"In The City of Winter's Reign" Story by Jeff Patterson
Art by Carolyn Faille
Winter was born. He sprung fully formed from the wounds of Autumn and rose, howling, into the slate gray sky. A hundred hissing mouths sucked moisture from the air. A thousand claws raked furrows across the land below, leaving icy scars. Crystalline flesh radiated waves of snow and wind which spread undiminished from horizon to horizon. "I AM WINTER," his voice thundered, "ALL SHALL FALL BEFORE ME! THERE SHALL BE ONLY BITTER AND FROZEN SUFFERING IN MY WAKE!" He saw the city rising in the distance, bathed in the warm shafts of sunlight that slanted through the clouds. It was a city rich with life and activity. Winter was sickened by it. "THEY SHALL FEEL THE RAW CHAOS OF MY WRATH! THEIR TEETH SHALL CHATTER AND THEIR FLESH SHALL CRACK AS I DRIVE THEIR PRECIOUS HEAT FROM THEM!" He charged forward, gathering momentum as he descended in a screaming rage. The slushy drool from his fangs became torrents. The winds that spiraled around him unfurled into tempests blasting through the streets. Haloes of frost burst from his many tails and exploded into storms that slashed at the mighty edifices. The lights and colors of the city were buried in a savage onslaught of cold and white. Winter laughed as the cars spun helplessly, and the people sought cover. "THERE IS NO ESCAPE FROM MY RAMPAGE! I BRING GALES AND BLIZZARDS! I SNUFF THE FIRES THAT COMFORT THEM! I ENTOMB ALL IN ICE!" "Are you done?" Winter turned to face the voice. It was a woman. She hovered above the city, seemingly unaffected by his presence. Her face was bright, her hair streaked with red and white and green. A great cape of many colors rippled in the wind. She was adorned in ribbons and chains of beads that spun and danced around her. In her hand was a torch that burned with an unnatural incandescence. "WHO DARES OPPOSE THE MIGHT OF-" "Oh please," she said, rolling her eyes at him, "can we dispense with the bravado?" Winter felt a knot of anger roil in his frigid gut. He summoned a wave of arctic hail to swat her from the sky. It rolled off of her with no effect. "The name's Holiday," she said, brushing the last pellets from her cape, "and I've been waiting for you." "I AM THE DESTROYER! MY COMING HAS BEEN FORETOLD!" "Yeah, yeah. Look, pal, we don't have much time here." "TIME IS IRRELEVANT! THE AGE OF ICE IS AT HAND! MY REIGN SHALL LAST A THOUSAND-" "You get three months like the others. Four on the outside. Now listen, you've got work to do." Winter drew one of his horrible faces close to the woman, opened his maw wide and let loose a fierce bellow of sleet that split the sky around her. "Very impressive," she said "winter-fresh breath." Then she batted him in the face with her torch. He blinked and stared at her silently. "Its bad enough you're late. I know it's not your fault. We'll blame it on global warming or El Nino, whatever. They'll understand." "I AM WINTER! I AM-" "-Starting to get on my nerves. By next summer you'll be a footnote in an almanac. In the meantime I need you to get with the program." Winter did not know what manner of being this Holiday was, or what she spoke of. She was immune to his mightiest blows. For the first time in his short life, he felt powerless. "Now, I know you want to take it all out here," she said, pointing to the city below, "but you've got a lot of ground to cover. You've got to spread out. The seaboard's the easy part, the currents are on your side. Work on that first, then we'll get to the rest." Winter scratched his heads. He had expected to do battle with this creature. Instead, she was advising him. "YOU WANT ME TO CONTINUE?" "Duh!" He looked at her, puzzled. "It's in the job description," she said. Winter did not know what that meant. "Look, I've got a timetable to work with here, and I can't do it half as well without you. You drop a few inches on them from time to time and that'll keep them in the spirit. They've got this whole love/hate thing with you. They complain about you showing up, but if you're nice to them, and don't overstay your welcome, they'll remember you with fondness. I know how it feels. They do it to me every year." "WHAT DO YOU MEAN? WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO?" "You've already done it," she said, and aimed her torch downward. Winter looked below. In dealing with Holiday he had turned his attention from the city. The storms he had cast were dispersed. The sun now shone on a metropolis blanketed in glistening beauty. Smoke curled from every rooftop. The people were emerging. Some shoveled walks and scraped ice. Some strapped skis to their cars. Children dragged sleds up hills, others gathered the snow in compact balls to hurl at one another, or larger balls to craft odd-shaped sculptures from. Clusters of people wrapped in fancy coats scurried around carrying stacks of packages, more gathered on frozen ponds to skate, or fish through holes in the surface. Lights were strung along the streets and facades. A myriad of festivals were celebrated. There were games and parties. There was song and laughter and cheer. Winter, who had visited his most vicious temper on this place, now felt buffeted by the rapturous exhaltation that rose to him. "AND THIS IS WHAT I BRING?" he asked. "Not exactly," said Holiday. She pulled her face close and whispered, "but it's not nearly as much fun without you." Across the landscape Winter could see that there were many more cities, with countless towns in between them. On the wind he could hear the songs and laughter that emanated from each, but none were quite as joyous as those from below. They all awaited his coming. He looked at Holiday and extended an arm. "WILL YOU COME WITH ME?" Winter asked. She hooked her arm under his and winked. They rose, laughing, into the slate gray sky.
Jeff's Note: My friend and one-time bartender O.B. has traditionally been the first person to get a card each year as the printshop I use is right down the street from him. He, and many others I know, have a love-hate
relationship with both Winter and the holidays. With that in mind I guess this story falls under the "allegory" heading.
I tried to mesh the bombastic, Lovecraftian point-of-view of Winter with the hip-chick-of-the-90's Holiday, hoping to achieve a mildly humorous effect.
Elemental archetypes don't make for great comedy.
This drawing was great fun for Carolyn. Lots o' ribbons and trimming and other accessories. Very super- hero-ish. After the hodge-podge of "Citadel" she was happy to spend a lot of time on only two characters.
This card was dedicated to Clinton H. Faille, Carolyn's grandfather, who died that year.