Gone?

Dusty looked out over the Moore, Her eyes scanning the snow drifts. She came out here every day always looking for the snow-boy. She hadn't seen him in over three years yet every winter, every day, she looked for him. In the past three years her skin had become uncharacteristically white, the snow around her burned and she heard things no one else heard. Her father and mother worried daily about her, she always said she was fine but her parents didn't believe her. They knew she was lying to them but they also knew that the business with the strange boy had affected her, so they didn't press.

With a last glance around, Dusty turned home. Her search for what happened to the snow-boy would continue until she solved the mystery. Her home loomed on the horizon offering comfort from the blowing snow. She stepped through the door, stomped the snow off her boots, and hung her coat on the hook. Her parents had gone to be hours ago, for they knew that she would randomly disappear for long periods of time.

The burning snow outside blew against the windows causing them to rattle. She climbed the stairs and opened the door to her room letting the familiar scent wash over her. Her snow-pipe glistened on her desk. She smiled at it, and picked it up. She put it to her lips and blew a few notes. Since she had gotten the snow-pipe she had become quite expert at playing it. The sound of the chiming notes always made her smile. Her thoughts turned to the snow-boy as always when she held the pipe. She put the snow-pipe down on the desk once more and began to draw the strange boy. She drew him as she always drew him, just as he was. Sometimes in the duffle coat sometimes like she last saw him, nude. But every day she drew him, as if drawing him would make him comeback to her. But just like every other day the completion of a drawing herald nothing new as far as the snow-boy went just his face staring off the paper at her. Sadly she looked out the window. She once again looked for him out the window and once again found nothing. She crawled under her duvet and fell into a sleep filled with dreams of the snow-boy.

When Dusty awoke she was startled to find it was still late at night and she had been asleep for only forty-five minutes. She realized what had awakened her was a strange noise but as she listened didn't come again so she lay back down, only to hear the noise again as soon as her head touched the pillow. She sat up in bed. This sound sounded exactly like her snow-pipe. Dusty glanced at her desk where she had left the pipe but found it missing. The tune the person was playing was haunted and as soon as Dusty focused on the melody she found herself entranced. Mindlessly she slipped on her boots and stepped outside, her mind drawing her to the source of the sound. She walked along the road to the park, her mind numb with the frightening serenity of the song. She stepped with a rhythm. Step. Step. Step, A slow march in tune with song that was gradually getting louder as she drew closer to the source. She marched and nothing more. She marched and absorbed the thrilling wonder of the noise. Eventually she walked over the hill and the swings came into her clouded vision. The spell of the music cut off as the tune died, blending in with the winter silence around her. Sitting on the very swing where he had tried to kill himself three years ago was the snow-boy. His eyes were closed and he still held the Ocarina to his lips. As dusty watched him he slowly lowered the pipe and opened his eyes, letting the duffle coats hood fall back to reveal his silver hair. For a long time the two just looked at each other. Then, suddenly breaking the silence both leapt up at the same time and ran to each other. They both ran into the hug they had needed for the last three years. They stood for a long time absorbing and relishing each other's strength. When they broke apart they smiled at each other and began walking back the way Dusty had come. The boy was the first to speak.

"I see its true then"

"What's true?" Dusty questioned.

"That you've become like me, that people are frightened of you because you look so much like me."

"But I'm still Dusty." She retorted.

"In a sense… but look at yourself, you don't look like you did when I last saw you. When you came over the hill I almost thought it wasn't you." The snow-boy replied. Dusty stopped walking and looked at her hands in awe. For the first time she actually saw her glistening white skin, her silver hair blew into her face with the breeze. She looked at the snow-boy with an expression that cried for help. She was lost, and she just realized how lost, her life revolved around him, she needed him, and she had no one else even if she needed them. Her friends had abandoned her just a year after he had gone missing. The snow-boy laid a hand on her shoulder.

"It's ok, that's why I came back, when I saw this… well… I knew you needed help that only I could offer you."

Dusty looked at him in relief and suddenly she realized something.

"How are you still alive? I… I saw you kill yourself, you drove that truck off the pier…" she never finished, the memories brought on by speaking the words ripped her heart into so many fragments there was no hope for complete restoration.

