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Frosted Glass Woman, by Michael J. Vaughn

by Michael J. Vaughn
  

In the novel Frosted Glass, Sandy Lowiltry meets Frosted Glass Man, a handsome eccentric who spends his days harvesting sea glass on the beaches of Oregon. Frosty attributes the movement of the glass to a pseudo-religious figure he calls Frosted Glass Woman. When Sandy asks him to explain this to her, he offers the following story.

 
Far away, in the birthplace of music and strawberries, there lived a race of beings with skins of glass. Not the brittle, breakable glass of Earth, but a kind of self-contained fluid, a substance that could heal almost immediately after being scratched or punctured. Their organs were made of metals—soft, living versions of silver, copper and titanium. In order to hide these organs from view, their skin had developed an opaque, frosted appearance, much like Earth glass that has been tumbled in the ocean.

Because of these differences in their physical makeup, these glasslings lived much longer than humans, and were a highly evolved, creative race. Their greatest creativity came from their women, whose powers reached their peak during a psycho-physiological phenomenon known as a “blossomfire.” Considered events of great awe and mystery, blossomfires would begin appearing in glass women at the age of maturity—about a thousand Earth years—and would cease at the age of reverence, around 4,300 years. Blossomfires usually appeared every 200 years, and lasted only a few Earth days—in glassling terms, a very brief period. Occasionally, however, there came a glass woman who carried the capacity for much lengthier blossomfires; one who was able to cultivate heightened powers and ever-expanding levels of creativity.

Just such a being was Frosted Glass Woman, who for purposes of this telling we will call “Sandy.” Sandy’s first blossomfire lasted for three of our weeks. As she matured into young womanhood under the tutelage of a woman of reverence we shall call “Lowiltry,” her blossomfires lengthened into months and years, and her creative ventures grew ever larger and more complex. Her first was a process for distilling the elements of individual personalities into the form of perfumes. Her second was a kind of jewelry that changed shape and color according to the direction, intensity and pattern of a person’s gaze. Another time, she invented a form of music that she called “jazz,” but she had no idea what to do with it.

Nearing an age of 3,000 Earth years, Sandy realized that her powers were coming to a peak. For her next blossomfire, she settled on an unprecedented project: the creation of her own world. Her mentor, Lowiltry, warned against this. A project this expansive would extend Sandy’s blossomfire to dangerous lengths. Those attempting this kind of extension before had fallen into a state the glasslings referred to as “the hardening,” in which the fluid glass of the skin becomes hard and fragile like the glass of Earth. The condition lasted for a thousand years, during which time the victim had to be hung by wires over a bed of snowy egret feathers.

Shortly after this warning, however, Lowiltry was overcome by a sudden illness and began to rapidly deteriorate. At the very start of her student’s Great Blossomfire, she passed away, her elements rising to the sky in banners of copper, silver and white vapor. Spying this sad but lovely vision as she entered her creative trance, Sandy was more determined than ever to achieve her ends, if only as a tribute to her mentor.

Dipping a hand into the glassling world’s still-molten third moon, Sandy drew out a sphere of hot elements and blew it cool with her breath. As the crust began to harden she drew canyons and mountains with her fingers, and then outlined long gouges and wide depressions that she filled with her tears. She plucked out strands of her hair and formed them into trees, plants and seaweed, then molded small bits of the crust into mammals, fish and birds, animating them with drops of perspiration. She also found places for her previous inventions. The perfume she swept into the hearts of a million flowers. The jewelry she deposited just under the surface, where they awaited the wandering gaze, the searching hands. As for jazz, she hid that in the trunk of a tree on the plains of Africa.

Sandy completed her new world just as she felt her Great Blossomfire ending. But her creation was missing something, and she knew that this was something not even she could produce: living spirits, souls, intellects, sparks of self-knowledge. She felt great sadness, for what good was this new world of hers without some form of cognizant being to behold, observe and admire its beauty?

By the time she came to terms with her defeat, it was too late – the hardening had begun. Sandy felt great, sudden terror, not at the physical reality of her petrifying skin, but at the thought of spending year upon year suspended by wires as her creation sat there with no knowledge of its own existence.

Stumbling along on her stiffening limbs, Sandy drew herself down a path behind her home to the top of a great sea cliff. By the time she approached the edge, she could move only her left arm. But this was enough. With painful effort she pulled her green arms and face, her white torso and brown legs alongside the drop. She lifted her blue eyes in a final prayer to Lowiltry, then pushed off as her arm froze into place. Frosted Glass Woman hurtled avenues of air and fell to the rocks, smashing her skin into a million pieces.

Aware of their daughter’s wishes, Sandy’s bereaved parents spent the next three hundred years roaming the shoreline, gathering the pieces of their daughter’s skin and scattering them over her newly created world. As the pieces became more and more difficult to find, and finally disappeared completely, her father became overwhelmed by grief. One morning, in a burst of anger, he picked up his daughter’s world and hurled it into the vast recesses of space. The new world settled into orbit around a small, stable sun, and the pieces of glass took physical form, becoming that which we call women.

To this day, Frosted Glass Man wanders the shorelines of Earth, hoping one day to reassemble Frosted Glass Woman and bring her back to life.

  

Michael J. Vaughn's Frosted Glass was recently released by Dead End Street LLC. For his previous novel, Gabriella's Voice, Vaughn was awarded a Novelist Fellowship from Arts Council Silicon Valley. His stories and poems have appeared in more than forty journals, and he is fiction editor for The Montserrat Review. He lives in San Jose, California.
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