The lady walked through the snow, humming in time with the soft crunch of the fresh powder packed tight into the dirt, the fine ice ground ever finer beneath her boots. The cold seared her throat, but she did not cough, warmed as she was by the one thing she possessed that was hers and hers alone:
A quiet and dangerous song.
They watched her through shuttered windows, through blinds cracked open by chapped fingers, both repelled and enchanted by the strange sound she made. It woke something in their hearts, a cold fire. Her song called to something long dead, a ghost even their mothers' mothers had forgotten.
They watched torn between impulses: Between revelry—the urge to join her in the wintry streets, drink deeply of the cool air, pack the snow down with their dance, and fear—some glanced at their phones, remembering the Gray City’s mandate call to report the unknown, onlookers froze in the liminal space between freedom and tyranny.
All frozen… but one.
A young man, bearing the certainty that dooms so many young men. The whisper: this is not the day you die. He shivered, from the cold he said, just the cold, he ignored the flames he felt spark inside. The voices crying 'this is not wrong!'
But it *is* forbidden.
"Stop!" He called after the lady as a winter storm began in her wake, swallowing his words. In the wind, the falling ice, no way she heard him. Yet she turned nonetheless. Her ice blue eyes sunk into a dark, sallow, face, her glare piercing through him, like she saw him, inside of him and the city street for a mile beyond.
'Stop!' He repeated unnecessarily.
She waited, snow falling in heavy flurries, damp flakes lumped together as the temperature flirted with freezing. The storm danced around her as she waited for the young man to again find his voice.
He stuttered, rendered uncertain by her stoicism: "Y-you... you can't do this!"
Her lips, as best as he could see through the white, were still, but he heard her voice--cold and deep--quite clearly. Its calm belied the surrounding storm.
I can't... do what?
The young man forgot he was supposed to be cold, the blue flame raging in earnest.
"This." He stepped forward, buffeted by the wind, inching closer to the dark lady with blue eyes, draped in a black shawl.
"Whatever this is," With each word, he found a store of untapped courage. "This new thing. This-"
He gestured to the storm that consumed them.
He blinked and she crossed the distance between them in an instant, studying his face with the removed interest of a scientist observing their lab rats.
You think this sorcery? Something arcane and dark? No, this is the world. It calls to us to create, begs for us to express its beauty. You have forgotten. We had all forgotten. Been made to forget For so long we slept in the gray and silence. We lived and died without purpose, without a way to know ourselves. We forgot our history, our art, the music of the world around us.
She stopped, seeming to luxuriate in the cold the young man no longer noticed
But I have remembered.
"Remembered? Remembered what?"
The families watching the encounter from the warmth and safety of their homes could no longer see the two in the street. They saw only shadows in the white, they heard only the omnipresent song of winter, the blue flame that both warmed and cooled.
A new song.
She spoke without her lips, directly to the young man's heart.
Would you like to hear it?
Before he could respond, she grabbed his head with hands bared to the elements, pulling him forward. She sang directly into his ear, singing of the first winter. Of a planet wrapped in ice, a frozen, fledging world. She sang of a cold, blue fire. A fire that fled from her voice into the young man’s ear. The young man fell into this song, this song of the snow and ice. He felt himself disappear into a cold too oppressive to deny.
Witnesses, later asked to describe what they heard, and what they saw, responded by weeping, by staring into the past, by smiling as they remembered the tune they dared not openly recall.
In their hearts, they all felt the same: this... 'song' was the most beautiful thing they had ever heard.
As for the young man? When the song finally abated, the storm subsided, when onlookers ventured from their homes, he stood alone. His hands, like his eyes, like his clothes, like his soul, were all ice blue. No heat would melt him, no force could break him.
Nothing but winter remained.