"I'll explain in good time but for now I think we both need sleep, you're practically sleep-walking at this point." Dusty nodded and they restarted their walk back to Dusty's home.

The next morning her mom when into Dusty's room to wake her up and her shrill screaming awoke both Dusty and the Snow-boy. They looked at the now empty doorway in fright then turned to each other their eyes read "Crap" they both ran downstairs to where they heard frantic shrieks and calm persuading from the kitchen. They peeked through the door and saw Dusty's mom frantically pulling her hair and wailing about her daughter sleeping with some street-rat. Her father was trying to rationally explain to her how that was not possible. Dusty and the snow-boy both stepped into the kitchen then and her mother gave a shriek of happiness that she was right. Her father's jaw dropped into his plate of eggs and he didn't seem to notice that his newly acquired beard was yellow. Dusty looked sheepishly at them both and semi-cowered behind the snow-boy, after several minutes of very uncomfortable silence dusty tentatively spoke up.

"Mom, Dad, you remember him, don't you?"

Both her parents just nodded and began glaring at both of them in turn. Dusty could tell her mom was about to explode in anger and began gently pulling the snow-boy to the door. Her dad suddenly reached across the kitchen and grabbed his arm. Dusty saw no emotion on the face of the snow-boy bit the look on her dads face startled her. Instead of being angry he had tears in his eye.

"Can you help her?" her father asked the boy in a shaky voice. The boy gave a quick nod.

"I believe that's why I can't die, I have to help her with what's she is becoming, then we will pass on together." The boy said in a monotone voice. Her father gave a quick and somewhat fearful nod. Dusty began to pull the boy back again as soon as her father let go of his arm. Once back in Dusty's room she sat on her bed shaking.

"Is something wrong?" the boy asked her.

"Back there you said, that we would pass on together, is that true?" she asked in a fearful voice. The boy nodded gently.

"But only when you're ready." He saw the fear in her eyes and said "come on there is something I have to show you." He hurried out the door and down the steps with Dusty hurrying to follow his fast pace. They walked down the road to the very pier where he had tried to die three years ago and where her brother had died a year before that.

"When you come here can you feel his presence? Your brothers?" the snow boy asked Dusty, she gave a nod and looked questioningly at him. Suddenly he spoke the last words Josh had spoken to her.

"I'm sorry little Dusty, good-bye little Dusty." He then turned to Dusty.

"If there is one thing you could say to your brother what would it be?"

"I'd tell him I love him and I forgive him for what he did. Why?"

"Tell him then." He said and with a snap of his fingers a figure began to materialize at the end of the pier. Dusty took a few amazed steps forward at the figure began to be recognizable as her brother. She began to run forwards only to have her collar grabbed by the boy.

"Don't rush, let me explain. I've learned how to bring people back from the afterlife, but only for a little while and not completely, your brother you can see each other and speak to each other but if you touch him while he is in this state you will take his place in the afterlife and he will be here in your body. In other words don't touch him." and with that he released her collar.

Dusty looked at her brother standing at the end of the pier and smiled back at him. The two just gazed into the eyes of the other. During their separation they had thought of almost nothing else but getting to see the other again someday.

They both began to move simultaneously as they took step after slow step closer together, eventually leaving a gap a few feet wide in-between them.

"Is it really you?" Dusty questioned disbelief apparent in her tone yet it was diluted with happiness.

Josh laughed at her in amusement, "You never did believe what was right if front of you did you?" he said with a smile.

She smiled back at him and the disbelief washed away. The smile lighting up Josh's face was so like him he could be nothing other than the real Josh. The beloved Brother she had lost all those years ago.

Word could not describe the utter, complete joy they felt as they looked at each other. They had both changed enormities during their separation. Dusty's pale skin had turned snow white and Josh was clothed in rags. Rags that appeared burned in some places.

"What happened to you?" Dusty inquired after a time. The tales of heaven and the afterlife from Sunday school when her parents had forced her to go, always talked of streets of gold, and pearl clouds, Josh looked as if he had come from a deeper, darker, place then that.

Josh replied with a grunt and turned to the snow-boy who was watching them with attentive eyes.

"How long does your spell last?"

