The chimes were ringing again. RING-RING. RING-RING-RING. And on and on. They did that when the wind wouldn’t let anyone get a single word in edgewise. It had to howl all night. It had to be right.
Slim branches rattled the small cottage. Despite their size, they had just as much anger as anything else. As anyone else. As Ivy did.
Ivy tugged her blanket tighter around her small body, burrowing deeper into her similarly small bed.
The wind wailed again. She shivered, eyes teary. But her gaze didn’t show fear. Or sadness. Her eyes were wet with anger. Silvery streaks of rage poured down her face.
“Ivy?” her mother called from outside the door.
Ivy turned her silver rage towards the voice.
“Ivy, you can’t seriously be mad at me. It’s for your own good!” her mother argued.
Ivy huffed, trying and failing to wipe the rage away.
CLACK CLACK CLACK CLACK CLACK.
Ice pelted her window like rain. Ivy jumped at the sudden shower. She tried to peer out of the glass, but the window had already frozen over. Her room was no better than a dungeon.
“This is not just some normal storm. You could have died.” Her mother continued to battle the air.
“He IS going to die!” Ivy released her voice as if it had been caged. She stood up. Threw down her blanket. Threw on a shawl. And another. And another. Four layers in, she realized her mother had not responded.
That made sense, really. They all thought she was crazy. Mad. Off her rocker. And the truth was, she was all those things. Just in different ways with different meanings. Ivy learned from a very young age that her reality is not necessarily that of others. As long as she didn’t harm anyone in any reality, she did not think it that big of a deal.
But anything “different” was a threat to those without her sense of thinking.
Ivy walked over to her door and waited. Tick, tock. Tick. Tock. She heard nothing. No breath. No tap of her mother’s anxious foot.
Ivy slowly cracked her door open.
The hallway was clear.
She tiptoed down it, trying to do what he always told her to. What she never remembered because she was too busy staring at him. Trying not to move an inch. Trying not to break the spell she thought she was very much well under around him.
When Ivy got to the end of the hallway, she spotted the front door. Exposed. No family members in sight.
Ivy slid across the dark wood floors and ducked behind the dusty old bookcase that shielded the entrance.
“Yeah, I know. She won’t come out. Well, I don’t think this is going to change anything. No. I’m not changing the dosage. We can’t do that again.” Her mother’s voice swam into Ivy’s ears like boiling oil. Greasy. Pungent. And in no way, shape, or form desired. Ivy pursed her lips, listening. Staring at her winter hat on the bench in the front hallway, she made an executive decision. It was for her. And him. It was for those who couldn’t make sense of anything. It was for those who wished on any star that would listen. Just show me a sign. Just shine a light on what I should do, how I can stop feeling this way, Ivy often heard them say.
So Ivy was going to do it for them. She was going to show them what they should do.
Ivy snatched her coat and hat as she whisked herself, like cake batter, out of the cottage and into the cold winter night. Sweet and soft. With pure intentions of happiness and not a trace of guilt.
Her mother did not stir.
Ivy clutched her coat against the storm. But she did not shiver. She did not grimace. She held a smile on her lips. A welcoming sight on such a cold night. Ivy pushed through the icy snow pelting at her and hobbled down the street. A single street lamp flickered, lighting her way. A single tree branch leaned, guiding her way. Ivy thanked them and followed their advice, taking off down the street, through the snow and to the left into the frozen wood.
She was five years old when she first met him. He too was quite young. Although she’d never asked, they seemed to appear the same age. The boy in the wood. The boy with the antlers and ice-chip eyes. Who appeared only for her, whenever she cried. The first time it happened, that’s what she was doing. He told her not to worry, for he could protect her. She would just have to promise him something.
“It’s silly, I know,” he mumbled frantically.
“I don’t—I just want to go home. I don’t know,” she wept.
“I know. I’m saying I can help you. You just have to make this promise,” he said, less frantically.
Ivy nodded, her silvery rage premature.
“If there is a storm, a rain cloud of ice. You must never leave me alone with such deadly a vice. I will be fine so long as you’re there. I will be safe if you come pet my hair. This does not speak for rain, nor wind or snow. It is for ice and ice alone.”
Ivy was enchanted. She nodded. “Of course.”
He smiled, shaking his antlers in contentment. And led her to safety.
Ivy often thought he was a dream. She looked for him daily. It got so addictive that her parents started to regulate her trips to the wood. They never believed her.
“You’re too old for that now. Let it go. You’re nineteen, Ivy!”
His voice was like a bow and arrow. It pierced her heart, and she couldn’t get the arrowhead out. It often ached for him when she was far from the wood.
Ivy entered the silent, snowy scene of the crime. She peered down the ravine in the center of the wood. A creek curved through the bluish-white snow like painted ink.
The boy with antlers was no longer. He was a king with a crown of antlers wearing a midnight-blue fur cloak. He stood at the creek’s edge.
Ivy slipped down the ravine, bouncing towards him. He smiled.
“You remembered,” he said as she stopped before him.
She nodded, returning his smile. “I didn’t want you to get hurt.”
“And I you.”
Ivy cocked her head.
“It was our bargain. If you did not return my favor, you’d be dead.”
Ivy gaped at him. “Why? How could—what if I wasn’t here? During the storm?”
“Oh, I am the storm. When you needed it most. So you wouldn’t be alone.” He said it as if that was a normal, inconsequential thing to say.
Ivy was still processing. “But why now?”
He placed his hand on her cheek, wiping away her silvery rage. She leaned into his hand. Finally, it dissipated.
“Ice reflects.” He almost hums it out. “And yet, it is also translucent. Yours was no longer a mirror. It was being seen through. It was becoming invisible. But I don’t want you to be invisible.” Moonlight shone on his brow.
Ivy sighed. The storm was passing fast. Clouds were disappearing from the sky in waves. She pet back the soft dark waves of hair below his antlers.
“But how do I change that?” Ivy watched as he dropped his hand from her face.
“You don’t. You don’t change. You just return to the wood. And I will be here. Waiting to see you.” He said it fiercely, as if his voice had an iron grip.
It was as simple as that, unfortunately. It was such a privilege to be seen. It was such a privilege to be awaited by an Ice King.
As an actress, writer, and musician, Ellie Anthony is a shapeshifting storyteller. She loves mixing myth and legend with the issues of our time as well as making sure the unheard voices of the past and present resonate loud and clear. She often weaves her own compositions into her screenplays. Her first feature is a semi finalist at the 2020 Jumpstart Competition and her script placements at Austin, Emerging Screenwriters, the Blcklst, WeScreenplay, and HollyShorts continue to push the boundaries of female-led genre storytelling.