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The First Snows of Winter by Ghislaine Arsenault
Chapter 1 : The First Snows of Winter
 
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His first transformation would come with that year’s first snow. The air had become crisp overnight, seeping underneath the windows and into the house. The first cognizant breath he drew that morning he pulled in with deliberation, and felt it chill his lungs. He curled his toes underneath his blankets, not wanting to step out of bed. Perhaps if he stayed in bed, the change would not happen. For the past two weeks he had been put to bed every night with stories about the change. They had replaced his normal stories, the ones in which young boys battled with wretched beasts and lived happily ever after in their peaceful kingdoms. The stories he heard now made his heart grow as cold as the air that was prickling up the hair on his arms. He was not going to be an animal anymore. He would not be a boy, or a wolf, and it was this fact that frightened him so.

---

The day before, he had gone for a walk through the woods with his father. His right hand he had left clasped in his father’s, and his left hand he had shoved deep into his pocket with a pair of old red mittens. They had been looking for tracks, a pastime that they had grown to love as father and son.

The year was drawing to a close, and the scent of snow was creeping in with the northern winds. Remus had known what day it was, and he had also known that his father had been trying his best to divert his son for the day. One last day of childhood innocence, he had wanted to make it perfect.

“There are some!” the boy had shouted, pulling his father along with him to the side of a small creek. “Deer, I think.”

“Very good, Remus,” had said his father, bending down to his son’s level. “And what are those?” He had pointed to a small line of tracks near those of the deer.

“Well,” Remus had hesitated. “It looks like a bird, but I don’t know what kind.”

“Good,” his father had smiled, “I don’t think I know what kind, either. I was just testing you.”

His father liked testing him.

---

The snow grabbed onto the fibres of his red mittens, like tiny pieces of crust. He stopped every now and again to pick them off, and each little clump would take little red flecks with it. It looked like blood, Remus thought.

The soup he had eaten for lunch was sitting in a warm ball in his stomach. It was only this keeping him warm as he moulded more snowballs, then threw them hard at the side of the shed. The old wooden slats were barely holding together, and Remus was trying to see if he could make the entire shed collapse with the force of the snowballs. He was not trying too hard today, though, for he knew his father was in the shed.

He could hear hammering, and the sound of metal being struck by metal. Every few minutes his father would come out of the shed, yelling at him to stop throwing snowballs at the shed. It was weak enough as it was, and he did not think it was going to hold the night.

---

The night before, his father had told him a story about his mother. He missed his mother very much, and he loved the times his father would tell a story about her. It did not happen very often.

His mother had died when he was very young, even younger than he was now, and he was already very young. He wished he remembered, he wanted to remember every moment they had spent together, yet he could remember nothing but the stories his father told him. She loved him very much, and would not be afraid of the change, so why was he?

Today he was going to become a man at the age of eight.

The night before a father had kissed his only son on the forehead, and told him he loved him.

---

The sun had vanished. The day was finished, and the night was there as a replacement. It’s time, thought Remus. He had snuck out of the house; he thought it was better this way. His father had been so worried, and this way he did not have to deal with it. His father had worked very hard on the shed, making it safe. It was safe, and he was safe, the only thing that was not safe was Remus himself. He was standing in the middle of the field by the forest, and nothing was happening. He could not see the moon yet, though he knew it was there. It was trying to find him through an ocean of clouds. And then it did. A shard of moonlight fell on Remus’ forehead, right where his father had kissed him the night before. It obscured his vision, if only for a moment. His breath forced itself out of his body with a violent pant. He felt every part of his body surge, it felt as if he was filling with liquid and was going to burst. Unknown smells found their way into his nostrils. The dirt and grass at his feet felt more natural than they had ever felt against the bare skin of his child’s body. He lost all thought.

The creature he had become turned and took solace in the forest. The snow covered trees hovered around the beast like skeletons, warding off the animals who would be so foolish as to be seen by this new predator. The creature raised its nose into the air and reeled in the different scents of his surroundings. There would be prey to hunt tonight. There would be tracks to follow. There would be struggle.

---

He was in pain. He looked at his hands, and at his arms, they were covered in scratches and bites. Had he done that? He was wrapped in a blanket and sitting in the shed. His father had found him that morning, lying in a drift of snow, naked and nearly frozen to death. Foolish was the word his father had used. He was foolish, and he felt it. He was sorry, and for the first time he realised what he was, and that it was unforgivable.

His father picked him up and brought him back the house. A cup of tea was waiting on the kitchen table, and a biscuit. Remus was not hungry. He noticed that his wounds were practically healed already. Was that possible? He picked at the biscuit and took a sip of tea. The warm liquid slid down his throat and healed the soreness inside his body, if only momentarily. He wanted to cry, knowing that he was never going to be able to escape the change.

It was a week before Christmas, and Remus knew what he wanted.




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