“King and Lionheart” by Of Monsters and Men inspires Audrey

The Howlers

I didn’t think they would follow me out here where the ice thins and I can hear the crash of the ocean. The wind is wilder here and has freed the ice of its protective layer of snow, making it slick. Slipping now would be fatal. The wind whips off my hood, but I can’t stop to fix it. Their chilling calls rise above the roar of the wind and sea, and I know the Howlers have nearly reached me. My lungs ache with each cold breathe I take, but I push myself harder. I have to.

My eyes leak frozen rivers across my cheeks. I lost my goggles when I tripped and rolled down a powdery hill before reaching the flat ice. The cold and wind burn my eyes. That, and I might be crying. A rush of heat runs up my thigh and all I hear now are Howlers. They’re breathing on me! I scream. It doesn’t help me run faster or release the fear clawing at my heart, but it excites the Howlers. I want to cover my ears to their deafening cries; they know a kill is soon.

No one will hear me out here, days from the shining citadel of Hiverfryt, but I can’t go quietly. I release another scream. It’s part fear and part anger. I was so close to finding my sister when the Howlers caught my scent. Now I never will. Suddenly, my fur boots slip. I try to correct myself by flailing my arms, but there is nothing to catch. I’m grabbing at air as I fall backwards. The Howlers are so close, one leaps over me in a giant stride before turning on me.

Squinting at the sun, he is nothing more than white wisps. Despite this, their teeth are sharper than knives. I’m nearly nose to nose with him, staring into his red eyes before I think to turn on my stomach and cover my head with my hands. Teeth try to find me through the layers of my clothes as I press my nose into the ice. I scream again as one tears off my mitten and bites my wrist. There are paws on my back and my hood pulls taut across my neck. It cuts off my scream.

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“Crystallize” by Lindsey Stirling Inspires Julie

Blood and Ice

I was swimming leisurely toward the ice when it happened, following the patterns in the cracks with my eyes and spinning myself in dizzy circles with my tail. Breaking season wasn’t far off; soon the ice would be patchy, and mothers would surface with their new calves for a first breath.

I kept an eye out for shadows above and a surfacing hole. It had been about eight hours since I’d come up for breath, and I didn’t want to waste energy breaking a new hole. Surfacing holes were also dangerous places: Sometimes birds dove in for fish, or seals or bears lunged through. I had seen my wakefriend, Nela, attacked by a bear when we were just outgrowing the pup stage. She had scars that ran like ice fissures from her shoulder to her belly and across her face, leaving her blind in one eye and a lopsided swimmer.

As I gazed at the blue and green ice above, the hollows where mosaics of bubbles gathered, I saw odd shadows. I flipped onto my back and paddled my fins so that I could get a better look, stifling an exhale that would send up a new stream of bubbles.

The shadows moved slowly, like a stalking bear moved. But there were only two dark spots, oblong in shape, instead of four round ones. And the creature making them was nearing a seam in the ice.

There was a groaning sound as the creature’s weight caused the ice to shift. I bit my lip, and a gush of bubbles drifted up. My dense down hair stood on end as they came to rest with soft noises against the ice.

The shadows stilled, then grew into one hazy shape which lengthened and solidified as the creature spread itself across the slab. It was nearly as long as me.

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