27 October 2004

The ice house

Last winter I awoke to see the garden covered in an icy sheet of frost. On my path, much to my surprise, lay a small dead bird, apparently caught out in the freezing weather. I had no idea how it got there, but it reminded me of the strange tale of the Ice House.

There once was a house encased in ice, which stood on the far side of Umpama mountain. It was a small and humble building, but trapped within the ice it looked beautiful and twinkled like a glimmering diamond.

No-one knew what was inside the house or how it came to be covered in ice. Some people said that inside the house was a mischievous god trapped for eternity, and others believed that a horrendous beast was imprisoned there, restrained for the good of the world.

Either way, no-one went near it for fear of upsetting whatever was inside. Children were told of the horrors that awaited them if they so much as peeped into one of the windows. But of course, children don't care much for hokum.

One day a little girl called Ilya thought she'd find out for sure what was inside. She took the long and winding path up Umpama mountain until she reached the building. It was more beautiful than even she imagined, sealed within its sparkling blue ice block.

She peered into the icy tomb. The house looked empty and decrepit, and then she saw a window. Ilya peered closer: there were curtains, solid as though frozen in time, and further inside was a table. She crept forward ever closer, and suddenly lost her footing.

Her nose banged into the ice. It was deadly cold, and a shot of pain ran from head to toe. She felt her nose turn runny, and gradually a large icicle, harder than stone formed at its tip.

The Ice block in front of her started to melt. It rapidly shrunk in size and a stream of water coursed around her legs. Eventually, only the building remained. It looked soggy and unkempt. The door suddenly opened and out walked the most beautiful woman Ilya had ever seen.

'So you broke the curse,' she said. 'I have a lot to thank you for. I only hope someone will break your curse one day.' With a puff of smoke she vanished. Ilya stood alone, her nose aching from the freezing icicle. It would be with her forever.

Ilya returned home, but due to the icicle received a less than warm reception. Everyone stared and made fun of her. In a few years she returned to the house on the mountain to live a life of sadness. It was the only place where she could get some peace, but It wasn't much fun having an icicle on her nose.

Any way, back to that frosty morning. When I saw the bird lying there, I wondered if it might have broken Ilya's curse and fallen foul to its icy spell. I like to think that it did any way, if only so that it didn't just die of cold.