Editor/Author’s Note: This snippet takes place in the upcoming book, ‘A Sense For Memory – Part Two’. If it sparks your interest, you can learn more about the first installment at Zircona Works, the official site for Z-Verse related stories. In this scene, protagonists Xa-Kol and Qwatajawa enjoy a gentle stroll through the snow.

Far in the distance was a rugged mountain, covered in a luxuriant fall of snow. Most of its features were obscured by the thick fog which blanketed the forest. The world seemed very quiet and still, and Qwatajawa, whom found the winter charming, was quite happy to simply stroll in amiable silence with her friend.

Xa-Kol, on the other hand, was practically bounding through the snow, gloved hands fumbling at a slim cardboard box decorated with festive hand-painted patterns. The lid of the box had been secured with a shining pink ribbon which Xa-Kol pulled free and tucked into one of the pockets of her coat.

“Look what I’ve got,” Xa-Kol said, taking the lid off of the box to reveal an artfully arranged set of sweets. “Ooh, fancy! Don’t you think? They’re all the way from that shop the next city over. The confectioner makes them custom-to-order. I gave him your picture…”

Xa-Kol held the box out to Qwatajawa who peered over to see that the tops of the dark, glossy sweets were moulded in the shape of her own face.

“How thoughtful,” Qwatajawa chuckled, taking one of the proferred candies and putting it in her mouth. The taste was quite rich and sweet, with vaguely alcholic overtones coming to the fore when the outer coating melted in her mouth and left the praline interior.

Xa-Kol hummed in appreciation as she enjoyed a sweet of her own selection, reading from a small slip of paper that had been tucked away amongst the gourmet treats. She’d pulled up the bottom of her mask so that only her mouth could be seen, a trace of sugar still on her lips.

“What kind of candies are in here? So, you just had a ‘dark honey bean surprise with a cream and sugar center’, and I had a ‘berry toffee enrobed in a floral nougat swirl’,” Xa-Kol mused. “’Enrobed,’ it says. Don’t you just love that word? Especially in relation to food.”

Qwatajawa swallowed the last of the delicious morsel as Xa-Kol popped another sweet into her own mouth and then handed the box over to Qwatajawa.

“Here, the rest are yours.”

“Oh, no, these look too fine for me, you have them.”

Xa-Kol pushed the box into Qwatajawa’s hands with a dismissive huff of air through her teeth. “All you do is eat military rations day in and day out. Would it kill you to enjoy a few simple pleasures in life from time to time. Lady, don’t be so boring!”

Qwatajawa took the gift obediently with a wry smile. “Okay, okay. Thank you.”

Xa-Kol darted away, then, a flash of red and gold amongst the snow and somber tree trunks. She bent down and quickly scooped up a ball of snow which she threw at Qwatajawa. It landed far off the mark.

“Let’s scuffle,” Xa-Kol called out. “We haven’t scuffled in a long time!”

“Because we have not been children for a long time,” Qwatajawa said, easily moving out of the lazy path of another snowball and watching as Xa-Kol prepared to throw another.

Xa-Kol and Qwatajawa's snowball fight

R.H. Stevens

R.H. Stevens is the founder of Instilled and the author of the Z-Verse series. She is a full-time graphic designer and illustrator and enjoys travelling and spending time with friends from around the world.

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