The Compression of Snow
by Liv Norman
Highly Commended in the Bare Fiction Prize for Flash Fiction 2017
Snow is white and blue; brown and red. It is hunger. Every day I learn new words.
The girl wrapped me in furs, head to toe, so I see only part of her. Her black hair swings beads. They tap against my face when she bends down to me as we walk. I think about them when I’m afraid.
She’s not my mother, though I call her Anaana.
Ahead of us swinging lanterns throw shadows across heaped snow. The air is salty thick. As the lights get closer I see these are men, not to be trusted.
‘Stay’, the girl says. Her hands make the sign: stay, be quiet.
I press myself into the snow, hunger making pictures under my eyes: a dream of noise and fire. My mother shouting; a man’s hands carrying me from hers. Ice racing beneath me, wind against my face, a tumbling in my stomach. I laugh, hearing over my laughter a loud crack: a giant’s yawn. Then a gasping shout and silence.
‘Father’, the girl said when she found me in the sled. ‘Was father?’
We left him in the water.
Somewhere the girl cries out.
When she wrapped me in furs she said, ‘you will be a man’.
The beads in her hair are different colours, like the snow. When she moves her head they sing.
I wait for that song.
Tack, tock, tack.
The girl bends down, dripping tears. I’m more afraid when she cries.
The snow is ice-blue behind her, spotted red.
Her face, red.
She shakes her head.
Tack, tock, tack.
She sits down, pulling at her furs. They’re ripped, the flesh beneath pimpling blue. She passes me something warm and slick.
‘Present’, she says, covering herself with her hands.
It’s a seal, brown and red: a present.
A new word.
The Compression of Snow was Highly Commended in the Bare Fiction Prize for Flash Fiction 2017, as chosen by Naomi Booth.