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When The Snow Falls MAG
When the Snow Falls
by R. M., Presque Isle, ME
Once upon a time, in a realm called Alexia, there lived a woman by the name of Alyssa. She was a simple woman with simple needs. She lived on a small farm on the outskirts of town. Living off the land, she and her husband, Gorak, lived in happiness. Well, it was almost happy. You see, Alyssa could not bear children and they both desperately wanted a son.
Over the season, Alyssa and Gorak would tend the land. Gorak would work the earth while Alyssa raised a small herd of goats they owned. When they felt the coming of the chilling winds, they would harvest the crops and Gorak would take the goat cheese, making the three-day journey to town.
Often after Gorak would leave, Alyssa would walk several miles to a cliff overlooking the cooling ocean. She would stand at the cliff's edge and think about what it would be like to have a child, to feel it growing inside her and bring it into the world. The thoughts often brought nightmares while she slept. This only made the despair worse for she kept it buried deep in her soul.
That season, the winds came early and the harvest was not too bountiful. Rather than lose precious income for the whole year, Gorak left early for town. Alyssa spent her days in the dimly lit house with sadness in her heart. She often cried herself to sleep at night and was tormented by ever-worsening dreams.
One brisk morning, she journeyed to the cliffs to think. As she felt the tears stream down her cheeks, she threw her head up and screamed, "I would do anything for a son," she screamed to the cloudy skies.
"Anything?" a raspy voice inquired.
She spun around and was confronted by a short, old man. He was wearing a tattered animal skin and leaned up against an old walking stick. Although he was plain and scrawny, his stick was etched with many detailed carvings of land and sea.
"You say you would do anything for a son?" the little man asked.
"Oh, yes," Alyssa responded, "I would do anything to have a son."
The old man stared at her for quite some time. She almost felt entranced by his mysterious eyes. They were cloudy, but always focused and alert. They stood in the brisk fall air, looking at each other. It was as if they were looking for something, but not sure what.
Suddenly, the old man spoke, breaking the silence.
"If it is a son you want, then a son you shall have," he whispered. The man began to cough, hunched over and gasping for air. "The cold winds disturb me. I must leave now."
"Thank you for stopping," Alyssa called out. "It gets lonely around here."
For a long while, she thought about what the man had said. It puzzled her and she struggled to find an answer. She realized then that her husband would be returning in a few days and she began to feel at ease.
Only a day or so before her husband was to arrive home, a terrible snowstorm swept over the land. It covered all the roads and made the bridges almost impassable. Alyssa knew that it would be quite some time before her husband returned and she again began to feel anguish. One stormy night as she prepared supper, she heard a knock at the door.
"Who would be fool enough to be out during such a fierce storm?" she asked herself. As she opened the door, a figure crashed onto the floor of the hut. She quickly turned the figure over and saw the face of a man. She got his clothes off and put him into bed by the fire. Although it wasn't her husband, she was very concerned and did what was necessary to revive him. Over the next three days she cared for his every need. Making sure the fire never died down, she mixed herbs and roots in a large iron pot and fed them to the man every few hours.
The dawn of the third day, the snow stopped and the man awakened. Alyssa looked at the man, who now sat up in bed. He was very heavily muscled like a hard laborer, or fighter. His long, brown hair touched the top of his wide back.
"Thank you for saving me," the man said in a husky tone. "The storm caught me by surprise and I had no other shelter."
"It was the least I could do," Alyssa responded. "I mean, I couldn't just let you die."
"No, I suppose you couldn't."
They spent the day talking about where they had come from and where they were going. It was the first time in quite a while that she had laughed and smiled. She shared her deepest secrets with this man. Secrets that she had never even shared with her husband.
That night, the two spent a quiet evening together eating and talking.
"Alyssa," the man said, "I have something to show you."
He got up from the table and went to his bag. Rummaging through odds and ends, he finally pulled a dark box from the clutter. He opened it, and it began to play a soft lullaby music. Putting it on the table, he extended a hand to Alyssa, swaying into a deep bow.
"Would you like to dance?" he asked.
She began to blush with embarrassment, but still, she stood and took his hand. She felt safe in his strong arms as he swept her across the room. She began to feel dizzy spinning around and around, but she seemed to enjoy it. It was the first time she had danced in a long time. She let herself go, flying freely with him. It was as if she wasn't herself, but someone else.
Later, Alyssa was awakened by a brisk chill in the air. She sat up and noticed that the fire had gone out. She pulled an animal skin close to her and went to restore the fire.
When she turned back, she gasped, pulling the skin even tighter around her body. There in her bed lay the stranger who had mysteriously fallen into her life. At first she was stunned, wondering what had happened the night before. Could she have shared herself with this man? Could it be possible that she was, so captivated by him, her own judgment was clouded?
She quietly crept back into the room where the stranger slept. She gingerly opened his bag, searching for something that might tell more about his identity. At first, she could find nothing. Then, she stumbled onto something interesting. At the bottom, she found a small staff. Taking a closer look, she saw many detailed etchings of land and sea.
"Very beautiful, isn't it?"
She spun around and saw the man standing at the foot of the bed, looking at her.
"Ye ... yes, it is," she stammered.
"When someone wants something so badly, they say one will do anything for it. It can make a person very powerful."
"I don't understand," Alyssa murmured, her body trembling.
"It's actually quite simple. You see, you wanted a son and I wanted to be young and handsome again. We wanted these things very badly, so we made a little trade. I gave you a son and you gave me renewed youth."
Her crystal, blue eyes widened with fear as she took a step back.
"My God, this can't be happening."
Alyssa slumped into the corner and began to cry. As she held her head in her hands, she noticed that her hands were horribly cracked and dry. She stood up, frightened. Feeling the contours of her face, she noticed lines and wrinkles that had not been there before. Struck senseless with hysteria, she threw her head back and let out a blood-curdling scream. She ran outside and headed for the coast. She could not believe what she had done; she had sacrificed her beauty, devotion and esteem for a son who she would never be able to love.
Rather than face her husband in disgrace, she threw herself to the rocky coast below.
Three days later, Gorak found her being swept into the cold sea. On his knees, he wept bitterly over the loss of his beloved wife.
Nobody ever saw Gorak or Alyssa after that storm. Some say that the wind spirits took Gorak away from this painful existence and into a better place. Now (they say) every time it snows, these are the frozen tears of Gorak and the spirits mourning the death of his beloved wife.