Beneath the thick snow, the creature moved silently. If anyone looked closely at the heavy mounds and snow drifts, they wouldn’t have noticed so much as a flake moving. After all, this ancient beast had millennia upon millennia of practice at creeping beneath the snow.
Above it, the snow beast could feel crunching footsteps from the surface creatures. The movements were fast, the pressure heavy. It wasn’t as bad as the giant beasts that the creature remembered encountering as a hatchling.
It had only seen these once, when it had strayed from the burrows. A pair of vicious teeth had cut through the snow like silver things cut through snow melt. Taking a deep gulp of air, the snow beast had risen from the deep snow and taken a look.
A giant, two-legged feathered creature had towered high above the snow beast. For some reason, the thing that the snow beast remembered the most were the arms. Compared to the giant tail and the huge snapping jaws, the arms were tiny.
Then, there had been a sound like death and something dived from the thin snow high above. It was another creature. The head looked like an elongated bone and the arms were like nothing the snow beast had seen before. Wide things dangled from them.
The snow beast dived. The snow beast stayed below the surface. The snow beast felt scared. It didn’t like this feeling. It got good at staying below the surface.
When the snow beast returned to it’s burrow, it did not tell the other snow beasts of the things that it saw. After all, the elder snow beasts had probably seen such things before. It was, the snow beast now understood, why they kept pulling him away from the top of the deep snow.
Then, after some time, the other snow beasts left. At first, the snow beast noticed that one of them had been gone hunting for longer than usual. Then another one left, then another, then another. Not wishing to be the last one left, the snow beast had gone out hunting. The snow beast had decided that it would be a long hunt. Maybe the other snow beasts had the same idea. After all, hunger roiled in the snow beast’s belly.
The snow beast found food, then more food, then even more food. When the snow beast decided to return to the burrow, it could not remember which direction it was in. So, the snow beast had followed the collapsing trails that it had left. As it traversed the maze, it found more food. It slept sometimes.
Then, after lots of food and sleep, the snow beast found the burrow again. It was completely empty. There were no other tunnels leading away from it. The snow beast pounded the rocks below, but no echoes replied. The snow beast slept. The snow beast felt hungry. The snow beast left again.
Sleep. Food. Sleep. Food. Sleep. Food. Sleep. Food. The snow beast noticed that these things happened more quickly, like the food was easier to spot and the sleep didn’t last as long. It also realised that it knew exactly how far away from the surface to stay. The snow beast wondered if it had become like one of the elders.
After more sleeping and eating, the snow beast felt another two-legged beast above it. This one was lighter and smaller. As time went on, the snow beast realised that there were lots of these beasts. Perhaps they were the young of the giant feathered beast with the tiny arms. The snow beast stayed deep below the surface.
But, then, the snow beast couldn’t find food. The snow beast felt tired. It had even begun to forget what other snow beasts looked like. So, against all of it’s instincts, it had decided to rise to the surface once again when it heard one of the small two-legged creatures. It was so hungry that it had started to wonder what it must be like to be food.
When the deep snow parted, the snow beast stared out into the thin snow. The two-legged creature had long arms and small teeth. It looked at the snow beast and it didn’t swoop or bite, it ran. The snow beast burrowed and followed the noises. A smile crossed it’s slavering jaws. For the first time in many sleeps, something was scared of it.