Demon of Winter
The fallen autumn leaves were golden brown on the path as Jason walked home. The three form bullies nodded respectfully as he passed them by. The only reason he got respect from them now, was because of his special friend…
There was a piercing wail and his special friend swooped down, the draft from her bat like wings blasting the fallen leaves in all directions. She seized him in her strong arms and whirled him around, her mane of crazy, curly hair getting in his eyes.
"Hey, Seph," he said, a little breathless.
She grinned, showing off her fangs. Her face was bright green and shiny. She was clad in tight leather, but he knew her whole body was green as well.
"Heyyyyy, Jason! It's that time of year again. Autumn's finished, so it's hello, Winter." She grinned so wide that she scrunched her black eyes.
Jason smiled. Of course Seph was enthusiastic about winter. She was a snow demon. She held the winter in reverence. In their world, it was the snow demons who brought winter down on the world each year.
"So? Had a good day at school?" Chattered Seph, her raspy voice sounding excited. "I wish I could go with you, just for one day."
It may sound weird that Seph would actually want to go to school, but Jason knew how curious she was about everything. It was something he loved about her.
"It was OK... but we had games this afternoon… It was rugby." When it was time for rugby, Jason would skulk out of the way, in defence.
"Ice coolllll," said Seph. Snow demons always made puns involving ice whenever they could. Did you expect anything different? "Rugby sounds fun."
"Fun? It's really rough."
She scrunched her shiny green nose at him and cupped his face in her hands. "Awwww, don't ever change, Jason. C'mon. I wanna show you something."
Flying in her arms had been a bit scary the first time, but now it was exhilarating, feeling the wind in his hair and seeing the ground drop far below them, so the school was the size of a postage stamp.
They alighted on a rocky plateau, high above the houses. This high, the wind was chill and the wind made Jason's blood sing. Seph's friend, Kelaya was here. She was a snow demon with huge horns, bigger and curlier than Seph's. Seph shrieked and flung her arms around her friend.
"It's going great, don't you think?" said Kelaya. The demons broke apart and she touched Jason's sleeve, giving him a tight lipped smile.
Seph grinned. "Not just great, Kel. Awesome. Three months of winter awesomeness are coming up."
Kel had caught a mountain goat to provide herself and her friend with raw meat. She had been thoughtful enough to start a fire and roast some for Jason, and to provide him with a kind of tea that accompanied the goat meat the way a running nose compares a feverish cold. Kel was definitely alright, even if she looked a bit scary, with her great horns.
Seph tore into her goat leg, her green cheeks bulging and red goat blood drooling down her face. It was cold up here, so Jason leaned against Seph, and she wrapped a wing around him. There was a peace and a stillness this high up… although it was marred by the grisly spectacle of Kel's eating habits as she cracked the goat's skull with her fangs. Jason wondered what a squeamish person would make of them. Watching Kel chomp on the poor goat's brains was gross, but Jason couldn't tear his eyes away from the sight, until Seph pointed with a talon over the edge of the plateau. Jason could make out the shapes of green snow demons dragging clouds that looked heavy with the threat of snow.
"Look at that. There'll be mountains of snow for our sledding," said Seph happily. "Just think… our first winter together as BFFs. And over there… can you see? The lake will be frozen solid and we can play earth-hockey. You don't need wings for that."
Kel grinned at that, her fangs tinged red. "No cheating then. No using your wings. Not even if Jason's going to beat you."
Seph stuck out her green tongue. "I wouldn't mind if Jason beat me."
"Wow, she clearly loves you," Kel told Jason. "If I beat her, it would mean a big old sulk."
Seph pulled a face at Kel, wrinkling her shiny green nose.
"Better be just you and me, Seph," said Jason. "See if I can't beat a snow demon at her own game."
She gave a slightly nervous smile. "I hope you'll find it better than Rugby, even though that looks like fun. Getting to grab and huddle with all those human boys." She bit her lips. If snow demons could blush, she probably would be. Kel arched her eyebrows.
Jason gripped Seph's shoulders and grinned into her face. "Rugby? Pfft. You're the only playmate for me. Never mind the other boys." They nuzzled each other's faces, pressing their noses together.
The next day, Seph visited Jason's house. Jan, his mother, smiled as Seph alighted on her garden path, her talons clattering on the paving stones.
"Hello, Seph. Here." She handed her a plate of raw sheep liver and watched, unable to look away as the snow demon appreciatively guzzled it down, shoving it almost entire into her mouth, blood drooling down her green face.
"Fanks." She swallowed. "Listen, Jan… Can Jason come out and play."
"I'm afraid he's very sick."
The demon's dark eyes widened in shock. "Oh no!" Her thin brows drew together. Were those tears in her eyes? Jan felt an upsurge of affection for her.
"I've gotta see him," Seph declared.