"I dunno, never had a reason to try it before, another few minutes probably, you'll know when your time is up, you'll dissipate."

Josh nodded in response then turned back to Dusty.

"Hey, I know you're curious, but, you will see all you want and more when you join me, OK?"

Dusty gave a questioning nod but it seemed that her questions were going to go unanswered, at least, for a time. She smiled confidently at Josh, happy to be near him once again. He looked down at her and returned the smile, though half-heartedly.

"You know I'm really sorry for putting you through this, right?" he asked her.

"Putting me through what?"

"If I hadn't been so weak, if I had been strong enough, you would still have your friends, a brother, and you wouldn't look like you do…" he choked at the end, the tears in his eyes threatened to spill over.

"What do you mean?" Dusty realized with horror that he blamed himself for everything that was changing in her life, but he couldn't have caused it, could he?

It was then that he began to fade, slowly at first but as time went on the process sped up.

"Josh! Wait!" she cried, she desperately wanted to tell him it wasn't his fault, that she was happy. But that soon became impossible.

As he disappeared completely he said only two sentences, "I'm sorry little Dusty, good-bye little Dusty."

Bitter Memories

That night Dusty's mind was filled with billowing thunderheads. What was Josh blaming himself for? Why had the snow-boy been so attentive watching Dusty and her brother talk? Where had Josh come from to look so ratty?

Dusty glanced over to the snow-boy on the trundle-bed next to hers. He was lying on the bed facing the ceiling with his arms above his head. Dusty could see the small smile on his lips and yet another question popped into her skull, why is he so happy? She rolled over on her side to ask him but found him gone from the bed. Instead he was standing next to her desk looking at the picture of her and Josh from several years ago. His finger was running along the edge as if his mind was toying with the idea of picking it up for a closer look. Having seemingly decided against it his finger stopped its rhythmic path along the photo. But he still looked intently at it, as if he saw something more than a photo of a brother and sister. In the next second he was holding the picture, obviously having rethought holding it. He turned slowly to look at her. His eyes moved slowly from the picture to Dusty's puzzled face. Eventually he let his eyes rest on Dusty's face. With no warning he suddenly asked what kind of a person Josh was.

"Um… well he was… why are you asking?"

"I just want to find out what he did to end up in a place like that."

"Where did he end up?"

The snow-boy didn't answer, he just placed the photo back on the desk and laid back down. Dusty thought he had gone to sleep and was about to follow when he suddenly answered the question.

"I summoned him from hell." Was the short answer.

Dusty was so shocked that she couldn't say anything. By the time her voice would work again she could hear subtle snores coming from the bed next to her. She shoved her head into the pillow in disbelief.

The next morning she woke up, buried in her sheets and pillows. Her duvet she saw on the boy's bed but other than that the bed was empty. The snow-boy walked in with a plate. He saw her looking around in confusion.

"You looked hot last night, I, uh, brought you some food." He said attempting to cure her confusion.

When she didn't answer he set the food carefully on the desk and backed out of the room, realizing that he could not help her come to terms with all that was happening.

Dusty saw the room around her with dead eyes. Everything she saw she never saw, she stared at the food, but it took her about five minutes to figure what it was. She dimly remembered someone being in the room previously. She dug into the deepest depths of her mind to try and remember something other than the word 'hell'. She heard nothing in her head other than a thick thudding rhythm of the word. Being repeated over and over and over again. The snow-boy walked in again and everything clicked. Today he was going to begin teaching her to understand the strange frozen fire around her. He looked at her and wished that this was not as frightening as he remembered it to be. The person he originally was supposed to pass on with died in the process of trying to help him. Then, not a year later he found her. Someone who he knew would fell the cold fire around them all. Someone who would understand him. Someone who would succeed in helping him. He had to help her, he had to make sure that she didn't end up like everyone around her.

"Are you ready?" he asked her.

"Um… ya, just a sec." she said in a rush and threw her coat on over her cloths. Together they left the house. Even though they didn't speak they both knew exactly where they were going. Ravens Fell was always a desolate place in the winter, few braved the drifting snow and hidden paths to come up here but the snow people felt right at home surrounded by the flaming snow. Once at the top they looked back as more snow began to fall.

