The little boy on the windowsill moans gently and opens his eyes. The sun is glowing across his face and clothes, and his feet are pale and numb. He rubs his eyes and blinks at the beauty of the rising sun. He does not remember having fallen asleep. But he is filled with such peace, and his mind is still singing with the angels. What visions had come to him in the night! He gives a tremendous yawn and stretches his sore legs, allowing the life to flow back into them.
The snow is sparkling and serene, the trees white and silky, and the sky a brilliant and soulful blue. And then he is met with a vision all too real for this stunning morning. A flurry of white wings is seen in the sky, and he sits up with a gasp. The angels!
He squints into the blue of the sky until he recognizes the shape of a white dove. A slow smile lights his face, and he leans close until his breath fogs the window. The white dove soars over the stone wall, and as if it could sense his watching soul, it turns swiftly and alights on his windowsill.
They are both very still, boy and bird. The boy’s blue eyes are held by the dove’s small eyes, and both are full of curiosity. He feels his mother’s touch on his cheek and the dove tilts its head. But the moment is too precious to linger, and the graceful bird soon flies. A few young boys have entered the courtyard with winter jackets and wool caps, their voices loud and boastful.
He is disappointed as he watches the boys crush the newly fallen snow beneath their winter boots. But his emotions soon turn to fear as the boys notice the white dove in the oak tree. They begin to coo and croon and laugh, and they shake the branches with their thick gloves, causing a shower of snow to tumble down like mist. The dove sits still, its head quivering and its wings lightly folded. And then the children reach down and begin to pack the snow between their gloves.
The watcher at the window feels suddenly trapped, and his heart flutters with a fear that cannot reach the dove. He is helpless as the quickest boy raises his fist and lets the first snowball fly. The bird flees, narrowly escaping the assault. But its graceful wings are frantic, and the white feathers are tight and ruffled. The second attack is even closer, and the boy at the window can feel the desperation in those white angel wings. They are not meant for the solid world of ice and snow.
All the boy can do in this state of fear is to reach his feet. But as his toes touch the hard stone floor, his limbs fill with a fiery urgency. The third snowball hits its mark, he gets a glimpse of the bird tumbling toward the snowy ground, and then his chest is full of air, and all he can feel is the flight of his bare feet. The rooms mean nothing. All that matters is the feeling of his bare feet first on stone, then wood, then rug, and lastly, on snow.
The heavy oak door that leads to the world is behind him as he bursts from his jail, and the winter air rushes to meet him, to surround him, to embrace him. His pajamas are soaked in cold, his breath is pulled tight against his lungs, and the snow grips his feet tight and creeps up his ankles with liquid ice.
During this initial stagger and stumble, his wild eyes spot the boys. They plow through the snow toward the fallen dove, their laughter chasing it like gnashing teeth. It is alive and desperate, fluttering from one cold landing to the next. Its angel feathers are rumpled, its feet dangle low, and its whole body is stunned and weak.
This sight sends warm blood pounding from the boy’s heart to his limbs, and he kicks at the snow though it bites and burns. His pajamas are nothing but bitter wind, and his inner thighs feel tight with ice. But the dove's plight is his own, and they both flee in the same direction. Behind him is the hostility of an unforgiving house of stone. Behind the dove is the hostility of the violent youth.
The spray of snow and the stomping of the boys’ boots force the dove back into the air, and it is with mixed emotions that the boy in the pajamas watches the dove as it flutters over the gate and out over the snowy field beyond. It has made the hurdle, but now the chase is only to be taken further.
And as he reaches the gap in the wall where the boys have stomped the snow flat, he staggers backwards under the battering of a harsh winter wind. Going further would be like entering the open seas in a row boat. He begins to shake uncontrollably from the cold, and this nearly turns into a sob. His heart quakes from its heavy beat, and he is forced to turn his head from the wind.
His eyes land upon the old stone house, and he is reminded of his grim arrival. He does not belong in such a house. He does not belong among such people. He belongs only in his own home with his own mother. He is filled with a deep hatred for the old stone house. And it is in this moment that he has the courage to turn from safety and to confront the open, snowy field. But he has not yet considered what he must do to confront the cruelty of the children who use the peaceful snow as their weapon.
He shoves his foot into the fresh snow of the countryside, sets his eyes on the boys, and grips his cold and shaking arms against his chest like an animal protecting its injured limbs. He begins to run. The freedom is numbing, and he can even feel his heart begin to let go of its burning grief. He adds his voice to the silent crying of his limbs.
The boys stop their chase and turn with confused smirks and piercing stares, while the dove lies still. They see him in his pajamas and they let out a wailing laugh. But this does not stop the crying or the staggering approach of their pursuer. And they soon grow fearful and disturbed, an emotion that corners them. They remember the packed snow that sits within their mitts, and in this, they find relief. Without waiting to hear what the attacker is screaming, they set their eyes on this new target.
His head is abruptly forced aside with a biting impact of ice and snow, and he feels his exposed belly receive the same infliction. His feet slip, and he staggers like a thrashing and wounded animal. The snow jumps up to swallow him and he lands face down. The cold is a jolt, and he shoves his numbed limbs into the merciless ground. But before he can rise, he is surrounded. Their snowballs bite and kick, and he cries out in pain.
Something inside of him begins to burn, and he hears their laughter with an intense sadness. His cries fall silent, and he rises to his feet amidst the onslaught. He allows the snow and ice to do what it will, and he allows their laughter to slowly betray their voices. Their cruel mirth falls silent and their smiles turn sour. They gaze at their victim as if he was a disfigured abomination, a monster that threatened their blissful lives.
He stands in his pajamas as silent and white as a ghost except for the insult of red that drips from his nose. Their struck faces surround him with eyes that watch from afar. But their minds soon clear and they recall an older and truer fear. They remember who he is. They recall the gruesome story of his mother’s death. They recall his small pale face on the day he had arrived and the intense grief in his startling eyes. And now their fear reaches deeper.
He closes his eyes as his energy fades, the burning stops, and he falls. He lands on his back in the snow, but all he can see are their faces. They fear him. They realize what they have done. And they flee.