White Weewoos don't exist. *shifty eyes* Circulation: 110,063,541 Issue: 170 | 19th day of Celebrating, Y6
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Bittersweet


by oily106

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It was cold outside, below freezing. The first delicate snowflake drifted down outside, settling on an already thick layer of snow, blending seamlessly into it. Another followed it, its beautiful individual intricacy lost to the white, and more snowflakes following, drifting gently downwards to their fates. Each unique piece of craftsmanship and design disappeared as it touched the rolling mass below it, gone forever. He wanted to save one, to catch it on his paw and place it in a glass jar, its beauty never fading, crystalline perfection whole for always, like the snowflake decorations on the Christmas trees. But as he stretched out to catch one, it too died as it touched his paw, its design dissolving into an icy patch of water on his fur. He stared regretfully at the snowflake's little death, before drawing his paw back in once more, looking out over the resting place of so many of its companions.

     An endless blanket of white stretched before him, the features of the mountains lost beneath it. The landscape slept, resting underneath its undisturbed white blanket, content to slumber a little under its icy coverlet. He had not that luxury. The plants, the trees, could fold in their leaves and give up, surrender themselves to the cold frost, to wither and die, in the knowledge that they were unimportant, that a new seed would grow, a new tree would come, and the world would move on. How he envied them in that way. He could not afford to give up, though why was not a question he could answer. He was driven by a sense of his own importance, his individuality, his quest for survival of his self. Self preservation, nothing more. It seemed so futile to keep struggling, hope against hope, but somehow he felt he must.

     He stirred the snow just outside the cave where he'd taken shelter. Strange how, once the body cooled this much, how feeling was cauterised. He was numb, inside and out, and the snow barely felt cold at all. It was soft and powdery, a fine handful that blew away as he picked it up. The biting wind snatched the snow out of his paw as soon as he picked it up, but it was relaxing somehow, to watch those small particles whisk away on the air current, free. Even as the wind went straight through his fur, freezing his flesh, it seemed to get pleasanter. His body had no energy left to even shiver, and he felt his mind slip away, watching his paw slacken through a haze, the snow whisk away. How comforting it would be to lie down, his mind whispered through the fog, to let it all go, to sleep…

     No! Never give up!

     Slowly, painfully, he crawled back into the cave, for the meagre warmth it gave. He heard once about what to do in this situations - to build a shelter of snow, to block out the fierce wind from the cave entrance, to keep the air inside warm. But worse than his fear of freezing to death is his fear of being buried alive. To pile up that cold snow, to block out the world outside - that was intolerable. It was Christmas, and pets were all over celebrating another happy year in warm houses, with hot meals and roaring fires. He wanted to remember that, to not lose his one precious link with the real world.

     But a violent shiver wracked his body, disturbing his thoughts. He moved pitifully in order to try and generate some heat. Snowflakes outside were dancing more vigorously now, stirring up into a thick white tornado. He watched them swirl and spin, thousands lost in a single second. Stray gusts blew in, scattering little flakes on the stone floor, sending chills up and down his spine. He huddled his knees to his chest, searching for warmth and his remembered self.

     "Dannan?"

     "Stay there, Kiara."

     Through numbed lips, he was amazed he'd managed to even form the words properly. His eyelashes, rimmed with frost, flicked open, his head tilting back to gaze at the figure of his sister huddled in the back of the cave. She was swathed in their one blanket, sitting royally upright, her eyes full of fear.

     "Dannan, you're cold. Come here and take a turn with the blanket for a while."

     "I'm fine."

     Self preservation, self survival, selfish snowflakes…all that had gone for him, because he had his sister. He wouldn't give up, because of her. He wouldn't lie down, because of her. His own importance had paled, for her. When he gave himself over to selfish delusions, it was separated from her. He would keep her alive. He remembered why he did not give up.

     "Dannan…"

     She was so beautiful, like a snowflake, in danger of melting away. A faint reddish tinge was on her white fur, her delicate paws folded around the blanket. She was watching him with concern on her young face, her piercingly blue eyes watering with cold, or perhaps with unshed tears.

     "Dan-dan…"

     She was using his childhood name now, the one she used when they'd played together so long ago. But she was still so young, he thought. Why did he take this beautiful, fragile thing up the mountain on so harsh a day? It had been an adventure, it had been business, until the snow set in, and the first of many blizzards started. Their pass was blocked, and they'd taken shelter. He'd only wanted to give her a better life, to give her what she deserved.

     He'd thought of a beautiful Christmas present only a few days ago - a thick coat, made of Baabaa wool, like he'd seen on the rich pets in Neopia. It would keep her so warm, so perfect. He'd wanted to buy it, but there was only one way - to brave the treacherous mountain weather, to collect the mountain's precious bounty, to trade it to buy her the gift.

     Outside, the snowflakes spun themselves into a frenzy. The mountain's treasures were long hidden. A light dusting of snow coated his fur.

     "Please, come further in."

     He acquiesced, shifting himself into the furthest bit of the cave, where she sat. There wasn't quite enough room for two, so Dannan wedged himself in front of her, protecting her from the snowstorm outside.

     "You're so cold! Like an icicle," Kiara said quietly.

     Now that he was gently pressed against her warmth, he realised how frozen he was. His fur on his back was thawing out, the icy coating turning into tiny rivulets of water that trickled down his back. He shivered again, wondering how long it would be before he would become too cold to live. It felt like he'd passed that point ages ago, unable to feel his paws anymore, but still his lungs kept on drawing in the icy air, his body refusing to shut down, survival imprinted too deep within him.

