Xi Lin looked at the banks of the lake, burnt trees sticking up like used matchsticks.
She knew better, however. Being a scholar of the trees in both China and America, it helped her understand exactly what was going on. While the Camp Fire was massive, and wiped out so much acreage, she knew that there was growth within.
She peered down at herself and clutched her hands. The lesson of trees also applied to people who burned with passion, and yet had spent the fuel of a relationship.
She was growing as well, a single spring growth hidden within.
(Author’s note: Life is doing pretty well. Interviews happening, help to others being given, and with the exception of being clipped by a hit and run driver (no personal damage to body, a little to the back of my van), things are doing well. Here’s this week’s fictioneers!)
(Author’s note: A great response to last week’s story. Glad to hear things. Slowly getting back to normal after a major week of strangeness. Hope to have actual other fiction up and running. Now, last time I did this photo, it ended up with a father changing a diaper while wearing protective gear. What will come up this time?)
“You don’t have to worry about anything. Just let yourself go and breathe,” Helen Young said, as her husband approached hyperventilation.
“There’s a reason I don’t like scubadiving.”
“I know, honey. But just breathe, and it’ll be like normal.”
The Youngs plunged into the water, Helen leading the way to a group of rocks about 125 feet down. She pointed down at them, and her husband went down to look at them.
From her side, she pulled out a knife and proceeded to cut his oxygen tube. Water rushed into his lungs, he gagged as he tried to surface for air.
The Witch of Winter. Snow fairy. The Winter Wife. Yuki-Onna.
She was called many different names from the time of her youth, referred to in legends. She was one of many, but not as many as others. She wasn’t a monster,though, like what many people thought.
Her skin was a beautiful alabaster, her hair nearly crystalline in appearance. Out of the sun, it looked a beautiful strawberry blonde color. She was dressed in a shorter yukata that came down to the knees, colored white, with broad and wide sleeves, along with a salmon-colored sash across her waist. To the uninitiated eye, she would have been described as a young, teenaged beauty.
However, to quote Bob Dylan, “The times they are a-changin’.” With the internet, more people found out and knew about the legend of the Yuki-Onna. As a result, more people were scared, or were fascinated but didn’t do anything about it as human instinct is to avoid things that mean death.
She remembered hearing about the stories from her mother. While there were many who took to the traditional way of freezing their mates to death, and joining them in whatever afterlife there was, she wasn’t one who would do that. She was different, and to her kind, an outcast. She wanted what the humans had.
She sat on a cliff, overlooking a lake that was thawing. She sighed as she kept thinking about her love, whoever he was. She looked at the melting snow, a sign of the springtime that was to come and the summer that would be tough. She thought about leaving her native land, going to a new land where she may be more accepted. She heard about the Australian snow fairies, who make their homes in the highlands of the east coast; and even the Rocky Mountain Yuki-Onna, the rare and yet most striking of the snow fairies in the mountains of America and Canada.
She didn’t have the income to move, however. Because of this realization, she slid further into her reflections. She sighed as a slight chilly air flowed from her mouth into the air.
She heard a slight crunching behind her, and she immediately shifted around to see who was coming. She waited, patiently, hearing the slow movement of rock and the groaning of someone who sounded quite masculine. Waiting patiently, she sat placidly as the form of the newcomer came into view.
The man was brown-haired, young, and a slight bit overweight. He didn’t look unhealthy, but he could easily shed a few pounds if he so chose. He reached the overlook where she was and sat down.
“Hello there, love. Looks like…WHOA-!”
He looked over the lake, the beauty of it all flowing into his eyes and piercing his brain. The deep blue of the lake, contrasted with the grayish white of the melting sheets of ice, and the deep, dark green evergreen trees that blanketed the landscape. The sun shone in rays and peaks from around the needles of the trees, creating a near-kaleidoscope effect to a person’s eye.
In the young man’s eyes, this was intense beauty. He smiled broadly, as he pulled out his expensive camera and started taking shots. The young beauty sitting close to his feet was in awe at how engrossed he was in the scenery, many thoughts and questions running through her mind.
“You…like nature?” she asked him.
He looked down and grinned.
“Absolutely! I have never seen or experienced such beauty since I look out from Cape Blanco in Oregon, in the USA. This is the essence of Japan, and I now have a piece of it for my memories. Now, since I’m done gushing over nature’s beauty, how about you?”
She looked down, demurely, trying to hide the embarrassment of having this foreigner’s attention on her.
“The name’s Tom. Tom Bishop. Cairns, Australia.”
Her eyes lit up and she smiled, broadly.
“Australia?! Is Cairns anywhere close to snow?”
