Endless Winter

"As long as we live and breathe, our way is paved with ice.

A person's life is not comprised of four repeating seasons, but a year-long winter wilderness.

Whether or not you stop to wipe your blood or tears, they will inevitably freeze over––"

Thick black clouds of smoke slowly poisoned the sunset-orange sky, covering it with a heavy darkness. The origin of the smoke came from the uncontrollable, blazing fires that endlessly burned the landscape. The explosion was sudden, but devastating. It claimed the lives of hundreds if not thousands of people in the airport. Some were completely obliterated without a trace and others simply died slowly, burning to death.

Those that were still alive didn't live for much longer as other worldly creatures, somehow triggered by the blast, emerged from pitch-black portals and began feasting on them. Those who could see them tried to run while those who couldn't perished without knowing how. All this chaos was happening right before his very eyes and the boy could do nothing but helplessly lie there amongst scattered debris, with a front row seat to watch the world go to hell.

Though the ringing in the boy's ears was still loud, he could hear the gut-wrenching howls of the creatures that prowled around and the sound of many human screams that were slowly being silenced one by one. Still in a dazed state, his eyes wandered, unable to focus on anything in particular, absently scanning the rest of his surroundings. He tried to push himself up, but his small body was far too weak to do so. The rubble that trapped his lower body also made it impossible for him to move his legs. It didn't help that he couldn't feel them either.

Eventually his other senses started to come alive, and the distinct smell of charred flesh filled his nostrils which made his stomach churn and threaten to empty its contents. His vision suddenly blurred and he could barely make out the clouds of smoke drifting towards the sky, much less the intimidating shadow that appeared before him.

The boy's blood ran cold. Those hollowed creatures had come for him. It was his turn to be devoured by the menacing beasts, he thought. To him, it was already a miracle he had lasted this long, and even though he hadn't thought about it, he did have some sliver of hope that he would survive. But now all he could do was wait for the impending jaws to sink into his flesh and hope it would be quick.

He wouldn't close his eyes. At the very least, the boy wanted to see what kind of monster would deliver his end, if nothing else. He tried blink his eyes into focus.

He blinked hard. Once. Twice. Thrice.

When things came into focus, what he saw was not quite what he expected.

A woman, pistols in both hands and a cigarette loosely hanging between her lips, was looking down at him with grey unsympathetic eyes that seem to view him as less than human.

"Say, brat. Do you want to live?"

Her voice was so clear, it cut through all other noise in the background. At first, the boy didn't understand the question. The answer was clearly obvious, yet the way the woman posed the question made it seem as if alternative to dying was much worse.

He stared at the woman, his eyes going over her features as if engraving her image into his mind. Her short, straight blonde hair framed around her face, almost obscuring her sharp, grey eyes. A forceful wind blew and her red dress flowed in the breeze, captivating the boy with its wild dance. When he looked up, the woman was staring into his amber eyes and he stared back.

In that moment, all sense of pain had left him. Whatever feelings of sadness, loneliness and hurt were left over simply evaporated. Worries about his family, and how they were fairing, and the hollowed creatures that lurked about became a mere afterthought. Right now, in front of him, stood someone that even remotely offered some semblance of safety, and he couldn't help but want to latch on her.

The boy's head mechanically moved up and down, as if hypnotized by a witch's spell.

"Oh?" The woman raised an eyebrow. "Think about it carefully. If you live, your life will no longer be your own. You will live for my sake and mine alone. Following me might prove to be worse than death, I guarantee. You'll be swallowed into an inescapable world of darkness with only death as your key to freedom. Knowing this, do you still wish to live?"

The world was growing dimmer and dimmer, the blackness closing in around his vision. Her words had struck something within the pit of his stomach. It was cold. Her warning simply terrified him to the extent that he had almost forgotten to breathe. Of course he was scared, but dying because of the world's unfairness was something that frightened him even more. Tears streamed down his cheeks as he nodded again, this time instead of the blank expression he wore before, his amber eyes were wide and filled with an unwavering desperation to live.

The boy gritted his teeth, his face writhing in agony as he shakily raised his arm, slowly reaching out towards the woman.

He wanted to survive. He would cling to this life of his at all costs and reject the fate the world pushed upon him. The world was to blame. The world was broken. He religiously recited those words in his mind until he was convinced.

His body felt very cold. It was as if an icy hand had gripped his heart, freezing it over, and killing any shred of warmth it carried. This sensation was not normal.

-He didn't care.

A devilish smirk sprouted from the lips of the woman in the red dress.

"You'll be a good investment," she said with dark amusement in her voice.

The woman blew out a cloud of smoke that caught the boy directly in the face. He accidentally inhaled a large amount of the vapor and he immediately felt nauseous. He tightly shut his eyes, unable to cope with the warping of his surroundings, and slowly lost consciousness. But before passing out, he heard the woman's last words,

"Come, boy. Show me how far the human spirit can go. This sprint to hell has just begun..."