Ice skating has always been a passion of mine, something I’ve enjoyed since I was young. The beauty that Olympic figure skaters display while twirling and dancing on the carefully crafted ice rink resonated with me, so I gave it a go when I was just seven and never looked back.
My mother was the one who signed me up for lessons, proud that her boy wanted to take the initiative in pursuing his own recreational desires. While my father, of course, on the other hand thought that ice skating shouldn’t be for a son he would much rather have in basketball similar to him. My father grew up poor in the inner city. His mother ran off with another man, leaving him with his father, my still living grandfather. A man that kept his son on the right track, keeping him away as best he could from the gang life and thug centered culture that infested that area. A son who’d grow up to graduate high school and earn a basketball scholarship, being one of the best player in the state, and eventually graduating from college as well. He wanted me to follow in his footsteps, like any father wants their son to do.
Whenever I’m around Dad, I can sense his disappointment in me. I’ve always imagined him at work talking to his co-workers. They speak about all their kids' accomplishments in sports and academics, while he just remains silent about me. Nodding and expressing interest as the conversation carries on. He views me as nothing more than a beta male, someone that isn’t worth expressing gratitude or affection towards despite being his son.
At least I have my mother, a gentle, sympathetic being that has always stuck by my side. She’s the one that encourages me most in life to skate, whether it be watching me practice, cheering me on at competitions, or watching videos on the subject and thinking she can coach me. That part always makes me laugh when she suddenly thinks she an expert after a few YouTube videos. Even with my father’s almost completely opposing personality to mother’s, I still love him, it’s just a little harder to love him.
At eighteen now, ready to be out of high school and attend college, I take a break from life like I usually do a couple of nights a week in when the winter season strikes. I take a trip to a small pond in the woods, frozen over in a thick, even layer of ice that is just perfect to skate on. I came to know about it while in middle school.
One day, practicing in the rink, I overheard a couple of kids my age talking about it and I wanted to see for myself. People don’t really frequent the place anymore, especially at night. I usually walk there, taking in the winter’s beauty. The full moon’s light pours upon the blanket of snow causing the white to appear a touch blue. A still ocean shining with flecks of steel under a cerulean night sky coats the land. I crunch through the snow, moving my way deeper into the evergreen forest. Flurries rain down on me as I move past snow covered branches. Familiar landmarks arise like that abandoned, rusty bicycle that has been here since I first visited this place.
It is a welcoming sight, rough brown metal poking out from beneath the snow in patches. The incredibly tall pine tree that stands near my destination never ceases to amaze me with its size. The thing must be ancient. But the best thing about this walk is the anticipation. I can’t wait to get out on the ice and exhaust myself, between final exams, college visits, and arguing with my dad on what I’m going to do with the rest of my life, I need take my frustrations out one something or somewhere.
Venturing further into the woods I hear a voice, humming, an echo kind of, carried through the trees. I recognize that melody. Swan Lake. My mother took me to see the performance once before. She thought my love of ice skating would give me an appreciation for ballet, and I actually enjoyed it, even though I really have no interest in ballet to be honest.
Reaching the pond, which is normally vacant of any company at night now has, well… one more skater gracing its ice this time. A woman, a ghostly pale figure, hums the iconic ballet tune. A woman with long white hair that shined like silver with a tint of blue under the moonlight is who I spot skating so elegantly, movement like smoke, fluid and silent slice along the pond. Jumping so high in the air makes it appear as if she’s flying, spreading her arms like wings ready to take off.
I walked out of the surrounding treeline onto the edge of the pond to get a closer look. She stops, notices my presence, smiles and proceeds to skate towards me, still humming warmly. Able to get a closer look at her face, I notice that she is rather easy on the eyes. Large blue eyes that were unlike any I have ever seen before met mine. A small number of freckles dot her face, mostly forming a line under her eyes and along her small nose, and some on her cheeks that have a muted blue coloration to them. Pale pink lips in the shape of a sweet grin that only a mother could give to her child is directed at me.
“Hello,” she says, nodding slightly. “Odd seeing another person out here at this hour.”
“Well, I could say the same about you. I never see people out here anymore,” I reply.
“I’ve been coming out here for a while just to get escape a bit you know?”
“Same, how long have you been skating in this place miss?”
“A few months now, yourself?”
