Pixabay picture user Andrys

Bifröst [Short Fiction]

Rollercoaster by sara

 

Bifröst was described by one Wattpad reader as ‘beautifully depressing’ and I could not be happier with those tags. It is a post apocalyptic story following two siblings as they journey out of their prison, into a frozen world.

 

Cocooned in a ratty blanket frilled at the edges, baby Lucille, with milky irises devoid of recognition, stared at her brother as he sprinted through the underbrush. Icy daggers in the form of thorns and decrepit brambles whipped at his torn clothes and left his exposed skin raw, covered in feral stripes painted in blood. The boy, still years from his first beard, had long since abandoned stealth in favor of speed. His ferocious drive afforded the pair a comfortable gap from their pursuers, but the cuts and welts were beginning to overwhelm him with localized stinging. For once, the boy was grateful for the omnipresent winter. The farther and faster he ran, the more his chilled nerves refused to send their pain signals to his brain.

Somewhere between the frozen swamp and the edge of the white forest where he now stood, the boy had lost his right shoe. The only reason he noticed its absence at all was because he paused from his trek to regain his breath and listen for pursuit. Looking down, he thought he had stepped in a rusty can of paint or on some winter berry bush oozing out blue sludge. It was only when he, wiggling his stiff toes, allowed five small slits of the white snow through, that he realized his shoe had fallen off and that the gnarled blue appendage was his foot. Knowing he wouldn’t run much farther without addressing his near frozen foot, the boy surgically removed his sister from her wrap and tucked her against his bare chest buttoning the front to create a pouch. Still warm, Lucille squirmed around against his bare chest. He tied the blanket around his foot, noting grimly the lack of feeling as he knotted it against his bony ankle. Smiling as he remembered his mother’s ticklings, not even the soft spot on the sole of his foot registered the slightest feeling.

The thought of his mother’s warmth brought a tear to the boy’s cheek which froze with intricate cracks decorating its surface. He brushed it aside as one would a noisome gnat and continued walking on his journey. “Mommy would not be pleased to see us sitting here crying and wasting time,” he said, looking down to the baby who remained uncharacteristically quiet. Blocking the sunlight was the shadow trailing a hill, both magnificent and menacing. Despite the ache from his foot that caused the boy to hobble, he pushed through the snow as he climbed to the crest of the hill.

Finally atop, he stood blinded for a moment by the intense sun that gave more light than heat. Before him and all around him, the reflective snow stretched from horizon to horizon in an endless blanket of white. After a moment, the boy, whose eyes were unaccustomed to the harsh direct sunlight, was able to discern the silhouette of what looked like a behemoth’s skeleton against the bright sun and snow.  “That’s where we need to get to, little Lucille,” the boy said, cupping his hands to his eyes as though wielding binoculars. A noise, from the way they had come, startled him. The high-pitched squawk rose to the boy’s numb ears and he turned to see a family of birds breech the snow crowned treetops. Without further pause, he took off running towards the distant skeleton.

As the boy closed in on the behemoth’s grave, he passed through the remnants of an old town. The tops of buildings jutted from the compacted snow. The boy passed one such roof, made of a fabric that had long prior surrendered its color to the hard sun and reflective snow. A thin layer of ice encased the fabric. He looked behind him to ensure he had a moment to spare, then punched through a light coat of ice and the fabric. He peeked into the hole but recoiled at the sight of a person frozen to the ground some ten feet below the boy. Body forgotten, he resumed his quest and once again headed for the huge skeleton. Eventually he found where the curved spine sloped under the faux ground created by the snow and embarked. The boy cleared through a foot of snow and ice only to discover that the skeleton was not made of bone, as he had suspected, but of a hardened metal. It reminded him immediately of the tracks that allowed quick navigation through the prison from which he had escaped. The boy began ascending it the metal skeleton. Underneath a layer of snow rested its hard spine. Other bones, supporting the spine on which he now walked, descended straight below the white depths to the unseen ground. And as the boy discovered, stepping through and stumbling to the cold bone below, this spine, like the tracks that traipsed through his prison, was also uniformly divided with gaps wide enough for a foot to slip through.

After climbing the massive skeleton for almost an hour, the boy and his infant sibling, both beyond shivering, found themselves on the summit of the beast. “This must be it, Lucy. The flat platform Mommy was talking about… where she met Daddy.” An invisible weight appeared to drop from the boy’s shoulders. He stood tall and walked to the rail-guarded edge of the summit, looking out over the world farther than he had ever imagined he’d see. He removed the wrap from his foot, extracted his frail baby sister from her pouch and wrapped her in the tough fabric. “I know you cannot see it Lucille, but it truly is a sight worth the journey. There,” the boy said, pointing, “a river rages –a real river. And back this way,” he said, turning back to the woods, “is where we escaped from.” He limped back to the rail protecting the edge of the summit and noticed a square plaque hanging limply by a loose rusty screw. “It’s a little hard to read, but some of the words are clear,” The boy squinted, scraping ice from its face. “Ragnarök,” the boy told his sister. “There are some numbers underneath: 220 feet tall, and 85mph –don’t know what ‘mph’ means. It also says that it was built in 2018 and says something about bimonthly repairs, though that part is tough to read. What do you think this thing is Lucille?” He looked to the distant snow below and thought he saw movement. “Well, whatever it was… It must’ve been magnificent to see. The snow probably killed it.”

The boy paused to look his baby sister in the face. Her expression was devoid of grimace or grin, her skin pale blue and she had stopped squirming half way up the climb. He smiled as a teardrop fell onto her cold forehead. “Can’t you feel it, Lucy. Mommy was right. It is getting warmer.” He blinked another tear away and for a moment, his vision filled with a rainbow of watered colors. He cradled the silent baby and sat down onto the summit’s snowy peak. Feeling the gentlest tickle of warm air on his cheek, he closed his eyes and pressed his lips to his sister’s head.

 

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PC: Sara Wagner (Rollercoaster); Pixabay user Andrys (pen)

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