Their parents warned them not to go into the woods by themselves. And Suga warned them twice as much about the spirits of the snow. How they preyed on children who wandered out in the snowy darkness alone.
But in that little clearing, there was a fresh, untouched blanket of snow, calling her farther into the woods, just before that impenetrable wall of darkness.
She pointed a purple-gloved finger. "Let's go over there."
Daniel cleared his throat. "Iris, we can't go over there. We shouldn't even be out here."
She rolled her eyes.
"It'll just be for a second. I promise." She added, when he frowned at her, "Please? Come on."
He nodded slowly. Iris pulled him farther, past the edge of the big clearing, through the next line of trees, to the smaller one. The darkness seemed so solid as it surrounded them, it felt like they were in a cave. All around her, Iris could only see trees. As if they'd entered another world.
The trees seemed to stand in anticipation under the pink-and-black snowy sky. Watching, waiting, so still as the snow touched the branches. She shivered, probably because of the cold. She lay down slowly, the cold pressing closer against her back than it had before. She moved her arms and legs, making the angel, ignoring a strange feeling that she was slowly sinking into the snow...
Daniel reached out his hand and pulled her up. Iris shook the feeling off and smiled. She was proud of her work. "I've never made a snow angel this good!" She looked at Daniel to agree, but he was leaning over, frowning at her angel.
"What's that?" he asked, pointing at it. "Look."
She peered more closely at the angel, the way her dress flared around her feet, her arms frozen in midair as if she'd finally gotten their attention.
There was something buried, just barely, under the snow angel's chest, where her heart would be. It glistened in the moonlight. They bent over and worked together to uncover it.
Their hands froze in midair, mimicking the angels'. Daniel gasped.
Iris stared down at the crumbling stone, a gust of cold air pushing past her, forcing her to speak.