"Are you ready?" he asked her.

"Ya" she said with confidence.

"It's not as easy as you think." He warned her.

She gave him a look that plainly said-do ya think I care? He shook his head with a smile on his face, and then he turned to her and told her to look at the snow.

"I am" she said as though stating the obvious.

"No, I mean really look at it, when you do you will see what I'm talking about." She studied the snow for several minutes looking for who knows what when suddenly she saw it. "It's beautiful." She exclaimed. A happy smile split the boys face as he excitedly stated "Good job, but that was the easy part, now it gets more difficult." She began to pout in a playful way. He smiled at her but tackled her. The two rolled over in the snow and came up laughing. Dusty lightly shoved the snow-boy off her and he reached down a hand to help her. Once they where back standing on their feet they resumed Dusty's lesson. Dusty, now getting the trick of things, set to work on understanding the snow as the snow boy told her to. Several hours later Dusty felt like she knew everything about the beautiful, tortured, souls raining from the heavens in sparkling white flakes that burned in pain as the fell.

The two decided to go home it was getting late and the snow was beginning to get deep enough that they had to tunnel their way off the fell in some places. Once home Dusty's mother began to coddle them saying they where wet through and shoved dry clothes in their faces. Dusty hadn't even noticed the cold her mother was fretting about but she complied and took the dry clothes into her bathroom to dry off as the snow-boy ducked out of her moms reach and sprinted up the stairs to her room.

Once Dusty was sufficiently dry and draped with billions of blankets her mother was satisfied. Dusty found it unfair that after just one word of polite rejection for warmth she left the snow-boy alone when Dusty was almost yelling but didn't get the treatment she wanted. As soon as her mother left Dusty threw away the choking swath of fabric. The snow-boy seemed not to notice her as he picked up the ocarina and began to softly play the haunting song that had alerted Dusty of his presence a few days ago. However something was slightly different this time. Instead of getting her wide awake this time, after a few minutes she was almost asleep. However, she was still conscious enough to ask the snow-boy about it.

"It's a spell" he said simply "you will learn about this stuff tomorrow."

With those curt words he began to play the song again and this time Dusty fared no better in staying awake. Indeed about forty-five seconds later the snow-boy replaced the snow-pipe on the desk satisfied that she was asleep.

He however didn't go to sleep. He had felt no need for sleep since he left over three years ago and now he was not in the mood to feign sleep as he had last night. The next morning at five a.m. dusty woke to a different song, one she had never heard before. She knew at once that this one was another spell, only this one made her wake up. The snow-boy walked into her room and tossed a granola bar at her, I want to leave before your parents wake up. He said then left her alone so she could get ready to go.

Once again at the top of Ravens Fell Dusty wondered why they came here, sure it was logical but Kilbury Moore was just as logical. Today the boy pulled out the snow pipe and began to play a song. This one seemed like just a typical song one with no spell hidden within it. However the snow-boy changed the tempo and she was lulled to near sleep. With another quick change in tempo she found herself feeling levels of lust that she had never experienced before the snow-boy stopped playing as Dusty reached toward him. Her eyes burned black with lust created by the haunting melody. The boy seemed unworried by her state of mind and let her arm come to rest on his shoulder as she stepped toward him. Dusty's fingers were up his shirt drawing trails over his cold skin when the spell wore off. She jumped away from him in utter embarrassment. She never acted like that and it scared her a little. The snow-boy just looked at her waiting for some reaction. When he go not he began to play again only to have the ocarina wretched from his hands and thrown into the snow. He looked from the gaping hole in the snowdrift to dusty and back again calmly waiting for her to get over what had just happened. She stood hunched over in shame but then went over to the drift and gingerly picked up the pipe again. After handing it to him she stood looking at the snow.

"Are you ready now" he asked in an emotionless tone that was sounded so strange coming from his mouth that it caused Dusty to look up in shock. He looked the same but the look in his eye told her that he was just as embarrassed as her, however he hadn't gone to stop her when she reacted to his spell. She wondered why he had put that spell on her as, sexually; it would do him no good. But still she was curious when he answered her unspoken question.

"I did it to show you how dangerous these spells can be."