“Years, since I was twelve.”
“Wow, that sure is a long time. My name is Mallen, or just Mal for short.” She waves a small dainty looking hand at me, just a hand no gloves.
“I’m Lucius, but please just call me Lou.”
She chuckles at that, eyes closed, putting a loose fist near her mouth to try a conceal her smile. “Lucius, well that’s certainly one you don’t hear often,” Mal laughs out, her snow colored hair bouncing in the process.
“Yeah, as if I don’t get teased enough at school,” I say, arms crossed with a smirk.
“Well I say it’s a lovely name… Lucy.” She turns slightly as she says this, one arm stretched out at the pond.
“Care to join me?” I brush off her little quip with an eye roll and sit down to put on my skates, taking her soft hand, a delicate but oddly cold hand even for the temperature outside, to stand back up and accompany her on the ice. We dance on the frozen waters, holding each other’s hands at arm's length spinning until we let go. Perfectly in sync, Mal copies my routine step by step trick for trick opposite of me on the pond. Trails of shaved ice are left in our wake while stepping up the intensity trying to throw the other off in a competition to see who will fall out of line first.
I’m astonished. The high I am getting from having a partner that is capable of keeping up with me and able to mirror every one of my moves is exhilarating, and yet eerie at the same time. As we finish up, circling in on one another from opposite ends until we meet in the middle, smiles on our faces, and me bent over a tad from the ordeal.
I huff and puff after that excellent display of ours, clouds shooting out of my mouth with every exhale, but not Mal. She remains poised and joyful, not showing an ounce of weakness. We gravitate closer, until she manages to find herself resting on my chest, surprised by this I hesitate, but soon wrap my arms around her. Though we may have just exercised, she is still cold to the touch. I feel nearly no heat on or radiating from her.
“It’s moments like these that make life seem like a dream,” Mal exclaims, digging her face into my coat a little further.
“Yeah, this moment seems too good to be true... but,” I hesitate to continue.
“But what, Lou?” Mal probes.
“But… I mean… who are you? Mal, you managed to copy my routine exactly. Did we have the same instructor before, or…”?
She looks up at me with a sad look and small grin, bringing my head down she whispers into my ear, her lip grazing it as she speaks softly and seductively. “Get closer and I’ll tell you.” When we make eye contact again she purses her pink lips together awaiting me. I leave one hand on her back and use the index finger and thumb of the other to grab her chin and lower my head. Our lips meet, her lips are so tender, but yet so... cold, even her tongue feels like an icicle going into my mouth. Pulling apart, I feel my own tongue getting numb and cool
“W-what's goin’...” I can’t even finish my sentence before I’ve lost feeling in my mouth. My whole body feels like how finger tips do when suffering from the early stages of frostbite, that annoying, agonizing pain that feels like you're freezing from the inside. I’m soon on my knees, head hanging, hand on the ice howling in pain, tears streaming down my face until those freeze as well. Along with the saliva dripping from mouth that now hangs like ice sickles. A cool, soft hand with black painted fingernails reaches down and lifts my head by the chin before, like the rest of my body, it freezes into place. Saliva sickles breaking off.
Before me stands a woman, skin white as snow, body length jet black hair, with a dress of scales that resemble and shined like oil, and soulless black eyes that reflected the moon so well they impersonate the night sky. Is this still... Mallen? The expression she wore was of sadness, but she smiled too, making her looked conflicted on whether to bask in my suffering or take pity on me.
She kissed me on the forehead, like she was savoring me, savoring her work. As she began to turn around and walk away the ice of the pond starts to shift and break seemingly absorbing me into frozen wasteland beneath at a slow, torturous pace. I see on the surface the woman walking away on the ice, barely audible I hear her humming a song I heard earlier today, Swan Lake. Her figure becomes more difficult to see as she moves into the trees.
When she is out of sight the last thing I lay my eyes upon on the surface is a black swan emerging from the tree tops, its silhouette soaring into the moon. An echo of a woman’s voice chuckling rings in my ears, a single black feather gently comes to rest at eye level right in front of me. Then all I see is white and after... darkness. How is it that I'm still alive... why? Black as her hair are my new surroundings, trapped, frozen at the pond's bottom with other men, other victims of the same fate. I see by moonlight before the ice seals up and the last sliver of light is gone.