Black Ice

Every day of every winter since I can remember, I’d gather up my skates and stick and run down to meet Graeme at the lake around three. For hours we would pass the puck back and forth taking turns being keeper of a snow ledge goal we devised. I’ve wondered why I keep coming back to the ice? Why not move on to something new and fresh instead? I guess it’s always been nice to know that I can see Graeme when the ice finally forms.

“Heelloo! Ryan! You there mate?”

Graeme shot the puck and sent it with slippery elegance between my feet.

“He shoots, he scores , and the crowd goes wild! Haaa.”

I pass the puck back to Graeme. He shot again but this time I was able to get my stick on the puck and deflect it from going in.

“Oh! What now!” I tried to move my feet like dancing, but instead the movements just mimicked one who had lost their balance.

“Ha ha, that’s some victory dance, better get ready cause here comes another.” He pulled back his stick and let the puck go flying — right into my shin.

“Ah, man that hurt”

“Ha ha, nice block”

I threw down my stick and chased after him, we spent an hour or so racing around the lake tackling each other, waiting for the other one to give up. At night we would abandon our equipment and skate around the lake listening to the eerie cracks in the ice since the puck would end up disappearing into the darkness . The ice and sky seemed to be one, as the sky grew darker, the ice became blacker with our only sanctuary being the moon that granted passage to and fro. We laid down on the ice letting our clothes fight a losing battle of being soaked. The night air mixed with silence and a touch of ice created the tastiest tranquility one could find. Until I had to go home we’d just lay there staring up at the blackened clouds. Words were never exchanged during this time, yet it always seemed to bring us even closer.

“You know tomorrow is THE day, you ready?” Graeme asked as he saw me getting up to leave.

“You’re going down this year, no doubt about it.” I boasted back with false confidence.

“We’ll see.”

On December 15th of every year since I can remember we would race from one end of the lake to the other with the prize being able to brag for a year! Unfortunately, Graeme has been able to brag for the last four.

“Well I’m gonna get going, see you tomorrow.”

“Bye.”

The next day I called Graeme to make sure he wasn’t going to chicken out on me. Of course the real reason was I wanted to see if he had left yet so I could go down early and get a couple of quick laps in before the race. I picked up the phone and dialed his number while waiting for someone to answer I was chaotically grabbing all my equipment and shoving it into my bag.

“Hello?” Mrs. Potter answered.

“Hello, Mrs. Potter, This is Ryan. Is Graeme there by chance?”

“Ryan…you know he’s not…” Her voice trailed off as though she was being pulled away from the phone.

“Ok? Thanks.” I hung up the phone with some confusion before hearing the rest of Mrs. Potter’s sentence.

By the time I got down to the lake Graeme was already there waiting for me.

“Yo.”

“Hey mate, you ready?”

“Chill out, I need some time to warm up, you’re not winning this year.”

“Ha ha alright, but you know we start at three every year, can’t break tradition”

“Ya ya”

That gave me about half an hour or so to get my legs and feet used to skating and stretch out the soreness from yesterday. After a couple of laps around the lake I sat down and used the remaining time to stretch and make sure my skates were tied extra tight.

“So, how should we start the race this year?”

“I don’t know, how about like we did last summer when we were rollerblading, use a snowball instead of a rock?”

“Sounds good.”

We both lined up and got into position, Graeme being the reigning champion got to start the race.

“Ok, so when the snowball hits we go.”

Graeme chucked the snowball straight into the air, our eyes pulled back and focused on it as though our very lives depended on this little ball of snow. Faster and faster gravity carried the ball back to our feet, and soon we were off. My start was exceedingly better than last year’s when my kept blade slipped before catching the ice. After a few moments we were still neck and neck but I could tell Graeme was holding back until the final sprint at the end. My lungs started to hurt from the icy wind, and I was lagging behind. With what I had left I decided to go for the final sprint a lot sooner then usual and took off. Luckily this caught Graeme by surprise and even slowed him for a second to think if he should do the same or keep his pace. The finish line, a line in the ice we carve out with our skates every year a week before, was less then ten yards away. At this point I felt nothing, no pain or exhaustion, I couldn’t even tell if I was still wearing my skates anymore, all I could focus on was the finish line. Five yards, three yards, one yard, I finished, and not only that I finished first. Having no energy to even stop myself I coasted for awhile trying to catch my breath. The moment my skates stopped I collapsed to the ice, I didn’t even have enough strength to stay standing.

“Ha ha, oh man Graeme, I’m completely exhausted, I think we both made record time this year, me of course having the best”

Silenced soon followed as I turned to my right, no one, my left, again no one. I climbed to my feet and turned around wondering why Graeme wasn’t right beside me.

An eerie sensation soon replicated itself as a cold shiver that engulfed my entire soul.

The ice was completely alone, I was alone. I could hear a car on the road pull up next to the lake. I felt my adrenaline pumping straight to my legs as I took off back towards the starting line looking for any holes in the ice, thinking that Graeme may have hit a patch of thin or as we refer to it as black ice and fell in. As I skated towards an opening I found, I could hear a faint voice yell.

“Ryan, Hey Ryan, Are you ok?”

I glanced back and saw my father running down the hill towards me.

“Ya, but I think Graeme fell through the ice.” I called back out of breath, hysteria would be the best way to describe my sense of being at this point.

“GRAEME…GRAEME” I yelled, but the icy hole just gobbled up my words into nothingness. Ah, why did I have to tie my skates so tight! Once they were off I could jump in and save him, only if I didn’t tie my skates so DAMN TIGHT. Finally they came off but before I could jump into the hole my father grabbed me from behind.

“AH, LET ME GO, GRAEME’S DOWN THERE, I HAVE TO GO GET HIM” I scrabbled, trying to break free from my father’s grip.

“GRAEME, GRAEME!!!!”

“Ryan, Graeme’s not here, so settle down.”

I turned and looked at my father, “What do you mean?” I felt a sense of relief thinking now that maybe Graeme decided to scare me and skate away while I was racing for the finish, he’d do something like that, especially if he thought he was going to lose.

“You called Graeme’s house again.” His voice trailed off, much like Mrs. Potters’ did.

“Ya, So where is he? I bet he’s in the car right now, probably laughing his head off at me.”

“Ryan…” his sentences still not reaching the period. My father, a strong and healthy individual, looked sad and helpless, probing me to now ask the question.

“Where is Graeme!?” I demanded from the man who my whole life had every answer to every question, except this one.

“Come on, let’s go home.”

I pulled away from him and skated to the middle of the lake where I fell to the ice. I heard the car pull away and again I was alone. I sat there till night as my body became apart of the ice and brushed the small ice droplets that had formed on my cheeks. That night without a cloud in the sky, the moon revealed the answer that I was always wondering about. Why did I keep coming back to the ice?

Black Ice

Ryan Duclos

Chicago, United States

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Artist's Description

A tale of two boys that fall in love with the ice, so much, that no matter what they can never leave it.

Also in the Twisted Tales competition “Like we did last summer(winter)”

4/21/10 – Note to Self – Add more character description of Graeme, really try to show the strong and observant connection between the two.

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