, waiting for my target to come. Loud crunches of its footsteps drew by, a telltale sign of its approach. I withdrew my arm and slid back, readying myself to act. And there it was - a big, brown hog trotted across the snowy trail and paused midway, sniffing around the ground. It dug through the snow and munched on a piece of acorn. It continued scouring through the trail, uncovering more acorns in the snow. In the cold month of December, it was an ideal time to hunt hogs in the woods. They seek to forage whatever they can find and use the daytime to search for food and to keep themselves warm.

A huge snap followed and I jerked my head upwards. The hog flailed against the trap, flipping over in a feeble attempt to free its hind leg. I crawled around the dead stumps and logs to find the right timing to move. It kept squealing, until its cry subsided a couple minutes later, a cue for me to go. I left my hiding spot and trudged over to its body, noticing its ragged breathing. Its eyes twitched and its body trembled greatly.

Although I pitied seeing the hog struggle, I did not allow remorse to disrupt my success. I swiftly brandished out a knife and ended its life there. I hoisted the hog and slung it over my shoulder, then slogged through the mounds of snow back to my hut. After hours of drying it and hanging it over in the rack, I then prepared myself a nice, steaming bowl of hog meat sprinkled with dried herbs for dinner. It was a simple meal that shook away the bitter cold.

As I chowed down on my meal, a huge gust rattled the hut. I shook it off. I did have to admit, being out here all alone brought some mental toil on me. Still, hunting was my joy and my life, as I have been accustomed to nature’s toughest of trials for a long time.

The next morning, I went out to chop some wood. While making my way, the wind shoved me backwards, causing me to fall flat on my back. I muttered a curse beneath my breath, wincing. Thankfully, a pile of snow had broken my fall, but the impact still left me with a pain in my back.

I never dealt with such a strong wind that pushed me with much ease. As I rose, a rush of chilly air - almost like a whisper - whizzed past my cheeks and down my neck. I shuddered and felt goosebumps rising on my skin. Hastily readjusting my face covering to stay warm, I tried to shake it off and return to my routine, but a knot of uneasiness lodged in my chest.

As though it could not get any more weird, a flurry of snow circled and danced around me. It was as if I was a figure in a snow globe being shaken by a child. Then it all happened so rapidly - the flurries of snow tailspun into a snowstorm. I squeezed my eyes shut, my shouts drowning out by the howling wind.

I clutched at my hat and face covering, as I hunched forward, avoiding the snow flowing into my partially exposed face as much as I could. My knees dropped on the ground and I curled up like a ball, burying my head in my arms. The freezing wind nipped at my eyes and eyebrows like nails - its sharp pain dug into my skin.

Was this how I was going to die? All alone here? I thought, keeping myself low. This was something beyond my hunting experience here in the woods.

Whoosh.

Just as it came, it ended. Panting, I wiped the snow off my coat, face covering and my hat, shaken by the absurd turnout of events. This phenomenon was so far normal to be considered a natural occurrence that even a skeptical person like myself could believe it was the antics of some spiritual being. Perhaps Jack Frost was present here? You may as well guess. Turns out, I was somehow both right and wrong.

It was not Jack Frost, but a lady.

The lady stepped closer to me. I observed her pitch black skin like obsidian contrasting her purely white gown imprinted with snowflake patterns, her face covered by a thin veil except for her lips. Her hair was made of a long sleet of clear ice.

“Someone is here, after all this time,” she whispered. Her delicate voice left me agape, entranced by her tone.

“So you dare to show your face after what happened?” she intoned, jabbing a finger at my face. I flinched at the shift from her poised state to abrupt anger. Around my feet, icicles slowly formed from the ground and rose to a point where it was beneath my chin.

“I…am a hunter, I have no idea what you are speaking about. I can’t say much if I was never involved to begin with,” I said quickly, despite my mind being in shambles. She stayed there, studying me to determine if I was lying or not. Her gaze broke as she lowered her hand. Though I could not see the eyes beyond her veil, I discerned that she believed me.

“My apologies. I thought you were one of those people who abandoned me,” she withdrew her hands into her sleeves and the icicles disappeared. I heaved a sigh of relief, but kept my guard. All I had was a hatchet, which was buried somewhere in a heap of snow after all that snowstorm.

“It was many years ago. I was there to accompany them…for what was it, a mission? A gathering? I cannot remember. There was a storm, and they all fled - I was left behind, lost and forgotten.”

As my senses returned, I understood that she was a person who died somewhere in the woods. I stood there, wondering what would have happened to me if I had not said anything. Would I have been impaled by those icicles by then?

“While this place may be my grave, it has also become my home,” she continued, as she reached out to a tree branch and touched the icicles sticking to it. I was not sure what else to do, aside from offering a word to comfort her. But a tinge of pity came to me after hearing what happened to her.

“I’m sorry for whatever you had to go through,” I said, shuffling my feet. The lady swiveled around and a thin smile formed on her face.

“I appreciate your kindness. Care to tell me your name, hunter?”

I was not sure whether to tell the ice lady about my name. Nor did I expect my words to have touched her. But if I did not speak, I imagined something bad would happen.

So I caved in.

“It’s Evander.”

“My name is Neve.”

It was a unique name that I never heard of before. But there was no time to chit-chat. I had to leave before the unfathomable happened.

“Well, Neve, it was…a pleasure to meet you. I’ve got to go back to my hut,” I pointed towards the direction where my hut was.

“So you live here? How strange that I have never seen you,” she lifted her head, curious.

Instant regret hit me. I should have not disclosed that part.

“For the most part. I usually return to my home town in the summer,” I said through gritted teeth.

“I see.”

“So… yeah. Take care.”

I gave her a hasty nod and trod away, not wanting to handle the awkwardness any longer. It was best for me to leave - I was not a good talker at all.

But when I retreated to my hut, Neve’s story tugged at my heartstrings. A strong inclination came to my mind, telling me that I had to do something. I had realized I forgot to retrieve my hatchet, which I promised myself to get it the next day.

And so, I came back to the same spot where I found Neve sitting on a tree stump and somehow - we started talking about our lives. Since then, I pledged to meet her everyday.

One day, Neve made me a snow barrier around my hut to ward off other predatory animals that intruded in my area as thanks. In return, I entertained her with my stories of hunting.

“Thank you for visiting me, Evander. It has been a long time since I have seen and talked to people. I assume those who left me behind are long gone by death’s call. There is no use of harbouring hatred any longer,” Neve told me.

Despite her literal cold appearance, her kindness brought warmth and comfort to my solitary life. She reminded me that having a friend was nice to “chill” out with.



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