She folded her wings and Jan led her into the house and up the stairs. She leaned over him, her green face close to his pale, freckly one. Probably the stink of liver was still heavy on her breath, but Jason smiled at her anyway. "Heyyyy, Jason," she said softly. "Get well soon. Remember all the things we're gonna do this winter? Building snow monsters? Sitting by the fire while I sip pig's blood and you sip hot chocolate? I – I bet I can make Kel build us a huge bonfire to sit around." Her voice quivered and two large tears splashed onto the pillow.
"I hope we still can," murmured Jason, reaching up to caress her green cheek.
"I love that you're soft and delicate. It's who you are," said the demon, her voice quivering. "But get well quickly. Don't you want to do all those things with me?"
"Of course I do," said Jason, struggling into a sitting position and putting his arms around her.
Jan decided to break the news gently to Seph. "It's a Seasonal Affected Disorder. A virulent strain," she said. "There may be no cure."
"Maybe not that you know about, but my friend Kel knows all kinds of things," said Seph shaking her head. "She'll clear this up and you'll see that it's nothing serious."
Having to talk about it made it seem all the more real to Jan, and she had already cried about it. But she tried again, laying a hand on the girl's green arm. "It is serious, my dear…"
Seph wrinkled her shiny green nose at her. "This is something a snow demon would know about. Or a super smart snow demon would know about. I am going to find out, and I will bring back the news that Jason is OK."
This obvious denial on Seph's part made it clear that she did love Jason. Jan put her arms around her. The demon embraced her with her wings. "Have it your way Seph. You will see."
"Seasonal Affected Disorder? The virulent kind? That is serious," said Kel when Seph told her. She tsked. "Mortals are so weak. There may not be a cure."
Seph glared at her and folded her arms. "Well what would you know about mortals, you just think you're above them."
Kel frowned at her. "I'll pretend I didn't here that."
Seph visited Jason again, bringing some grapes a demon peddlar had imported from far away. Her friend Charoth accompanied her.
Seph handed Jason the grapes. He did look pale. "I know you like this kind of thing. I know I don't, they don't even taste of anything to me… but get up soon and come back to me, I know you – this Seasonal Affected thingy won't keep you down."
Charoth grinned at the sight of Jason's wan face. "Awww, you're such a cutesy, wootsy little mortal, I can see why Seph loves you. Look at you… hair like copper and that spotty face."
"Alright Char, don't be embarrassing," said Seph as Jason's freckled cheeks flushed faintly pink.
Char skipped down the path and bade Jan a cheery goodbye. Seph was agitated to see that Jan's eyes were bloodshot. She had been crying.
"I did say, he's going to be alright. What does Kel know, anyway?" said Seph fiercely.
"Yes, dear. You did say so," said Jan, her voice husky.
They returned to the high mountain plateau. The green shapes of their snow demon friends were visible from far away. When they alighted, Char started gushing about Jason again. "Not every demon gets it, but Seph is right. Jason is so adorable. I just wanna go back and cuddle and pet him, now that he's dangerously ill…"
"DON'T SAY THAT WORD!" yelled Seph.
Char blinked. "What word? Cuddle? Adorable?"
"SHUT UP!" screamed Seph.
The other demons were staring.
"What are you looking at?" demanded Seph. "Char and I are having a conversation."
"Look, Seph, we know how upset you are…" began Kel.
"Careful!" Hissed Char. "I don't know what word set her off."
Kel rolled her eyes at Char. "We know you're worried about Jason and it must be frustrating too, but you can't take your anger out on your other friends…"
"WHO SAID ANYTHING ABOUT ANGER?" screamed Seph. "I'M NOT ANGRY! DO I LOOK ANGRY?" She snarled and bared her fangs.
Agitated, Seph flew back to Jason's house and pulled Jan into a tight embrace right away. "I – I don't know how you stay strong. I don't think I can deal with it." The tears were coursing down her cheeks.
"The Seasonal Affected Disorder is as inevitable as the seasons," said Jan sadly. "It's well documented."
"Inevitable… think though… they're not inevitable. I'm a snow demon. We start winter. Well… I'll just stop winter!" She clapped her taloned hands together.
Jan stared. "Stop winter? Is that possible?"
"Of course it's possible, I help start it," said Seph. "Jason has my heart. If it comes down to a choice… my choice was made ages ago."
She went up to reassure Jason. "It'll all be OK," she assured him, taking him in her arms, blankets and all. "Winter's no big deal. I'll keep you with me."
He wrapped his feeble arms round her. "I'd like that."
She felt her heart swell with emotion.
The snow demon builders had been building a snowstorm cloud, but certain problems had arisen.
"It'll cost more than the quote… everythink runs in ter money…"
Seph swooped down on them. "Hadn't you better go on a break? I'm taking over this cloud. The foredemon just sent me."
"A break? Yerse… pig blood mixed with spirits'll do."
When they had swooped off, she demolished the cloud with her talons and then cleared off out of sight.
The foredemon and builders arrived simultaneously.
"Where's the cloud?" demanded the foredemon.
"That new gel you sent got it down," said the demon.
"What new girl? I sent no one."
"Oh that's alright, cos she's gorn…"
Seph grinned as she watched from behind another cloud. Stopping winter was going to be a lot easier than she had thought.