I left a candle burning in the window. It shed very little light into the darkness outside, but it would serve as a beacon home. As I stepped outside and closed the door behind me, a sense of excitement shot through me, carried to my skin in the chill of the December air.
The world I knew had been obliterated and replaced by snowy dunes. The ground reflected the whiteness held aloft in the branches of trees. Color had been erased on this night, except for the flicker of yellow light in the window behind me. A few feet away from the house, and even that meager splotch of color ceased to break up the stark black and white world I found myself in.
Points of light shone overhead, and though their illumination was cold, there was comfort in their familiarity. It is impossible for a snowy night to be completely black. Even starlight is magnified by the white flakes. Instead, darkness and light are mixed in a strange dance, mingled in a way that speaks magic and mystery to any witnesses.
Any mundane sounds that might have intruded on the night were carried away by the wind blowing over the land. Occasionally, it would disturb a branch just enough to knock loose its burden and create a new pile of snow at the base of the tree. While these minor avalanches were nearly soundless, the wind itself spoke to me with unearthly and electrifying noises.
Tales long since forgotten, spells that had not been uttered for ages, and mysteries hidden for generations were all there to be heard by one who knew how to listen. Hints of power, echoes of sadness, and songs of the dead could be found in the wind of such a night as this.
Winter was upon me that night, and it was clear why so many religions had sacred days around this time, though it may not have been clear to them. There was power in the air, all around. Magic threatened to rise up out of the night in some general expression of brilliance. It was waiting only for an occasion.
Locating the star at the top of the world, I sat facing it. The huntsman was behind me in the night sky. Watching over me. I folded my legs over one another and faced the soles of my feet towards the heavens. Closing my eyes and slowing my breathing, I summoned the fire and waited.
The fire burned white to match the snow. Despite its heat, it flowed through and around me without burning. I simply sat in the middle of the conflagration and focused on my breathing. The quiet crackle of the flames seemed to be talking with the bluster of the wind. After a time, a voice emanated from those sounds and whispered to me.
It spoke of things I knew yet had forgotten. Of things I needed to learn. Of things I had noticed around me. It was the voice of my mentor, of me, and of my pupil. And on a night like this, our conversation was lengthy and intense.
I joined the stars above. We exchanged stories. It was difficult to follow their tales, which stretched eons, and they seemed confused at the brevity of mine. But each of us enjoyed the company of the others. And we never stopped learning.
Off in the distance, far below us, I noticed a small yellow light. I drew closer to investigate and recognized the candle I had lit. It seemed like a wasted effort now, since I could not imagine ever wanting to return. The mystery solved, I went on to speak with the ocean.
The language of water was harder for me, especially with flames flowing through me. Still, we both understood quickness, violence, and beauty. While she brushed the back of my neck with her waves, the ocean and I did our best to talk.
Well into our conversation, the water’s texture changed. It began to feel rough, almost as though sand permeated the waves. After I few moments, I felt as though my skin were being ripped away.
Skin? I have skin? A meow in my ear finished the job he had started. I was myself again. Physical. Mortal. Limited. Poe had done the work the candle in the window could not.
At first I was furious with the cat. For a moment, I even considered hurling him down the snowy lane. But he was only doing what I had told him to do a thousand times. If I had not wanted him to disturb me, I should have made sure he was inside.
Another meow told me Poe was cold. He enjoyed my company, but it was time to be heading inside now. Fully back in the mundane world, I found I agreed with him.
I scooped up Poe, and he found his place on my shoulder. Turning, I saluted the Hunter, thanking him for keep watch. I glanced around the black and white world once more, now considerably more white. I had a few more weeks, but no night would approach this one for sheer power and beauty.
Plodding up the walk and inside away from the cold, I blew out the candle. Poe jumped off my shoulder and crept away to stalk mice. I sat by the window, keeping a vigil over the evening, until the sun rose to steal it all away.