Now she understood, he was going to teach her to do these things, but he wanted her to know that the results of the spells where sometimes less than satisfactory. She nodded as his unspoken words reached her.

"When you want to cast a spell with the music it's the snow that plays it, you simply guide the music in the desired direction."

"How do you do that?" Dusty questioned.

"You imagine exactly what you want the person to do. For example if I want you to roll around in the snow I simply have to imagine it." With that he put the ocarina to his lips and a song began to emanate from the center of the universe, and just like the boy had said Dusty began to roll in the snow. When the song stopped Dusty began to calm her wild rolling. With snow in her hair she stood up dizzily to look at the snow-boy but ended up falling into his arms after the full extent of the roll reached her. Once she was solid on her feet the boy handed her the snow-pipe and told her to cast a spell. Dusty put the ocarina to her lips and began to blow the notes while imagining the snow-boy with a happy look on his face opposed to the lifeless expression he wore now. In just a few seconds a smile threatened to break his seal and not a minute later his face was alight with pure untainted joy. Dusty stopped playing and in a minute later all traces of the smile where gone from the boys face.

"Good job" he said "now try something more difficult." Dusty nodded and this time as she played she kept a video of the boy hopping around like a frog playing in her mind. She got the same results as before. Once the boy had stopped hopping around his sour face turned up in a small grin.

"You like seeing me a fool huh?" he asked with an amused tone behind his words. She smiled back at him but didn't say anything, they both knew the answer. They companionably started the walk home taking turns with the ocarina until neither could play properly with all the laughter.

Several days later Dusty was a full snow person, she could cast spells with the ocarina as well at the boy, she could read people's minds, she could summon people from the afterlife, and she could manipulate the burning snow around her. The boy looked at her proudly and told her that today was the last day they would go to the Fell for the purpose of teaching. Dusty looked at him with a strange expression as she could do everything he could, but she followed him anyway.

"There is something girls can do that men can't," he told her, "you have the ability to posses people, take over their bodies and do want you want with them." He had been looking down but now he looked up to judge her reaction.

"Why would I want to do that?" she asked, "It sounds like a horrid thing to be able to do."

"But you have to, it's the only way we can pass on." The defeated expression on his face made Dusty decide she would do it for him, he saw her decision in her mind and smiled up at her in gratitude.

"Who should I try to take over?" she asked.

"Taking over me would be easiest, as I'm closest to you mentally." She nodded and began to try to take over his body. It was easier than she expected and as soon as she touched his coat she was watching her body fall to the ground. She stepped back from the sight, so strange was it. Now there was just one thing to do, get out. She tried and tried but this time it was exceedingly harder to accomplish. Eventually though she watched the snow-boy stumble backwards as he resumed ownership of his body.

"Good job," he said in praise "Now we should go to town and try a human." That made Dusty stop in her tracks.

"Aren't we human?" she asked in disbelief. The only answer was a small shake of the snow-boys head. They walked in silence as Dusty pondered this, if she wasn't human, what was she?

The End

The time was here, they would end it today, forever covered with darkness they would end their life filled with the frozen fire and live life away from all they had ever known. They swallowed the pills mindlessly. Dusty's parents watched in pure, unresolved pain as they watched their daughter weave her fingers through the boys. They sobbed as they watched her take the last breath she would ever take in this world. They looked at the two bodies lying side by side in the snow. The alikeness frightened them and they prepared to call to have a funeral set up when the bodies turned to flaming snow before their eyes and then flew into the sky they watched at the snow fell in the form of a note at their feet. They picked it up and saw it was a picture of the entire family together, Mom, Dad. Josh, Dusty, and at the edge holding her hand, was the snow-boy. Everyone was smiling and they looked like a happy family. On the back was written:

To all those left behind-

We wish you a long and happy life,

May we meet again someday

With the finality of the thing still crushing their minds the two left went on as life required but something felt wrong, out of place, as if Dusty wasn't really gone at all.

Dusty looked around her at the bubbling pools of fire and lava, Josh was next to them and they faced hell together, finally reunited with the ones they all loved, Josh and Dusty felt no pain for their parents for they knew that one day they too would come and that time it would be Josh, Dusty, and the snow-boy who would greet them.