     His sister shivered, and he felt guilty for drawing warmth out of her body for his own selfish needs. He shifted away, but she murmured. He looked up into those beautiful blue eyes.

     "You're cold," he whispered.

     "You're more cold."

     "Have the drink. I saved it for you."

     "No…you take it. You're worse off."

     He was too numb to press the point, but he refused to take the drink, and they lay there together in silence a while longer. Yet, Dannan was eventually forced to pile up the snow at the front of the entrance, in a desperate bid to keep them warm. As he blocked up the entrance, leaving a small hole for air, he reflected on their chances of rescue. Pretty poor now, it seemed. He shivered as he heard the snowflakes roar outside, gusting harder and harder. He crawled to the back of the cave, curled up, and lay his head on his sister's lap, trying to give her strength and reassurance. He tried to count the passing minutes, but the numbers jumbled in his head. He found the watch in his pack, a gift from better times, but the hours seemed to blur together as he watched the little hands tick round the face. He was fighting to stay awake, to keep blood pumping through his veins, to keep himself warm. It was a losing battle….

     He woke up and cursed. He'd fallen asleep, he realised, only to wake up as the wall at the front of the cave crumbled slightly and a super cold blast of air hit him. He stumbled, limbs numb with cold, laboriously piling the snow back up, barely able to lift his paws at all. His sister, now also awake, watched him with worried eyes.

     "Dan-dan…I'm cold now. Very cold," she whispered.

     She was shivering, her jaw chattering, her paws shaking.

     "Take the drink."

     It was in a hip flask off to one side, the warm liquid inside it the last of their supplies.

     "It's yours, Dan-dan."

     "Well, I'm giving it to you."

     He pushed forward resolutely, taking the flask reverently in his paws and presenting it to her. He slumped back onto the floor then, ignoring her, picking his watch back up from where it had fallen while he slept. She clasped it in her paws, but did not drink.

     "How long, Dan-dan?"

     "How long till what?"

     But he knew what she was trying to say.

     "How long till we're rescued?" she asked again.

     Blizzards up here last days. We're the only pets or people for miles around. It takes three weeks to walk down the mountain the usual way, as our pass will be totally blocked. We're the only ones who know we're here. The answer to your question, sweet Kiara, is never.

     "Not long," he whispered.

     "I don't want to go like this," she whispered, fear showing through her voice. "I don't want to die of cold."

     "You won't!" he said fiercely, but he couldn't convince himself that.

     "You won't!"

     He turned his back to her, resting against her, rooting in his pack.

     Digging around in his pack, he finally found what he had come to the mountain for: his treasure. The sweetest, juiciest of red berries, like drops of blood on their stems, plump with ripeness. Tender, moist…deadly. The juice that dripped from them would poison someone, painlessly and with no obvious signs, in seconds. But they only worked in large amounts. They fetched a high price on the plains below - he'd gathered enough to poison only one pet, but it would be several months' living for him and his sister. He would have come up to fetch more and more, to provide for him and his sister for years to come - perhaps enough to move to Neopia Central, and realise her dream of becoming a singer, free from poverty's grind. Certainly enough to buy her a warm coat, so that he might never watch her slender frame shake with cold ever again.

     "Sing to me," he whispered.

     As her dear, sweet voice rose in beautiful song, he slipped the flask from her paws gently (unopened) and twisted off the cap. A blast of steam warmed his face, but he worked too quickly to savour it. A final choice had been decided, consolidated in his mind. It was the only last thing he could do. He took the berries in one paw - they were enough for one, no more, to give quick, painless, eternal sleep.

     Squeezing the berries' precious, clear juice into the creamy hot chocolate, he let a tear slip into its milky depths too. It blended into the smooth brown, like the snowflakes into the snow. He held it, cupped in his paws, as his sister, eyes closed, escalated her voice into the realms of the skies. He listened intently, as she sung of snow and stars and love. It was beautiful, the tune carried by one pure voice. She held the final note, perfect and unwavering in the still air, then opened her ice blue eyes once more.

     "Here."

     He felt another tear fall from his eye as he handed her the flask.

     "A reward for your pretty singing. A present. Happy Christmas, Kiara."

     His voice disguised his bitterness at this cruel twist of fate.

     "Drink it…all of it."

     She tried to protest, but he stomped over to the entrance, listening to the blizzard whistle outside, the snowflakes hissing, trying to steel himself for what he knew would come.

     "I won't…"

     "Kiara, just drink it! Please!"

     Something in his voice got to her. She took a sip, her eyes full of pain, until it deepened into a proper gulp. She trusted him implicitly, and he was betraying her. She would never know, never realise. She would just slip away…

     He watched as his sister drank the flask steadily, its warm, smooth liquid slipping down her throat like honeyed kisses. The bottom was reached all too soon - she'd meant to save some for her brother, to share its heat, but all actions felt too heavy now, and thoughts too much. She tried to offer him the flask, but her muscles had gone weak.

     "I love you," she said, her head falling onto her chest, the empty flask rolling away from her paws, coming to rest at Dannan's feet.

      Dannan was done, his purpose over, his self gone, flown with his sister's.

     He picked up the empty flask, and clasped it to his chest as he pawed his way through the snowy wall, and out into the howling blizzard. As the snowflakes eddied around him, gusts wrapping around his body, he smiled, and the tears froze on his cheek. The cold whipped all last warmth from him, cauterising all emotion and feeling, till everything was gone so, so numb.

     Finally, he could lie down, and surrender, and give up his self into sweet, dreamless sleep.

     The snow settled over him like a blanket, folding around him like a mother would her child, as the cold reclaimed him and found its path all the way to his heart.

The End

 
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