The Ice

The day David turned ten, his father took him to hunt for the first time. The Frozen Wastes had always unsettled the child and his father knew it, as he knew that one day he wouldn’t be there to provide for him. That morning, James woke David up when the clouds were still dark and took him to the workshop. They prepared for the journey in silence, the stillness of the cave broken only by James’s occasional questions and David’s curt answers. As he checked the integrity of the thick furs that were to keep them alive in the frozen hell that were the Wastes, David had the feeling that he was being tested. It was not the first time he went through the preparations with his father, in fact he knew the process by heart now, but the way James looked at his hands go over all the familiar motions as they felt the weathered smoothness of the leather that made up most of the laminar armour, David could feel the weight of a lifetime of expectations looming in his father’s gaze.

Without a word, James handed his spear to his son with a solemn motion, and David took it between his small hands. Unlike the times he had held it while his father taught him how to move with it, how to thrust with it, how to kill with it, the spear felt real and solid, its head tipped by all the preys that had fallen before it in the hands of his father and the hands of his father before that. Contemplating the imperfections that ran along the weapon’s shaft, counting the small dents on the spear tip, David recalled each and every one of its stories as his father had told them to him, weaving the tale of the clan through years, back to a time in which the spear had been newly cast and its shaft as smooth as the cave walls. Then and there, it was difficult for David to imagine a time in which weapons were only a sporting rarity and people didn’t have to sleep huddled together to prevent the creeping cold of the Wastes from taking them. A time before the ice.

As father and son made their way out of the common chamber, David glanced back one last time trying to find Janira amongst the familiar mass of bodily heat and oblivious respirations that came from a clan still asleep. When his eyes couldn’t find her, he followed his father towards the cold light of the Wastes, where the ice waited patiently, and no comfort could ever be found.

In the lonely dark, amongst the warmth of her sleeping family, a mother wept silently for the fate of her child like many others had done before her, as she wondered how such small shoulders, which had only ever known the comfort of the cave, could ever hold the weight of their entire world.

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