Under Ice


Alara Rogers

It's so fresh and clear, out here on the ice. I feel so free. There's no one around, for as far as I can see.

The cold is crisp, bracing, and the ice on the river is unbelievably clear. Not the sort of transparent clarity that makes it untrustworthy-- a thick, wavy, distorted sort of clarity that tells me the ice is strong. Under it the river is dark, winter-black and sluggish, so cold looking. But I am free and clear above the ice, skating...

As I skate past trees and bushes, the wind bites at my face-- good, clean cold! It's so sharp and refreshing. I can feel my face turning red, but it's not uncomfortable. After the stuffy heat inside, the cold air is like water, running through the clogged channels of my mind. So fresh and bright... The cool wind whips through my hair, teases at my earmuffs, as I skate faster.

The world is so open before me-- I feel as if I could do anything. This is like new territory, unexplored. My skates make little white lines on the dark ice-- I am here! I have gone here! the lines say. There is not another living soul around. I could skate to the ocean and never see another person. It's such a wonderful feeling! I am a pioneer, going where no one has before. I can do whatever I want, and no one will see me, or stop me. My skates place my mark on virgin ice, frontier territory untraversed by humanity. So exhilarating!

Then I catch a glimpse of something moving under the ice, trying to follow me.

At first I think it's my own reflection, so I look down. But it's not. It's distorted and pink, a thing writhing under there, trying to break out, to get out--

In horror I begin to back away. Then a distorted screaming shape presses itself to the ice, and I see that it's a person.

A person! What's a person doing there? I begin to feel panicked. The ice is so thick, how can the person ever get out? They're going to drown! I start stamping on the ice, trying to shatter it with my skateblades. How much time does that person under there have?

Both of us are banging on the ice, trying to break it from both sides, but it's too thick, it won't even crack. Now the cold that meant my freedom is changing to a tiring, dragging cold, pulling all my limbs down, as if I am the one who's under there. It's so important to smash the ice, to let the person break free--

Tired, I kneel down on the ice, hoping to get more leverage. Then I see the person's face.

Then I see. And know.

It's me under the ice.

I lie in the bed and the white ceiling is there, featureless, as it always is. I hear my parents' voices. Why won't they talk to me? They are talking to the doctors. They always are. I'm so lonely here.

My mother holds my hand. "Oh, if you could only see me," she whispers. I want to tell her that I do see her! I do! Whenever she moves in front of my eyes, I can see her clearly-- but I cannot move my eyes, and now she is moving away. "We'll come back tomorrow," she tells the doctor.

I don't want to wait for tomorrow! I'm not a vegetable-- I can see, I can understand...I'm trapped here in my own body with no way to talk, to move, to show them I'm here- as if my whole body is frozen. But I'm here all the same!

Why won't anyone help me? I don't want to be trapped here!

Let me out!

I stand up, looking at my own face. I don't want to see-- I don't want to know the truth--

So I turn and skate on, dreaming that I am free, while another me struggles under ice...