Deep inside the glacier lives The Ice King, supple and smooth. His skin is aglow with the cold and unbelievably soft. He should be milky white but there’s an olive tint to his hue and no sooner do I see it than I want to touch it. Without gesture or words, he demurs.
He is wearing no clothes but it’s clear that he’s warm; he’s in his element: he is The Ice King, and he doesn’t beckon or smile: he stands at the end of the hall that is lined with blue-sheened green walls of ice. They look soft, insubstantial, but they are hard as stone, centuries of gravity have worked them into solid rock. I close my eyes for a moment, the smell of the ice is clean and pure.
I slowly move towards him and as each step feels heavier with uncertain awe, my head gets lighter. I realise for him I’ll have to be all or nothing. Already I’m feeling the heat and I’m twenty, thirty feet from him yet. There, at the end of the hall, tall with ice and nothing else, is a passage, a gateway, in which he stands; he has no need for me, but I am now beholden to him. I slowly advance and as I do so I have to let go, I have to, have to let go.
I half expect servants to take off my coat and my woolly hat, but there are no servants and no attendants, there is only he and he looks at me unsmiling but kind. He is ageless, of course, he is dark-eyed and strong. The Ice King waits for me to come to him, he knows that I must, now. For a moment I’m tempted to look back to see what’s behind me, to confirm that this is the path I have chosen, but something tells me that for that it’s too late; now there is only forward, and so the snowfield, the mountain, the moon, the cavernous void of the night, the narrow, low gap that I happened upon and through which, more curious ever than brave, I had entered, fall away and become immaterial. There is no echo in the glacier and no breeze. There is no fire and so there’s no smoke. There is air and the air is still. Cold as it is, it doesn’t move; it envelops me and so it feels warm. The Ice King knows that I am now in his power, and he turns and walks ahead, I follow.
The gateway, the passage, the transition. A corridor of light and dark, of shapes and patterns. It neither narrows nor widens, it extends. The Ice King, naked, not tall, not short, of a human-scale build, moves ahead and each step he takes on the ice, the ice seems to light just a little under his feet: it may be in my imagination. It may be just a reflection. There is no other life in here, only he and I. And there’s the light that plays on us. Deeper into the glacier we go and the deeper we go, the narrower the corridor through which we pass must become now, but it doesn’t get lower, only less wide, until it is possible, just, to walk in a dead straight line, just about, without your arms or your shoulders touching the walls. He walks ahead of me, and I now follow closely; I sense the warmth off his body, and the icy walls look as though they glow just a little as he passes. It may be just my imagination. Maybe a reflection. Every surface is smooth but not flat: the curvatures of natural ice.
We arrive in the chamber: the chamber is empty and neither dark nor bright, there is a greenish whitish blueish light that comes from all directions at once, and in the middle of the chamber there is a large elevation where the ice rises to knee level, just: is this our bed? There is no fire but I am not cold and while the Ice King reclines, I loosen my scarf, I take off my gloves. I want to touch the ice but his eyes are on me, and I take off my coat and my jumper, my shirt…