To be numb is not to feel nothing. It is not complete apathy. It is to have your emotions dampened so you don’t feel the highest highs or the lowest lows. You feel neutral, both content and discontent. Not painful, but not pleasant, not joy or grief, not anger or sorrow, but also neither love nor hate. You feel like the world goes on around you, but it doesn’t affect you.
There’s almost a peace to it, a calmness that doesn’t quite feel like serenity.
The Algos offered to numb me so I would no longer be staggering between joy, sadness, and anger. Overwhelmed by my grief, I agreed. As I shook their hands, I deflated, falling to the plateau of malaise, contentedness, and displeasure. My emotions flattened and then slipped away. The loss, while still there, no longer ached. There was no pain, just a hollow emptiness in my chest.
The Algos scratched the mirror with their many hands, scraping and shaving away the layers of the image until my son no longer died over and over and over. They caught the shimmering dust of the mirror in their countless hands. I watched, and a sense of calm washed over me as the reflection in the mirror changed.
It was me, my dark hair draining of colour as if they pulled my emotions from my mind and bled them through each strand, rendering me numb. My ice-blue eyes looked lighter, almost a cloudy white. I could feel my powers clearly now, surrounding me and settling into place. They were an extension of my emotions, and with my emotional range dampened, I could exercise more control over my power.
I saw a familiar face, but it was not quite right. I frowned, feeling displeased not to see what I was expecting, and traced the ice pattern that should adorn my face, the frost that completed the person I should have grown into. It appeared on my skin as I traced, just as I intended. It was controlled and elegant. My lips twitched, and a thin smile formed. I shifted the emotion into placated. This is who I was meant to be.
Goddess of Snow and Cold
Feel the power that you hold
You were born to be a Queen
To lead, inspire, and be seen
Look into the Mirror and see
The dawn of New Reality.
In unison, they blew the mirror dust into my face. I rubbed my eyes, blinking back the tears as the mirror’s dust worked its way deeper.
When I opened my eyes, I was looking at my reflection, but it was still missing something—my ice crown! I thought for half a second, and it grew out of my snow-white hair as if it had always been there.
The woman in the mirror was a daughter who made her father proud. A princess who was a fierce leader. A goddess in control of her powers. A woman in charge of her emotions. I was meant to be this woman. She and I were now one and the same.
“I am Khione, and I am the Queen of Snow.”
Why was I here? Looking at the gates of Tartarus, I shook my head, my crown secured firmly in place. I need to return to my palace. I left the Underworld for the first surface entry. The area where I exited was cold and snow-covered, a vast empty space.
“This is now my territory, and I will rule here,” I proclaimed, my voice still flat. I reached deep and summoned my power, creating my ice palace.
It was acceptable for a queen. I flung open my icy gates with a controlled push of my magic.
I stepped into the main court of my new home, creating decorations as I went, my powers entirely within my control. I conjured a shiny floor, a pure ice rink, polished until it shined and reflected my image back at me. The Mirror of Reason, I called it. For the first time, my reflection showed me who I truly was. Then on the centre dais, overlooking the monotone icy hues, I created my throne of ice.
As I sat there, I created the boundaries and physics of my home. I am a queen, and this is my castle. This land of ice and snow is mine. To keep out unwanted visitors, there will be a blizzard surrounding my castle at all times. I needed only to think it, and my powers answered. I was in control.
“Except I wasn’t,” I told the room, picking up my tea. “I wasn’t in control at all. I had the dust of the Reality Mirror embedded in my eyes, and I did not see what I had become. I was the false queen of a land I had stolen.”
I sighed and braced myself for what was to come next, checking the faces of each of them. A part of me was still waiting for their expressions of wide-eyed wonder and curiosity to turn into grimaces of disgust and hate. I was waiting for the humiliation of being cast out, being rejected, and losing my newfound family.
“And then I stole something much worse,” I stated, as a tear slid slowly down my cheek.
The boy’s lips were turned up into a huge grin.
“Would you like to come live in my ice palace? You can have ice cream every day and skate on the clearest, smoothest ice you’ve ever seen. There are other children there. They make lots of noise and have snowball fights and build snowmen and snow forts.” His eyes sparkled as he looked at my sled. The two horses, made of my wind and snow combined, controlled so well I could even keep them in equine shape while looking away. I held my hand to him, making the offer.
“Is it cold there?” he asked, a shake in his voice.
“I can take the cold away. A simple kiss on your forehead, and you’ll never be cold again. But only if you come to my palace to play with the other children.”
He thought about it, and I made an ice horse figure out of the snow on the ground. Taking it, he smiled at me. The hollow feeling in my chest grew slightly, but I swallowed it down. This will be the one that will make that feeling go away, I thought. This has to be the one.
He got into my sled, and I kissed his warm forehead. He became ice cold, his skin turning a blueish hue, and together we rode off.
“Welcome to Lapland,” I said as we arrived. The blizzard quieted around us and showed us the many boys playing in the snow, building snow forts, chasing each other, and having fun. This was the fortieth child I had brought here, but still, the thing I was searching for eluded me.
“I stole children.”
I pulled my hair in front of my face, hiding away. I couldn’t bear to look at their expressions. I waited for the gasps, the horror, their disgust, and berating to hit me, but there was nothing but silence.
I stole a glance. Their expressions were of sadness, sympathy, and maybe a touch of pity? Only Seth looked on with a smirk, crossing his arms.
“Who would’ve thought the Snow Queen could outdo the King of Thieves? Stealing Lapland AND children?” He chuckled. “Go on then, righteous princess, tell us about how YOU were the monster.”
I ran. Fled from the room. I felt my wings tug as I pulled all emotion inside. I was ready to crack, but I would not freeze them all. Not here. Not again.
I ran to the north gate. The Qiqirn ran away as I neared, and my vision turned blue, my energy glowing from within. I need to dispel it quickly. I morphed into a flurry, flew up the mountainside, and let the burst of energy go. Hail rained down the mountain, the ice pellets destructive and powerful. The Northwest Wind whispered to me, threatening to escape from my control, and I willed it to keep the storm at bay, away from the ones I loved.
I cried ice pellets until I was all cried out. Only Seth could infuriate me like that. I wasn’t the thief. I was tricked into thinking what I did was okay. I knew it wasn’t, and now my oldest friend just called me a monster? The blizzard raged around me, swallowing up my angry cries.
I stopped, startled, and I pulled my cell phone from my pocket. I stared at the text for several moments.
Unknown: Khione, I’m sorry to text you out of the blue. I know it’s been a while and that we’ve lost touch. Things are different now with me (if you don’t believe me, ask Dite. She wouldn’t have given me your number if she didn’t think it would be good for us). I’m wondering if you might be able to help me with a problem, please? I understand you may not want to see me, but it’d be nice to see you if you’d be willing? -Dolus
What is this? One old friend to another. I glanced down at the compound, debating whether I should go back. I looked at the screen in my hand, now flashing a warning about the cold temperature, and typed back.
Me: If Dite gave you my number, I’m sure she sees something good in you. Where are you, and what do you need? I’ll be right there. – Kia
I waited as my phone beeped at me, threatening to turn off. I needed a break from here. A break from my magic, from this part of my past, and from Seth. Perhaps the only other friend I’d had growing up was a good idea.
My phone buzzed, and Dolus’s text popped up, but even after all this time, I read it in his voice.
Unknown: Really? That’s great. I will see you soon.
The address he gave me made me pause, but only for a moment.
Springfield, here I come.