He's so sweet and innocent surrounded by so much terrifying darkness. I don't know why I don't protect him better and always encircle him with such menace...I think its a balance issue...
See what you think...
"Berries in the Snow"
Karl really did enjoy looking after the Ice Plantation. It made him smile every time he circled the complex and confirmed that the Graces had not yet penetrated his barriers. He had figured out years ago to tie balloons filled with paint to the invisible strings. It made his job much easier to trudge round and round, looking for an explosion of color marking trespass. The snow was fresh that day, crisp and confetti powder that in daylight shimmered in a million microscopic prisms. The crunch, crunch, crunch beneath his snow shoes echoed off of the trees and cedar castle. His iron-tipped club (for this was the only weapon that worked against the red-throated beasts) was securely fastened to his belt, next to a canteen full of cocoa and a whistle for trouble. It never occurred to Karl that there was no other Karl or guard like him that would come to his rescue should the whistle prove necessary. It never crossed his mind that the whistle existed to let the ice people know that their borders had been breached and Karl had failed.
It was Karl’s job to look after the ice people, their eyes like diamonds and their teeth sharp and layered like those of underwater hunters. They existed in threes; one male, one female, and one child and they never touched each other and especially not Karl. Their voices sounded harsh like the static that plays through a station without songs. They always wore white and only by the color of their oil-slick hair could you see them in the snow. Karl would sometimes get lost and sink in the beauty of their dark oil hair. The sun reflected on their heads colors of cerulean and laurel green and like the seal that swims towards the curious, Karl always found himself covered and choking in a spillage of chastisements for taking his eyes off the borders. They terrified and amazed Karl. He always preferred to stay closest to the border and far enough to stare at them unnoticed. It never occurred to Karl that those he protected were actually afraid of him and his warmth. It never crossed his mind that he was being used and exploited for his size and willingness to serve. Karl was like a giant boy monster, eager to please and easily amused.
Because Karl had not encountered any colored warnings that day and it was nearing the time of his final round about, his mind began to wander. He was not ready to return to his lonely hut on the edge of the grounds. His feet carelessly followed his mind, slowly beginning to swerve in and out and around the line that separated the safe and unknown. His elephant legs skipped over the invisible fence easily, leaving the cautionary balloons undisturbed. On a single hop out, Karl noticed something in the distance. Through the snow and stony woods that surrounded the Plantation he thought he saw leaves. Karl left his post to seek it out, look closer, and see how living leaves could be growing in the middle of the snowy cliffs. The sunny day was beginning to wane and snow was starting to fall quickly upon him. However, instead of the darkness bringing with it the cold, Karl began to feel warmer. The closer he came to the leaves, the more he felt as if he were again in his small thatch hut on the edge of the grounds, huddled around his modest fire. Karl removed his jacket and stopped to untie his snow shoes, finding it easier to walk with his toes outstretched. He suddenly felt a sharp sting on his shoulder as he passed beneath a low-hanging spiked branch. Karl barely noticed and continued towards the shrub. It never occurred to Karl to remember to bring his club as he loosened and dropped his belt along the way. It never crossed his mind that he may need it sooner than he would have liked as he led the Graces behind him as his guiltless blood dropped like berries in the snow.
As Karl approached, the small shrub radiated such a vibrant bottle green and boozy scent that he fell to his knees before it, dizzy with its beauty. It seemed to have risen up from the ice just for him. Karl knew it had been waiting for him, all this time. It was different from the black trees dripping ice like daggers. It needed Karl to take care of it, helpless and cold alone in the woods. Karl removed his scarf and then his shirt, warmed from his large body, and wrapped them around the abandoned shrub. The heat was coming off of the plant like a fire as his body sifted deeper into the snow. He began to think about the ice people and their terrifying beauty as he stared deeper into the heart of the shrub. He wondered why they never touched each other as he stroked one of the fuzzy leaves, its skin as soft as a lamb. He thought about them slowly circling, seemingly fearful that if they slipped or tripped into each other, they would shatter and fall to pieces in the snow. It never occurred to Karl that they were all already shattered and scattered around their cedar shrine. It never crossed his mind that the ice people had never seen so much terrifying color as the explosions of paint surrounded their home. Karl was kept company with the Graces’ gifted flower as they easily passed through the invisible lines, setting the grounds to a kaleidoscopic of hues. The whistle lay quiet, soon buried by the falling snow.