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Frost Bitten MAG
Mark was always a bit strange. He was one of those individuals who would stand in a thunderstorm and smile, or sing in a blizzard. His life was peaceful enough: loving parents, a few good friends, and decent teachers. He maintained good grades and was known as an easygoing individual. But as far as most people were concerned, he was a ghost, a phantom, a figment of the imagination. He would be forgotten the moment he left the room and remembered the instant he entered. This suited him well, since bad things seemed to happen to those who remembered him.
The night was peaceful enough, the mid-winter sky lit by the hazy light of a full moon. Day-old ice and snow crunched under Mark's feet as he wandered down the sidewalk. The hood of his sweatshirt was pulled over his head and his hands were shoved in his front pocket; he wanted to be forgotten this evening. Dark green eyes squinted from the shadowy depths of his hood, and a cloud of foggy breath formed in front of him. He knew the street well; he had lived here most of his life. The tall, two-story houses of the well-off rose around him, the windows glaring down at him like the admonishing eyes of a wise golem.
He was in one of his black moods. Each step had a little more force than necessary, and he went out of his way to kick chunks of black ice across the street. Being forgotten by the rest of the world had a tendency to weigh on one's thoughts. He muttered darkly, cursing his existence. Angrily, he charged up a slope and wandered through the frostbitten grass to the cul-de-sac's tiny park. Battered teeter-totters creaked in the wind, creating a foreboding, horror-movie effect. The little wooden fort was in disrepair. Dangling from one of the fort's beams was a tire swing, and inside sat a child.
Mark stopped in surprise. It was nearing midnight, and the little girl was far too young to be out this late. After a moment he recognized her as Sophie Carter, a troublemaker who lived just down the street. She was the sole reason Mark's family maintained a steady supply of Girl Scout cookies. A slight smile touched his lips as he looked down on the scene. The child was singing one of those annoying little campfire songs that every child picks up as she swung. She must have decided to take a late-night reprieve from her parents.
Mark took a step, trying to decide whether to leave the girl where she was. The neighborhood was safe, or as safe as possible in this world. Something tugged at Mark's mind though, pulling him into the shadows of a pine tree. Sophie kicked off from the fort and sent the tire swing into a wobbling spin. She was giggling cheerfully and singing some nonsense song about frogs and coconuts. Mark stayed in the shadows, a feeling of dread building in the core of his being. Something was wrong here; the fabric of the world was frayed in this place.
Mark squinted into the distance. There, just beyond the edge of the park, a shadow stirred. The darkness slid across the ground, entering the park and swerving to disappear into a group of snowmen some children had built the day before. Mark's pulse began to beat faster, and he unzipped his sweatshirt. Sophie was oblivious to anything strange around her, and she continued to belt out her song. Mark kept his gaze locked on the snowmen as he shrugged out of his sweatshirt. All was quiet. And then one of the snowmen blinked.
Thin lids of snow had shut and opened around its coal-crafted eyes. The large snowball head shifted slightly until it was aimed at Mark. A line suddenly creased the lower half of the head, splitting open to reveal a grinning mouth full of razor-like ice shards.
It shifted its terrible gaze to Sophie, whose song had died to a stuttering mumble. She looked curiously toward the snowmen, not able to figure out what was happening. The creature twitched subtly. Mark leapt across the snow with a shout.
Sophie turned in surprise to see him, and the snowman shot across the ground with blistering speed. Mark slid to a stop in between child and monster.
Fear choking his throat, he placed his right index and middle finger to a series of markings on his left forearm. Mark willed his spirit, his being, into the marks and drew them off of his arm. Crimson letters hung in the air before his hand, and faster than the eye could follow, they re-formed. Energy pulsed around the markings, a breach opening in the fabric of reality. A thin-bladed sword appeared in Mark's grip, edge ablaze with white light. Sophie screamed and the beast hurled itself at them. Time seemed to slow, each moment achingly long.
And then Mark acted. He plunged the burning tip of his weapon into the nightmare's head, faster than he should have been able to. A strong flick of the wrist sent the frosty monstrosity soaring through the sky. The snow began to churn around Mark's feet, impressions of faces glaring at him for fractions of seconds before disappearing into the icy drifts. The young swordsman thrust his blade into the churning mess and whipped himself around in a quick circle. Unearthly screams split the night for every inch of earth the weapon passed through. Black dust exploded into the sky and caught on the wind, soon to be destroyed by the morning sun. The last cry finally died, and the earth fell silent.
Mark set his sword into a salute, blade held outward. He spoke a steady prayer, and the weapon disintegrated back into his forearm, new symbols appearing crimson against his pale skin. A chill breeze blew through the park, stirring up little rivets in the remnants of the monstrosities.
A feeble whimper sounded behind Mark. He turned to find Sophie huddled on the ground underneath the tire swing; she had seen everything. The young man walked over and knelt down beside her.
She opened her mouth to speak, but no words came out. Mark said a few soothing words and gave her a comforting smile. As she began to relax, he laid a hand on her forehead and she fell asleep in an instant, her memories of this night shifting to something she could understand, something she could later forget. Taking a deep breath, Mark gathered the girl in his arms and started for her house, stopping only to retrieve his sweatshirt.
The police were already at the Carter's home, which meant quietly dropping the child off with a ring of the doorbell was now out of the question. Bracing himself, Mark stepped into the halo of the nearest streetlight and waited quietly as Sophie's parents and the police officer rushed to him.
He handed Sophie over without a word and bore the officer's questions quietly, giving brief answers. Yes, he knew her. He found her in the park. She was tired of playing and fell asleep in his arms as he carried her home. No, he did not see anything unusual. No, he did not have a record.
The parents eventually waved the officer off, then embraced Mark in a series of grateful hugs. The youth blushed fiercely and took their appreciation as stoically as possible. After 15 minutes of “thank you” and “how can we ever repay you?” Mark managed to extract himself by saying that his parents expected him home.
Behind him, a pair of tiny light brown eyes opened and following him. The eyes of the girl he had saved, the eyes of a child who had seen a Rogue Guardsman in action. The eyes of a child who had faced demons and been saved.
The eyes of a child who would not forget.