An IN THE AIR Excerpt: “Silap Inua” by Joanna Koch

The palace of the Frost King was as silent as snow. A library towered through the core of the mountain to its tallest peak. Not books or words or pages, but amorphous crystalline shapes in a calligraphic dance spoke from the volumes extending on shelves up through the sky and out to the stars. Movement composed their language.

Leandra understood the threedimensional constructs with instinctive ease.

As they assembled and proliferated, she rediscovered her lost childhood manuscript in the constantly changing dialectic of symbols. Individual marks combined, reshaped, and connected into new idioms as they merged with others. They gained in meaning and significance through accumulation. Yet each member of the host alone was as ephemeral as a single flake of snow.

They moved with sentient purpose, reassembling to pose conundrums of everincreasing obscurity and depth. Theirs was a language of questions, a dance required to perpetuate eternity. The riches in the frozen mountain were not gold but living ideas. Leandra answered their invitation and moved with the host, both reading and being read.

The dance described intimate details of transformative biology only hinted at in Leandra’s work. She laughed at the naiveté of her attempts at drawing and sculpture in comparison with the pure joy of participation. A gale that scattered the frozen host cowering to their shelves answered her laugh and hurled Leandra high. Roaring through the caverns of ice, the Night Wind held her in his teeth. Cold air pressed her eyelids closed and flowed inside of her like liquid nitrogen. When she breathed, ice water filled her head and lungs. The gale solidified and softened, searched and receded, and the sensation of cold death shocked Leandra’s eyes wide to see the winter sky aglow.

Worlds were born and died.

The Night Wind wailed at her with the voice of a thousand men: Stay and be mine.

Leandra’s vision blanched at the blinding reflection of frost on the Night Wind’s pelt, catching glimpses of wolf, man, moss, and stone. He drew back from her to his full height, a creature made of black ice, a satyr shaped portal opening onto an abyss.

Leandra thought of stepping through. Will I die?

The Wind’s answer shook the tower. Icy litter spiraled down. Frost patterns shifted, prismatic shards aligned, and a young and handsome prince with golden hair glittered from the haze of drifting snow that toyed with her sight. He dropped to one knee and placed his lips where a ring should be. The Wind teased her ear: Stay, be mine, and never die.

Never die, the books in the tower sighed.

Looking up, up, up through the mountain, Leandra saw centuries of stories shelved. Girls seduced and sold. Bound to the palace, unreadable elsewhere, the crystal brides opened, untold.

Leandra said, Let them go.

The fury blasted. Frozen rain smarted against her eyes, and Leandra squinted snowblind. A shape convulsed inside a snow-globe’s glass and materialized, a woman in an impossible coiffure with rubies and sapphires woven through, a damask gown hung with diamonds of ice, skin smooth like the dead, calm sea. Leandra looked into the concave glass, a mirror distorting the face of her mother, occluded by uncertain memory. Did they look so much alike? The woman turned her back, a regal glacier inured to the paddling of small craft. A female voice breezed by: Stay with me and be my bride.

 

 

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Author Joanna Koch writes literary horror and surrealist trash. Her short stories have been published in journals and anthologies such as SynthHoney & Sulphur, and In Darkness Delight: Masters of Midnight. An artist and Contemplative Psychotherapy graduate of Naropa University, Joanna lives near Detroit. Follow her monstrous musings at horrorsong.blog.

 

 

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