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Grey Sparrow Journal and Press, as of January 31, 2018 will move to

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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Ymir, or The Gap Between the Worlds

by Cassandra Rasmussen


She made up words to go between the ticking of the clock and waited for the space to speak.

Once she went home early from a party in a snowstorm. Early was midnight. But she couldn’t stand to go inside. She looked for beautiful places to walk in the snow. It was fine and sparkled like glitter, and even when it filled the air, if you put your hand out without your mitten you couldn’t feel the snowflakes at all. It was like waving your naked hand through a cool mist, and the snow bits didn’t fall down but danced side to side like they were alive. She couldn’t go inside and leave the snow because she missed living things, like grass and slugs and hummingbirds, and in the darkness the snow was like a flock of fireflies.

At the party, a man had sat in the corner, stuck there like clay dried to the floor. When she passed, he reached out with his voice first, called her name, put a cold hand on the back of her knee, pulled her close, and told her that we all die anyway, why not live a little?

Before going to the party, she had pulled a pastel, circular box from the top shelf of her closet. She tenderly opened the thin, delicate tissue paper like it was an antique, and found the treasure inside. A floral sundress, gossamer with silk underneath. Herald of summertime. One touch of winter and it could melt away, but she told herself that if she wore a thick enough coat, inside the party would be a warm sunny wonderland, and she would pretend desperately that it was spring.

Every year she waited for spring because long ago she had learned that in winter, things solidify, and in spring only do they move forward.

It tickled when she slid the light spring dress over her head and felt the hem dance around her shins, bare for the first time in months. She let her hair hang free without a hat. She donned no makeup.

She moved briskly, wordlessly away from the clay man in the corner, still shuddering at the cold spot on the back of her knee. He was like Ymir, the frost giant of Norse legend. Big, solid, with fishy eyes of ice and a mind never lit by sunlight. Even his face was tinged blue, and in its shadows she saw memories of battles fought in the empty, cold spaces of the world.

If it was spring she would have stayed anyway, found a bright smile to dance with, would have left liquid fire in her tracks as she sped confidently across the dance floor. But in winter, the ground is ice, and you pull yourself along with the iron fences beside you to keep from falling.

Through a curtain drawn to preserve an illusion, she saw a crack in the window pane, felt a cold chill, knew again how deep in winter she was, and so the spell was broken.

She encased herself in her sweater, her scarf, her down coat, like an egg in a carton.

She stepped out into the snow, and saw to her delight that it was not a blizzard, but a ballet.

She looked for beautiful places to walk in the snow.

She thought again of the Norse world made from the frozen body of Ymir, cast into the great abyss, Gingungangap.

She swallowed dryly and decided it was time to go inside. Now the snow fell thicker, and she wanted none to stick to her exposed hair.

In her room, nothing but the tick of the clock, and the spaces between it. She closed her eyes and waited for the spaces to melt to song. In her mind, she tried to shorten them, to speed her toward spring.

She drew the curtains shut, and in the small part between them, she looked out and saw two eyes watching her from afar, like the dead eyes of a frost giant, or the dying glance of winter reaching her from the gap between the worlds.