The icy air blew through Alba’s long, curly white hair with streaks of blood throughout. Her bare feet felt the chill of the ice she stood on and were warmed by the crimson puddles she walked through. She went to one of the bodies and rummaged under his black cloak. Satisfaction appeared when Alba pulled out a brown wooden pipe and some tobacco, her white skin like a canvas caked with blood on her bony forearms and hands. The wind continued to whip through Alba’s red-spattered white Victorian nightgown, making the torn fabric dance around her ankles while walking to a nearby rock. She took a nearby stick and lit it from a fallen torch, then lit the tobacco and took some puffs. Alba shivered as the cold fought against the warmth of the smoke she inhaled. The night sky was cloudy with a coming snowstorm. Before Alba, the area was a scene of scattered bodies, each with pools around them. Despite the small fires still on them, the torches didn’t harm the spiral on the ground made of ice with red streaks. A large sigh escaped Alba’s lips as she lowered her head. Such a mess, and for what?
A low-pitched coo drew Alba’s head back up. She looked up to see a blackbird on a nearby snowy tree branch. She hadn’t seen any animals through this entire thing, and she had assumed the harsh weather drove all of them to find shelter. Setting the pipe down, Alba got up and slowly approached the tree. She thought the bird was such a tiny thing, not unlike herself. After tilting her head, Alba’s eyes widened as the blackbird copied her. She moved her head back and forth, the black little ball on the tree acting as her reflection.
“Greetings, Miss Alba,” a disembodied and modulated voice suddenly said. The corners of Alba's mouth twitched upward as she let out a fast breathing. They haven’t left me, she thought with a sense of relief. She wasn’t alone.
“Hi,” Alba sighed. “I’ve seen you before. You have watched me go about my day in town, but you always flew away if I looked for too long.”
“Everyone who resides on the other side likes you, and you have always attracted unwanted attention from those who aren’t good.” The blackbird hopped on the tree branch, moving closer to a nearby torch. Alba saw its beady yellow eyes, looking at her violet ones.
While shifting her weight on her feet, Alba wrapped her arms around her; she became increasingly aware of the cold surrounding her and the discomfort from the new thought in her mind. “The old mayor has never been a good person, father always told me. Always had his eyes on me for marriage despite me being sixteen.” Alba looked over at all the dead bodies over the ice spiral.
“Why do the ghosts battle with the townspeople so much?”
The blackbird tilted its head and flapped its wings at the snow slowly falling. “Because people attract what they give off. Those people are small-minded and cold, and the fact that they were ready to sacrifice a child is the biggest example.” As its eyes darted around Alba, the blackbird leaned down towards her. “You are more like a spirit than a human.”
Alba fiddled with her hands and swallowed hard. “My father was also a good person.”
“That he was,” the bird said gently. “He protected you.”
“He taught me, let me read, told me to think for myself, and kept my innocence when the mayor wanted to take it. He told him no… and…” Alba’s voice cracked. “And now he’s dead.”
The blackbird straightened up. “And now you want to make the town pay?” Alba nodded her head, grimacing.
The neck muscles in Alba’s neck tightened. “You know what they did. Why they would deserve it.” Her voice shook and had a venomous malice. “How the cultists broke into our home.” She thought back to the faint banging from downstairs; she groggily tried to perceive the dark, how the pounding of many footsteps came towards her as she sat up in bed. “Them grabbing me and dragging me down the hall, and how I look up to see my father being pinned down and stabbed.” Her father’s screams echoed through Alba’s head. Her arms still felt the tight grip of the men holding her back. “The hot tears that fell on my cheeks as I screamed for my father to please get up. Being dragged away wailing when he didn’t move.” Alba’s eyes glistened as she looked down at the snow. And I know what that bastard said to him, she recalled. How the lead cultist looked down at her father and said, ‘From the mayor… you should have let me have her.’ She looked back up at the blackbird. “They then took me to this damned site with torches, me freezing in this snow.” The knives glistened in her mind as her heart pounded in her chest. “We will wash this town clean,’ they told me,” Alba scoffed. “Holding their crosses and weapons and presenting me as an offering.” Alba’s skin dried with the wind, making it easy for the cultists to open up her arm, and a red stream fell out. One cult member walked up with a wooden box that her white and ruby necklace gleaned from.
That’s when she saw it. A thin red wisp around the shin of the cultist to her right holding her. “If it weren’t for the spirits who have always been my friends, I wouldn't even be alive.” She moved quickly. She kicked the shin and followed the wisps. Alba, with a scream, dodged a knife to the head. She grabbed a knife that somebody had thrown and stabbed into the neck of a cultist. Blood was spattered about as she cut and slashed. Alba rolled to the ground. She dodged an ax and grunted, swiping upward. Blood spurted out of the open torso. She kept following the wispy red, painting the ground and herself crimson as she went.
Alba looked around at the carnage. The knife coated in blood clattered down on the ice as her chest heaved; white puffs of breath appeared as she brushed her forehead, feeling a slickness. I’m sweating… she presumed. She looked at her hand and saw no sweat. No… blood. Alba looked around in the dimly lit night. So much blood…
A teardrop fell on the snow as Alba shook her head at the blackbird. “They took everything from me,” she said in a quaking whisper. Her entire body shook as the coldness grew in her. “They made me act like a monster. I need to give them the horror they desperately tried to stop.”
“What you did and why,” the blackbird affirmed, “is the most naturally human thing one can do.” The blackbird shook the snow as it thickened. “You must be patient, but the town will get what is coming to them.”
Alba stared intensely at the bird. “How?”
Instructions began flowing out of the blackbird. “Go to the locket that landed by the rock.” Alba went and bent down, rubbing the red jewel, and examined the blood drops that had come from her veins. “The blood on the locket has shielded the town from the other side. But you lived, so time will be its undoing. Put the necklace in the wooden box and embed it in the ice.” The orotund instructions were followed as Alba felt the sharp pain of cold when she dug her hands into the ice spiral. She took chunks and covered the box as snow began covering her. Alba wrapped her arms around herself and shivered while looking at her handiwork. She looked back towards the tree. Beneath the tree branch were two figures who waved goodbye, both wearing the wedding rings of her mother and father. The blackbird gave a slight nod before Alba turned away from the red scene that was being blanketed with white.
Her phone read little service as Dawn walked through the forest. Her boots were dirty with the brown slush she walked through, all leftover from a previous snowstorm. As Dawn kept walking, an approaching clearing in the forest appeared. Nice, she exclaimed, a place to take a short break. She skipped up to the tree line.
“Woah…” she said, her jaw dropping at what she saw: a beautiful ice spiral with lines of red. Dawn took her camera out and got closer to take pictures. She ran around to get different angles but stopped at a breakage in the ice. Grabbing fistfuls, Dawn dug until she ran into an old wooden box. She picked up the box and opened it. Dawn’s eyes widened at the beautiful white and red necklace with dried blood. And up on a nearby tree branch, a blackbird sat.