“The Snow Leopard” was written for a competition on Needle in the Hay (http://needleinthehay.net/). The aim was to write an epic in less than 250 words. This story isn’t really epic in scope, but I tried to convey something of a sense of immensity and mythos.
This story was originally published on 21 November 2015: http://needleinthehay.net/snow-leopard-lydia-trethrewey/
The villagers huddle around the fire as the witch-cry of the snow leopard echoes down from the mountains. They listen as the Blind Woman softly speaks the names of all those lost to the ghost cat’s terrible fury, to the invisible creature that roams alone.
In the morning a call to warriors is made, to bring back the beast’s heart. Men come forward, each boasting of his prowess in hunting, voices quivering with fear.
Into the circle steps the Blind Woman and a hush falls. She will go, she says, into the mountains, because she alone does not fear the invisible.
Slowly she climbs the mountain peak, her cloudy white eyes unblinking against the snow.
At the top she finds the snow leopard. He bares his teeth and snarls. He hisses and spits as she approaches.
She stands before him, unseeing.
The snarling stops. In the milky white of her eyes he sees himself, reflected.
Softly, she speaks.
‘For me the world is invisible. But in my sightlessness you can see yourself, no longer unseen or alone.’
The ghost cat stares and stares, then breaks away. He bounds into the mountain, his fury disappearing into snow.
When I wrote this story I had been reading about snow blindness and the effects of light in a blindingly white environment. I was thinking about the way we see, or don’t see, and how that might effect the way we experience places.
I wonder if invisible creatures get lonely?
Follow the link for some more 250 word epics: http://needleinthehay.net/tag/brevity-is-what-award/