“Death twitches my ear;
‘Live,’ he says. ‘For I am coming.’”
IT BEGAN WITH a tug at his navel, and suddenly he was being thrown up into the air. The icy wind sung in his ears as he sailed, like ephemeral music curling around his thoughts. When he finally reached the pinnacle, he exhaled, watching as his breath clouded and crystallised in the air.
There was an annoying pulse beating at the back of his eyes, like the percussion of war drums, and his vision blurred. Then there was this sharp, hot pain in his throat; drops of blood burst before his eyes and fanned out like delicate red tendrils. He gasped for air, but all he could do was gargle. Tiny red bubbles surfaced and stained his lips.
It felt as though he was being pulled in another direction—out onto the edge of something terrifying, over a cliff he couldn’t climb out of. The music in his ears changed, its final notes becoming shrill and tinny. The beating of the war drums only grew louder, deafening and incessant. They would not stop. They would only burn like a tattoo on his heart until—
INSIDE THE CAVE was no warmer than it was outside. But unlike the vast, frozen tundra outside, the cave was relatively dry, free from the snow and icy winds that howled all too close to her ears.
Katara poked aimlessly at the fire with a stick while the storm raged its ceaseless anger, filling the opening of the cave with yet another fresh blanket of snow. The sky had become dark and the cave too, save the flickering fire that cast dancing shadows along the wall.
It had taken a few minutes, but her heart had finally stopped racing. It was a relief to breathe normally again, no longer having to suck the air into her lungs in short gasps. She felt oddly calm huddled around the fire as the light from the flames rolled over her face and hair, giving her features a rusted, haunted glow.
His body lay cold beside her. His mouth was open in a faint O of shock. His hair was already drying; some strands had fallen loose from the knot, feathering over his closed eyes in wisps. That fair skin of his, that fine black hair, that painful red scar—everything was so stark and contrast, calling out to her.
He looks so young, she thought. He looked so young.
The fire hissed at her feet, creating its own melody with the burning wood. It popped and crackled and she shivered, drawing her coat tightly about herself as she awkwardly shuffled away from the body. She was dressed warmly, but it was the North Pole and the night (or was it day now?) was cold.
A pack of wolves howled in the distance and she shuddered. She had no idea how to get back to the city from here on her own, but she reckoned someone would come for her soon. Truth be told, she didn’t want to go back quite yet. She couldn’t, anyway. Not with him, not with the body.
She hugged her knees to her chest and glanced down at Zuko. So still, so motionless. Her eyes began to water and she quickly turned away.
The sky pulsed a dull red and she caught a glimpse of the moon hanging blood red behind the clouds. Something was wrong. She could feel it. She wondered if her brother and Aang were okay. On the heels of a second set of howls, she realised that it was not wolves she heard but the screaming of people from the frozen city below. Frightened screams carrying on the wind. Fear was in the air. People were afraid. People were dying.
Katara’s stomach churned in fear. She should run outside to see what was going on. She should abandon the cave’s protection and help her friends. But the body beside her refused to let her leave. It weighed her down like the guilt in her heart so that she could not move.
Yes, people were dying.
She should know.
She had also killed today.