Tom looked at the young lady and smiled.
“Nah. Snow is farther south. Down in the hills around by Melbourne and Canberra. Cairns is tropical. Which is okay, because I don’t really like tropical places. What’s your name?”
The young yuki-onna bit her lip as she looked at him.
“My name would translate to Yukiri in this language. It’s hard to pronounce my actual name in your language.”
“Well, Yukiri, I am very glad to meet you. It’s not everyday you see someone who is beautiful surrounded by beautiful nature.”
She sighed, and a wan smile towards the compliment.
“If you know more about me, you may not think I’m so beautiful. Many times, people even think I’m a real monster.”
Tom looked at her, squinted for a few seconds, and gave a little chuckle.
“Everyone has a little bit of monster inside. The most pious of people have that, or there wouldn’t be something called “the human condition”,” he said, while looking out at the placid lake, “There are men and women out there who appear to be normal, but who are murderers and thieves deep down. They show kindness to the world and hatred reigns in their hearts. If you think you are a monster, then obviously you haven’t seen how some humans can be.”
Yukiri looked at him with wide eyes, not realizing that for even a moment that someone would state that some humans are worse than her. She quietly looked out at the lake, serenity perceived, and a tear started to fall down her face.
“Tom, what if someone told you that they were a real monster. Like a monster from legend, or someone who was unbelievably different that it would make you question everything you know?”
Tom looked down at her, and gave her a sideways smile. He crouched down and his smile broadened.
“Everyday, I question what I know. It’s not because I think God’s wrong, or that I’m wrong, but it helps me to realize that there are things I can’t explain out there. If you told me you were a real legendary monster, it’s likely I wouldn’t believe it. But, after a while, when I think about it and pray over the idea, I might change my mind.”
He sat down, dangling his legs over the edge of the cliff, and he reached over to touch her shoulder. Yukiri started to pull away, but then relaxed as the warm hand lightly gripped her shoulder.
“God has shown me many things in my life. He’s shown me the greatest highs and the greatest lows. He has shown me beauty unimaginable in nature, and he has shown me true ugliness. If you’re asking me whether real life monsters exist, then I could say yes. But again, the question we should be asking is, ‘What is the true definition of a monster?'”
Yukiri eyes started to tear up heavily as Tom continued to speak to her.
“Yukiri, beauty and monstrosity are in the eye of the beholder. I know of women back in Oz that are beautiful as can be in their looks, but their personality is absolutely horrific to the point of revolting. I also know of women who are not 10s in their looks, but have some of the warmest and most beautiful hearts imaginable. When you find a balance, that’s where perfection comes in.”
She launched herself at Tom and buried her head in his shoulder, cold tears soaking into the microfiber jacket that he wore. He looked down at her, and he didn’t know what to do.
Do I hug her? Do I ask her what’s wrong? What’s…does she really think she’s a monster?
After a minute of sobbing, the icy tears soaking through Tom’s jacket, she pulled away slowly and sniffled.
“You made me feel…like a human, Tom.”
Tom put up his hands and laughed nervously.
“Hey hey…I’m no saint here. I’m guilty of being a monster myself at times.”
Yukiri smiled at him as he attempted to deflect the compliment with self-deprecation. She put a finger on his lips and smiled.
“What I mean is this, that your words make me think that there is hope for someone like me.”
“What do you mean?”
She looked him in the eye, and took a deep breath.
“Well, what I’m going to say may be hard to believe. You’re talking to a real live legendary monster.”
Tom cocked his head to the side and raised an eyebrows, as if he was saying, “Go on…”
She stood and revealed her true face, which was a little bit wider, with what looked to be sharp saw-like teeth. She raised her hands, which were now a deep ice blue, the fingers looking like sharp, razor claws.
“My family are snow fairies. We are Yuki-Onna. In legend, we are accused of leading men to their death.”
Tom’s eyes widened, but as Yukiri looked into his eyes, she didn’t see fear. She saw what she only could describe as amazement.
Tom blinked, and reached for her icy claws. She started to recoil from the touch, as if to cry out “Don’t touch me!”, but he was quick enough to put his hand into her claw.
“Your hands are ice cold. It’s like dipping my hand in a blast freezer. But…I can still feel a bit of your skin. It’s like grooved ice.”
Yukiri smiled, showing the razor teeth in her mouth. She wasn’t showing malice at all, and she felt like Tom was receiving that message in his mind.
“Yukiri, I want to know more. You’re a new being that I never knew existed, but a testament to the greatness of the God I serve.”
She morphed back to her human form and smiled, knowing that this was something she hoped for.
“I’d like to know more about you, Tom. And the God you talk so highly about…”