Tell A Tale in 500 Words

The Loss of Beauty By Andrew Ough-Jones

Snow. Brilliant white snow. Untouched. Untainted. A beautifully free landscape. Free of life. Silent.

Cracks appear. Snowflake upon snowflake seems to fall beneath into a void. Something is burrowing up. Struggling to break free the white surface. A thump – thump – thump of digging. Clawing. Yearning to be out. The snow falls away leaving a small yet cavernous hole. Then silence once more.

Now black on white. The black is small yet significant. It moves. It sniffs. Life is now present. Two beady black eyes join the black nose although the sun is glaring. They squint then rise. A head. The head of a polar bear. She pauses. Surveys. Enjoying the cool fresh air on her face. She looks around. Sees the silence yet listens for danger. A moment passes. There is none.

A paw reaches out. Claws at the snow as she heaves herself out of the hole. Her body is lighter than it was when she went down yet still feels cumbersome and awkward after hibernation. She immediately collapses to her side and allows herself to fall, to slide down the snow, enjoying its feel on her fur. On her skin. She rolls and digs and smashes the snow with her paws. Revelling in the freedom and space to move unhindered. She comes to a halt and rolls onto her back. To be wild once more. Exhilarating.

She stops. Rolls back onto her paws and sits up, looking back to her hole. She grunts. Once. Twice. Her voice like low rumbles of thunder against the silence. She waits. Then more black on white. However smaller, younger and more innocent. Her cub sticks his head out of the hole tentatively for it is the only world he has ever known. He sniffs and looks around in amazement. This world is infinitely bigger than he realised. He climbs out of the hole clumsily. Using muscles scarcely tested to date. His steps are vague. Confused. Less precise.

Yet she calls to him and he comes. He scrambles across the snow. Not trusting the ground beneath his hefty paws. Yet confidence grows. He begins to move faster. To bound and bounce. He trips and falls. Somersaulting head over heels and sliding down the snow. He stops. Bewildered and afraid. He calls to her. His voice high pitched, revealing infancy. She huffs back. Encouraging him to try again. He stands and moves in a crabbed walk. It lacks elegance. But is effective and he soon joins her.

They touch noses. Reaffirming their bond now outside in the open. She leads him up the side of a small snow drift. Upon reaching its peak she rears up onto her hind legs and looks around her in all directions. Taking in the land. Change has occurred once more. Like it has every year. And not for the better. The ice has receded.

Less this year than there was last year. Yet more now than there will ever be again.

A fading home and loss of beauty.

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