Winter's Crystal

The old man’s hands are pallid blue, emaciated and tired. His walking stick in hand, he pierces ice and mud, blood and bone beneath his feet. He cries out to those who know him, but they turn away with frosty scowls. He staggers onward.

He pauses and looks to the place where the winter crystal shines. Its source of light is blinding — a phoenix frozen in deep layers of thick glass. The light leads the way and with each step it brightens. He staggers onward.

When he arrives at the river, sticks crack below his feet. He straightens his back, looks down the riverbanks, and examines how the river widens. He seems to realize that he could reach the sea if he followed its tempting path. But he knows his time has come so he turns to face the truth.

Wayward souls howl and groan against the wicked winds. He sees his own reflection in the glassy surface — his worn face, broken body. The crystal’s heat burns into his black soul. He shuts his eyes to feel the light surround him.

He drops his oaken stick and runs.

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