Sunday, May 12, 2013

Prompt: Winter’s Child

Thanks to Alexandra Semushina for permission to use her beautiful artwork, "Winter's Child"!

Shalyanka lay at the deep cave’s entrance, breathing shallowly in the heat of the early morning sun. He tapped his long claws against the hard-packed cave floor and scratched lazy circles in the dirt with his hind dewclaw. It was all the energy he could muster. The snow had melted, even from the shaded rocks around the entrance, and the early spring wildflowers bloomed in a riot of color across the meadow where he had frolicked in the heavy snowdrifts, leaping after mice and rabbits with joyful abandon. His eyes watched the swooping birds catching grasshoppers and caterpillars, but he wasn’t tempted to chase them. He had eaten his fill and his stomachs were quiet now, as they would be for the coming months.

His white fur, once glistening against the snow’s icy glitter, hung in heavy patches along his sides. The thick mane that ran along his back was bunched in a heavy thatch that would fall off while he slept. His elegant whiskers that framed his eyes drooped in tired strands along his cheekpads, now sunken against his bones. Soon his long, curled antlers would fall off his head. This was the first year they had grown to their full length, and he regretted losing them. But in honesty, they itched and irritated his forehead so fiercely, that he would be a little glad of the relief.

His long curled tail stretched across the cave floor, the brilliant white now caked in mud and covered in dust. He didn’t even have the strength to groom it anymore. His eyes drooped closed and he longed for the first snap of autumn’s chill. He blew out the faintest whisp of icy white smoke, but it evaporated before it could curl in spirals into the morning air.

Time to sleep. Winter was over, the world warmed by spring’s relentless encroachment. Shalyanka drank in the sight of the beautiful world and turned slowly, curling along the length of his body until he slid down into the deep recesses of the cave. There was no ice, but cold stone that kept him cool through the long hot month’s to come. When he felt the first cool breezes sweep down into the cave, he would wake, stir, stretch, and rise. Winter’s child born again into the white world.

Dogs in house:
Houdini, Brindle

Time writing:
~20 minutes, interrupted

May word count:


  1. Prompt: Winter's Child

    I started building it when the first flakes of snow fell--if you wanted to see winter's child, you needed to wait until winter started to build your hiding place. Otherwise the child would recognise it as a building of another season and stay away.

    This is why, you see, that it is only travellers or those caught out in a storm that have ever seen the child. Many take this pattern to mean that winter's child is a tall tale, spun by weary travellers to entertain their hosts--in hopes of an extra serving or two to extend the tale--or told by the maddened after a cold, terrifying night away from home--who knows what it was that they truly saw, for even a humble squirrel could be winter's child in such eyes.

    But ever since I was a little boy, trailing in my father's itinerant wake, I knew that winter's child was real. I saw him often enough, trotting behind us, looking at times like a white stag, at others like a snowy leopard, and at others like a large reptile--as I imagine a dragon might appear. I wonder if dragons, which everyone seems to take as obviously real even though I have yet to find someone who has actually seen one (and not someone whose brother's wife's childhood friend saw one), are actually tales spawned off winter's child.

    My father explained that since we built our own shelters every night, we created a safe home for the child. The world is a scary place now for winter's child, as so many people stay in one place, building in the bright sun of summer. The child relies on us, he said. Those of us who travel must keep him alive.

    But now I no longer travel. And I worry the child is gone. So I built, and now I wait.

    Time writing: 15 minutes, sleeping lap baby

    1. Nice idea of the once-traveling boy seeing it often, and the man trying to see if it's still there. I like it!

  2. I like the idea of reverse hibernation. Lots of nice description here.

    1. Thanks, I was actually trying to describe the painting, since I often think I don't describe things in enough detail.