chapter 1

Through the valley a northern gale was blowing. It rolled in the fold of the land, savouring its energy and power, and climbed up the hilly slope onwards, out to the snow-white farmlands beyond, bound south.

 

In his house, Mako pulled the bed sheets up closer to his chin as wind rattled the shutters on his windows. It had grown so cold recently. So dark, so cold.

 

The candle in the corner of the room flickered and went out, as if by some unspoken promise to the wind. A promise of subordination. Was Mako to be a servant to this change in weather, too?

 

The young boy puffed out his cheeks, trying to keep at least some warm air inside his trembling body. What would happen if this went on for much longer? The little lake just outside the town had already glazed over with a thin layer of ice. Every morning and every evening, the men would go down and break up the frosted layer that had built up before it got too think. But soon it would be even colder, the lake would freeze over completely, and no metal would break through the thickness of its icy layer. What if this winter never ended?

 

Aragon was a little town based between two hills at the top of a mountainous range. Mako was used to the colds of winter, but these weren’t the same colds he remembered throughout his eight years of life. The wind had become more sinister as summer changed to autumn. And now, as October merged into November, snow had begun to fall in great heavy heaps onto the roofs of houses and into the little gardens of Mako’s neighbours. Many livestock sheds had been broken in the first hailstorm and many more had their roofs fall through as the snow accumulated on top before the men were able to toss it down to the street.

 

Supplies and harvests had just been gathered before the snow and storms arrived; the town was well stocked up to last the winter months, but Mako still feared. He had never seen the likes of such a winter before. And neither had his ancestors, he knew. He could see the way mummy trembled as she looked out the window every morning as she prepared their breakfast meal. She put on a brave face whenever Mako asked if she was going out today to check on the cows in their drafty but still-surviving little shed, and she always said ‘yes, darling’. but Mako could see the looking of uncertainty on her plain face.

 

She was a plain woman but beautiful, Mako knew. She should have remarried, only Eliza still held onto hope that her husband wasn’t dead. He had fallen down a cliff three years ago, Mako barely remembered him. Coal-black hair, big, earnest eyes, strong hands and broad shoulders. The town had long since pronounced him death – no one was going to investigate the depths of the crack in the rocks he had fallen into. But Eliza retained hope that her husband had climbed out, perhaps struggling to remember who he was, where he was meant to go. Perhaps that’s why he still hadn’t returned to his loving family, reconnected with his wife and children.

 

A powerful gust of wind broke Mako out of his thoughts as it connected with the thin glass of his bedroom window, seeping through the shutters, rattling the frame. It felt as if the whole window would come out and crash into the little dark room. The young boy shivered, digging his toes into the familiar fabric of his bed sheets, praying the whole house wouldn’t get blown away as he had so often imagined in his nightmares on similar stormy nights. The wind was harsh. He had never realised it. Never realised how harsh Mother Nature could be.

 

A cry from below drew Mako’s attention away from the howling wind outside. He hoped Marta was going to be alright. She was only four, much weaker than him or their mother. When he had touched her tiny hands that evening as they’d sat beside the weak fire downstairs, Mako had felt the strange coldness in them. It wasn’t a momentary shiver, or a touch of cold like you would get in the fingers after carrying home a bucket of clean water from the lake in the early morning. It was as if Marta couldn’t get warm, no matter the layers Mako and Eliza covered her with, no matter the body warmth Eliza gave her as she huddled around her daughter in their room below Mako’s.

 

The cold was making them fearful. Or was it the fear of this strange weather that was making them cold?

Comments

This is evocative writing. You draw powerful imagery and the characters are well drawn....especially Mako. But the striking thing about this chapter is that in a matter of a few lines you have me afraid for Marta. This is the beginning of an excellent story that gives you a variety of possibilities such as the father not being dead...but that's for you to decide. Well done Anna. I look forward to your next chapter!