They told me not to play on the ice. It was too late in the year, it would be too thin. So, I’d promised Mother that I wouldn’t go out onto the ice. I even stuck to my word for about an hour.
Then one of my gloves had gone flying off my hand onto the ice. It was so cold, I thought my fingers were going to freeze right off. It was March and I was still freezing.
I stuck my hand into my pocket, clenching it into a fist squeezed tight as if I could force the cold away. I figured I’d be fine if I just went out to get my glove. It was so cold, surely the ice would be fine?
It wasn’t. I’d got to where my glove was waiting, practically in the middle of the lake. I snatched it off the surface, proudly sliding my hand into its warmth. Which is when I heard the ice crack. I looked around, seeing nobody at all and realised that I should have listened to Mother. I said as much to myself as the icy fingers reached up and pulled me through.
It was so cold. Crushing me, forcing the air from my lungs in a scream. I wanted to gasp but the water was surrounding me, freezing tendrils pulling at my skin and forcing my heart into a pulsing rhythm, far faster than any heart should beat.
I fought, but the cold was claiming me, pulling me in and it wasn’t going to let me go. I was being crushed beneath the ice, the surface a distant memory.
Then the hand appeared. A gloved hand, reaching through the hole that my body had made in the ice, appearing as if by magic in front of my face. I reached out, and held tight to the arm, the muscles clenching tight beneath my fingers as I was dragged from the cold’s embrace.
I gasped as my head broke the surface, taking in as much air as possible as I lay on the ice. ‘Are you alright?’ A muffled voice was trying to break through the ice that I’m sure had been invading my skull. ‘Kid, look at me. Are you alright?’
My teeth chattered as I tried to reply. The words froze in my throat, gripping into position and refusing to leave past my snapping teeth. ‘F-f-f-f…’ That was the only syllable I could get out.
‘People are coming. They’ll look after you.’ My saviour stood up and the blue eyes above the line of the mask gleamed. ‘You’ll be okay.’ Without another word, they left. Disappearing as magically as they had arrived.
I’d been scooped up by a few people with blankets, none of whom had seen hide nor hair of anybody else on the lake. I knew, I’d checked. Anybody within ten miles of the lake on that day, I asked all of them and nobody had seen the blue eyed person with the mask over their face.
I went back every year. Even after college, university. I got married, I had children of my own but I still went back every year to the same spot. Hoping for something, anything I could find.
One year, thirty years after I went through the ice, it had been another bad winter. I’d had to walk through a dreadful blizzard to get here, but here I was. I’d had to dig out the mask from the cellar to protect my nose and lips from the biting cold. A blanket of snow lay over everything in sight and there was a young boy playing by the lakeside. He’d made a snowman and was now pelting it with snowballs, laughing as he knocked the carrot flying from the snowman’s face. I looked around for some sign of his parents, but the boy was alone.
That’s when I saw it. His glove flew off as he reached his arm back, winding up for a big throw. The boy had shoved his hand into his pocket and looked around as if he was waiting for someone to tell him it was okay. I watched the boy take tentative steps onto the ice, that I knew wasn’t even whispering its vulnerabilities and weaknesses, staying stoically silent until the boy reached the centre of the lake.
I could hear the crack from where I was standing.
I looked for the mysterious rescuer, waited for him to pounce, to swoop in like an angel.
Nothing. Not a sign of him. Which is when I made my decision.
I would rescue the boy. I charged onto the lake, completely ignoring the groaning beneath my feet. I knew that the ice would hold.
It already had.
Oooo, time travel and possibly a paradox? (A paradox, a most ingenious paradox?)
The Idiot in Tin Foil