I was once, in the late 90s and perhaps even in the early 00s, a member of a mailing list called FantasyBits. Every week or so, you were given a theme to write on — usually a single word or a small phrase — and then you had a maximum of a week to write something fantasy-related on this theme (but they were not that strict…). I usually wrote something as soon as I saw the week’s theme, so these pieces are not very good either. However, I recently found my memory stick with all my old stuff on, and thought I’d read them through and publish the ones I was most pleased with here. This is the first one, written to the theme “Ice Castle”. Except for some small spelling edits, and changes in verb tense here and there for consistency , I present it as it was written back then.
Some would say, when asked, that a castle made of ice should be very bright, as there would be no walls to stop the sunlight, and therefore, it would be a good, albeit cold, place to be.
And maybe that is right, in other places, but not here. Here, in my Uncle’s castle, sunlight doesn’t illuminate as much as it plays devilish tricks on the minds of its inhabitants.
There are, for example, no shadows. Light gets reflected on every surface, and gives birth to a range of eerie shapes and patterns. It feels a bit like walking in one of those tunnels through a large aquarium.
The light, as always, snakes across the ice floor as I make my way through the greenish corridors of my Uncle’s Moon Castle. My breathing mask makes sounds that are duplicated again and again by the echoing corridors, each time more and more strange, distorted and otherworldly.
What am I doing here? Attending to my Uncle, of course. Why here? Well, where else? A castle of ice must be built in a world of ice, and where better to find such a place than the Moon?
But today, I will kill him. Kill him for making me live in this cold, lurid place for years. Years of dread for the roof melting and either crushing you, or flooding the room you are in. Years of slowly growing mad by the dripping from a thousand walls and roofs. Years of eating fish.
My Uncle is a penguin, by a strange twist of fate. Penguins crave fish, and as my Uncle is the one who sits on the money in this household, he’s the one who decides what to import from the Earth that resented, ostracized, and finally banished him for his abnormality.
Drip, drip, drip go the drops, as the Moon spin around, and the Ice Castle of my Uncle lies bare and defenseless to the onslaught of the sun. Drip, drip, drip, and a hell of a lot of water on the floor. Small streams racing across an uneven floor. Small puddles unexpectedly filling your sandals. Small waterfalls to deform your hat. And large, patches of slippery bloody ice.
There are spikes under my shoes, but they have long since rusted, and are of little help. Firearms, however, are. Large firearms, the sort that would cut mercilessly right through the head of my penguin Uncle.
Oh, how many nights I have lain awake, listening to the drip, drip, drips of the melting roof and imagined. Imagined the surprised look on my Uncle’s face when he sees the firearm. Imagined the round, pretty hole the firearm would do, right through his penguin head. Totally round. Like a circle. Like the Moon.
I tested the firearm once, just to make sure. It makes round holes. At least in ice. My Uncle didn’t hear, I think, as I was in a remote part of the castle, and the Ice builders he has hired was free for the weekend, and back on Earth.
There is a waterfall here. I can sidestep it, so that my firearm doesn’t get wet. If it gets wet, it will not make pretty, round holes in my Uncle’s head. Round, like those circlets that form when the drip, drip, dripping of the roof hits the menacing puddles under it.
Why is it so cold? We are in the sunlight, are we not? It makes no sense.
Water drips down into my collar. Cold. Drip, drip, drips into my collar, and rolls down my spine. I am used to it.
Curves and curves and curves in the corridor. No great architect, is my Uncle. I suppose penguins generally are not. They never build anything, do they? Not even back on Earth.
There are no doors. Why are there no doors? No privacy. No locks. Freedom. Freedom to look at me through the walls. Through the CLEAR walls of ice. They get smooth and window-like when the melting roof runs down it. Not all of the roof drip, drip, drips.
They form ripples in the water. In the beginning, I looked at them. Fascinating, ripples are. But to get a ripple, you have to drip, drip, drip something into the puddle. And that makes sounds. Drip, drip, drip, it sounds. All night long.
I will kill my uncle today. I hate him for making me stay here. I will take my firearm and kill my uncle. A pretty, nice round hole. In his head. I can see his surprised face before me as I walk down the corridor. Hahaha, he looks silly.
I reach my Uncle’s room. There is a puddle before the door. He will hear me when I go in.
It smells of fish. He will drop his fish when I kill him. Into the water. Then the fish will make round, nice ripples in the water. And they will go away, and I will be alone.
And I can go home.
I raise my firearm. It isn’t wet. It doesn’t drip, drip drip. I will throw it into the puddles when the ripples from the fish has died. Then it will make new ripples.
I enter my Uncle’s room with the firearm. He looks exactly as I imagined he would! The same surprised look. I feel myself filled with satisfaction. How clever of me to imagine exactly the way he would look. I am clever. I should be on Earth. Not in this castle.
On Earth, everyone is clever. No one has to eat fish every day. No one lives in ice castles. There is not this much ice on Earth. The Earth doesn’t drip, drip, drip. It is nicely round. Like a ripple.
I pull the trigger. It works! There is now a round hole in my Uncle’s head. He still has that surprised look! How clever of me to think about that. Now that he is dead, he will always have that surprised look. Then everyone can see how clever I was. I will bring my Uncle’s head to Earth and show them how clever I am.
He falls into a puddle. Backwards, with a round hole in his head. A pretty hole. He makes ripples in the puddle. But they are not round! They are shaped like my penguin Uncle. He spreads his shape, his form, his entire being throughout the nice, round puddle. The cold puddle.
The puddle isn’t nice! It isn’t round! It is a deep, cold puddle with unknown ice lurking at the bottom. It is shaped like my Uncle?
The roof drip, drip, drips into the puddle. My Uncle is dead.