Erin Ritch

Author, Mom, Founder of No Wyverns Publishing

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“Queen of the Red Snow” by Erin Ritch

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The water dripped down the window, stripping away the condensation and revealing the red snow beyond the glass. Red like bright new blood, alive and fleeting. It fluttered through the air and stuck to the glass, glistening like fire that simply melts away. Danielle laid beneath the window, still rousing from sleep. She watched the water drip steadily down the glass until she could not deny what laid beyond the walls. Today, she would be the queen. And tomorrow, she would not.

The red snow only fell every hundred years. Sometimes it would take longer, sometimes less. There was no predicting it as much as the historians tried. Danielle came from the line in wait, the children raised only in anticipation of that snowy red morning. Because on those rare red days, the reigning monarch was locked away, to pray and plead with the gods for the cursed snow to disappear. Fearing the chaos that could ensue from that one day left without charge, Danielle’s ancestors had been chosen to fill the role. And that meant today, Danielle was the queen of the red snow.

Somehow, she had known this would happen to her. Every night Danielle went to bed in anticipation of it, wondering if tomorrow was the day or the day after that. She had trained herself to enjoy an extra beat of darkness each morning before opening her eyes. She had known this dread her whole life, as though red had been following her invisibly, a shadow in the dark. Most of her ancestors did not know the red snow, raised only to wait and then die. Some of them did reign uneventfully. And some of them raged.

She heard the trumpets in the distance, signaling the new queen. Danielle visualized the monarch being walked down the long hallways, locked away and powerless for that one day. There was no turning back now. Danielle rose from her bed and looked outside at the sheet of red snow. She only had one thing to decide now. Should she reign? Or should she rage.

 

“The Yellow House on the Hill” by Erin Ritch

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Photo credit Sindre Skrede

 

Monday

 

Every weekday morning I drive by the yellow house on the hill. I can tell by its architecture that it has been there for a long, long time but I only just noticed it. Stuck in paused freeway traffic, I take the moment to look around myself. There in the distance it catches my eye, a striking yellow sunrise against the backdrop of a green mountain. Two stories high, flat glassy windows staring into the void of the city below it. I know this house. And I don’t know why.

 

Tuesday

 

There must be a road that leads there. I try to glance towards the yellow house as I round the freeway bend. The morning sunrise has turned the windows into solid mirrors, shields refusing the passage of light. Now I imagine the house as a sentry or knight, but what it is guarding I do not know. I had dreamed of the yellow house all night, lost within its catacombs I could neither solve or identify. At work I am distracted, trying to grasp in my mind how the roads connect to lead me to that place.

 

Wednesday

 

I leave early for my commute so I can do some exploring. It was a part of the city that I had never needed to visit before. But now I needed to find this yellow house and its glass shields. I kept seeing glimpses of it through the trees or several streets over, so close yet I still can’t reach it. I drive for an hour before I turn back, already late to work. That day I scour maps online but still cannot pinpoint the address or location of the yellow house. A heavy rainstorm falls that evening, the heavy torrents playing like a lullaby with my fitful sleep.

 

Thursday

 

I call in sick to work and it is not far from the truth. My stomach is boiling with nerves and old dreams. The images are stuck in my mind and I cannot process or forget them. I decide to walk to the yellow house, parking several streets away. I am a specter in the early morning twilight, lumbering over fences and through rhododendron bushes. The petrichor from last night’s rain storm burns in my nose, heavy and aromatic. Finally I reach the yellow house and feel the reality of its presence as it looms above me. I grasp the chipped metal knob of the front door and turn it, entering inside.

 

Friday

I awake in the morning with a start. It is minutes after my alarm should have gone off, I cannot figure out why I didn’t set it the night before. I rush to get myself together and run out the door, coffee in hand. I never know what I could encounter on my commute and this morning, there is an accident. As I sit in my car, I admire the sunrise and look in the distance. There is a yellow house on the nearby hill. I can tell by its architecture that it has been there for a long, long time but I only just noticed it. I know this house. And I don’t know why.