Snow Woman

by Hilary Ayshford

Snow Woman

Winter is her time: time to revel in the cold, to dance on the drifts and glide on the wind. Seven long months Yuki-onna retreated with the thaw to her ice cave above the snow line. Now she returns with the first winter storm, ready to hunt, to feed.

He didn’t intend to stay long. The storm warnings had been increasing all day, and when he arrived at the bar the first soft flakes were drifting through the frigid air, tumbling and turning in the stiffening breeze. A couple of beers, then he’d head home.

Two drinks turned into four before he made it to the door. Six inches of snow was already lying, deeper where it had drifted. The wind cut through his clothes like a machete, tempting him to return to the shelter of the bar. But it was only a fifteen-minute walk if he took the shortcut across the park.

From the tree-topped knoll, Yuki-onna watched him approach. The heat radiated from him like crackles in pond ice when a rock is dropped onto the fragile surface. Her hunger reached out, eager to seize him, hold him, enjoy him.

The park was a white expanse of nothing, no landmarks except the shallow mound with its stand of trees. His footprints had almost disappeared, scoured by the wind, but he’d been meandering in loops and circles, crisscrossing his own tracks without noticing. He set off toward the small hill in the hope that from the top he’d be able to get his bearings.

It was as if her longing was drawing him in. Yuki-onna trembled with anticipation.

The soft, downy flakes had given way to spiky ice crystals that struck his exposed flesh, numbed his skin and grazed his cheeks. His vision was dazzled by dancing white lights that flashed and sparkled. Out of the corner of his eye he thought he saw things moving in the blizzard, phantom shapes that loomed then faded when he turned his head. He closed his eyes against the stinging snow.

Yuki-onna drifted out from among the snow-speckled trees. Head bowed, snow-blind, he didn’t see her until she was upon him. Her hair was black tendrils, writhing and twisting in a smoky halo; a filigree of silver slivers made frost-fern patterns across alabaster skin so translucent he could see the blue veins beneath. She took his hand in her long, delicate fingers. Her touch scorched his numbed flesh sending rivers of fire through him. The heat of desire was on him, a burning fever that must be quenched. Their coupling matched the fury of the storm. She shredded his lips with icicle teeth, flayed his skin with rime-tipped claws, sucked the warm breath from him until he was empty, spent.

A trail of discarded clothing led them to his frost-coated body three days later. They grimaced at the ragged flesh, muttered about hypothermia and animal predation. Drawn by the warmth of their exhalations, Yuki-onna waited, unseen among the snowdrifts, sated for now.

About the author

Hilary Ayshford is a former science journalist and editor based in rural Kent in the UK. She writes mainly micro and flash fiction and short stories and has been nominated for Best Of The Net and Best Small Fictions. She likes her music in a minor key and has a penchant for the darker side of human nature.

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