“Are you ready?” he fixed the last of his coat buttons.
“Almost,” the cloth was stuck, she tugged again.
“Here,” Iwan pulled Lena’s shawl out from the neck of her jacket.
“Thank you.” Lena rubbed the back of her neck, then tugged her gloves on and smiled. “Okay. Ready.”
“Come on, Abedo. Let’s go, boy.” Iwan said. The hound yawned on his bed near the stove then stood, shook, and joined them at the door.
The day was crisp. Last night’s snow a few inches deep. The air taut with static. They looked for fallen sticks, snapped from trees under the weight of the new snow. Iwan grabbed the bigger pieces while his daughter gathered kindling sized bits. Abedo bounded through the snow, sniffing, and growling up trees where squirrels huddled together for warmth.
Lena bent for another stick. A fluttering of wings, too big to be any kind of bird, then crunching snow. She looked up. On the snow bank stood a creature that might have been a giant bug with a human face, or a person with the skin and wings of an insect. It wore an old tattered cloak and took a half step toward Lena.
The back of Lena’s neck tingled. The sort of sensation that tells you to wake up and pay attention. “Hi,” Lena said.
The thing opened its mouth, it sounded like twigs snapping or old paper being crumpled. “H-h…Hello.” The thing shuddered.
Lena smiled. Her neck buzzed. “What are you?”
Its wings fluttered. “I’m a…Spir”—it coughed.
“Are you okay?”
“No.” The thing reached into its cloak and pulled something out that sparkled. A thin chain dripped through the creature’s fingers like molten gold. “I’m dying.”
“Oh.” Lena didn’t know what to say. It was only in the past year that she’d learned what that meant. “Can I help you?”
It reached forward, took another half step, nodded, beckoning Lena to take the object. “T-take it. Please.” Desperation woven into the plea.
“Mmm…What is it?” Lena looked toward her father, some ways off picking up a log. Abedo stood tall, rigid, watching her.
“A pendant. Keep it as a reminder.”
“A reminder of what?” Lena asked and took the necklace.
“That this happened, that you saw me, that I was real. Am real.”
Lena’s brows furrowed. “Of course you’re real. I’m talking to you.”
The creature smiled. It seemed to move a little easier, it took a breath. “Thank you.”
Lena’s father called for her, she waved to him, and when she looked back the creature was gone. She looked into her hand and smiled.