Thump thump thump. The Iceman’s heavy bootsteps echoed down the stairs just as the preparations were complete. The children ran down excitedly after. They did not leave the stairwell, though. They were too young for the rites.
The plain basements had been strewn about with the blessed holly and fir branches. Tall candles were lit in every corner. In the middle burned a smokeless fire, specially prepared over the year to provide great warmth. The Iceman stepped toward it then stopped, lifting his gloved hands to it. His toothy smile broadened.
“Oh, Iceman,” William, my husband, intoned. “Remember the warmth of summer.”
“Oh, Iceman,” I continued. “Forget the biting cold.”
“Oh, Iceman,” said my sister, Lauren. “Let us leave this winter behind us.”
The Iceman stayed silent. Then, slowly, deliberately, he pulled his gloves from his hands. The skin beneath was pallid, coated with a light frost. But as he held them up to the fire, the frost began, slightly, to melt. A slight tinge of pink appeared on his fingertips.
And with that, he vanished without a sound.
He had been pleased. Winter would be short and merciful this year. And, perhaps, the children would have some small blessings upon them in the coming months.