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Thursday, 16 July 2015

Anna Karvan | Ice (1967)

The main protagonist roam in a earth invaded by the ice searching an enigmatic girl.

I came upon her by chance, not far away, lying face down on the stones. A little blood had trickled out of her mouth. Her neck had an unnatural twist ; a living girl could not have turned her head at that angle : the neck was broken. She had been dragged by the hair, hands which had twisted it into a sort of rope had dulled its silvery brightness. On her back blood was still fresh in places, wet and bright red ; in other places it had caked black on the white flesh. I looked particularly at on arm, on which the circular marks of teeth stood out clearly. The bones of the forearm were broken, the sharp pointed ends of bone projected at the wrist through the torn tissue. I feld I had been defrauded : I alone should have done the breaking with tender love ; I was the only person entitled to inflict wounds. I leaned forward and touched her cold skin.

I went to look in at the cottage window, taking care not to go near enough to be seen from inside. A lot of people were crowded into a small smoky room, firelight flickering red on their faces, reminding me of a medieval picture of hell. At first I could not make out any words ; they were all talking at once. I recognized one woman, unusually tall, handsome in a forbidding way ; I had seen her at the High House. Now she was with a man she called father who sat just inside the window. Because he was so close to me, his was the first voice I understood. He was relating the legend of the fjord, how every year at the winter solstice a beautiful girl had to be sacrificed to the dragon that lived in its dephts. The other voices gradually became silent when he began describing the rite itself. « We untie her as soon as we get her up there on the rock. She must struggle a bit, otherwise the dragon might think we'd palmed off a dead girl on him. The water foams down below. The monter's great scaly coils appear. Then we hurl her down. The whole fjord becomes a maelstrom, blood and foam flying in all directions. »

I walked away in disgust. These people were worse tha savages. My hands and face were numb, I felt half frozen, and could not think why I had stood there so long listening to their preposterous rigmarole. I had a vague feeling that something was wrong with me, though I could not decide what it was. For a mement this was disturbing ; then I forgot it. A small, cold, bright moon shone high in the sky, showed the landscape distinctly. I recognized the fjord but not the scene. Tall perpendicular rocks rose straight out of the water, supporting a flat horizontal rock like a high-diving platform. Some people appeared, dragging the girl between them, her hands tied. As she passed me, I caught a glimpse of her pitiful white face of a child-victim, terrified and betrayed. I sprang forward, tried to reach her, to cut her bonds. Somebody went to me. I threw him off, tried again to get near her, she was dragged away. I rushed after the group, shouting : « Murderers ! » Before I could overtake them, they were hauling her up the rock.

I was close to her on the platform high above the fjord. We were alone there, although a mixture of vague sounds behind me indicated the presence of numerous on-lookers. They did not concern me. I was completely concentrated on the trembling figure, helf kneeling, half crouching, at the extremity of the rock, overhanging the dark water. Her hair glittered as if with diamond dust under the moon. She was not looking at me, but I could see her face, which was always pale, but now drained of colour right to the bone. I observed her extreme slenderness, felt I could enclose the whole of her with my two hands, event the rib-cage containing her heart. Her skin was like white satin, shadowless in the brilliant moonlight. The circular marks the cords had left on her wrists would have been red in daylight, but now looked black. I could imagine how it would feel to take hold of her wrists and to snap the fragile bones with my hands.
Leaning forward, I touched her cold skin, the shallow hollow in her thigh. Snow had fallen between her breasts.

Armed men came up, pushed me back, seized her by her frail shoulders. Big tears fell from her eyes like icicles, like diamonds, but I was unmoved. They did not seem to me like real tears. She herself did not seem quite real. She was pale and almost transparent, the victim I used for my own enjoyment in dreams. People behind me muttered, impatient at the delay. The men did not wait any longer but hurled her down, her last pathetic scream trailing after her. The night exploded then like a paper bag. Huge jets of water sprang up ; waves dashing wildly against the rocks burst in cascades of spray. I heardly noticed the freezing showerbath, but peered over the edge of the platform, and saw a circle of scaly coils emerge from the seething water, in which something white struggled frantically for an instant before the crunch of armour-plated jaws.

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