Buri took his wet boots off, climbed up on the stool by the fire, and hung them up to dry on the smoke rack.
"I hate this."
1/25

"It will be better when snow comes," his mother said. "Dryer and brighter, and the cold bites less."
"Soon," Buri nodded.
2/25

But no snow came. Every day Paws, the old cat, looked out the door at the grey and rain, and gave Buri a disapproving stare.
3/25

Then one night, Buri woke up with the cat sitting on his chest.
"Get dressed," Paws hissed.
"Wha- why?"
"To find Winter."
4/25

Buri quietly followed Paws to the door, lifted the latch, and paused. The moon shone on an unfamiliar, snowy landscape.
5/25

"Am I dreaming?"
"It's a door," Paws said, "it can open to anywhere. That's what they do."
The cat stepped out. "Let's go."
6/25

Buri closed the door behind him. "So where are we?"
"In the land of Winter."
"Are we allowed here?"
"I'm a cat," Paws said.
7/25

The hard crust on the snow was strong enough to walk on. Paws led Buri up a ridge, from which they could see a grand castle.
8/25

When they got closer, they saw the castle was in disrepair; turrets fallen, the gates askew.
"This is not good," said Paws.
9/25

There were icicles hanging from the roof.
"Those shouldn't be there," Paws said.
"Why not?" Buri asked.
"We must hurry!"
10/25

In the great hall, a pale figure in once-white robes sat on a throne, a diamond crown in his lap.
"Hail Winter," Paws said.
11/25

Winter gave the cat and the boy a tired look. "I am busy. Go away."
"You are missed," Paws said.
"You lie. You are a cat."
12/25

Paws tilted his head. "So I hear."
He turned to Buri and whispered, "Be kind, be patient, and close the door behind us."
13/25

"What?" Buri said.
"An ill shadow lurks here. I'll try to lead it away, so you can talk."
Paws nodded to a side door. "Go."
14/25

Buri hurried to the side and looked back. A sinuous shadow crept over Winter's neck and ear as Paws approached.
"Go away."
15/25

Paws ignored Winter's words, but crouched down, tail wagging, and stared intently at an ice shard in front of the throne.
16/25

Paws pounced. The shard shot away. He ran after, slipping on the icy floor. Winter watched his antics and began to smile.
17/25

The shadow seemed to pull darkness in. It grew, took the shape of a huge dog, then leapt at Paws.
"Go away!" it roared.
18/25

Paws ran towards the door. Buri pulled it open, waited for the dog to chase Paws through, and slammed it shut behind them.
19/25

The hall felt less gloomy as Buri walked to the throne. "I miss you."
"Why?" Winter said.
"Snow makes the world brighter."
20/25

"The days are so short, my snow won't make a difference," Winter said.
"They grow longer," said Buri.
Winter looked at him.
21/25

"I heard nobody likes me," Winter said. He weighed the crown in his hands.
"I do," Buri said. "That's what I came to say."
22/25

"You don't have to come," Buri said, "or stay long, but we'd be glad to see you."
He bowed, and went back to the door home.
23/25

Follow

Buri stepped through, into his house, and closed the door. Paws jumped up on his lap as he sat down to take his boots off.
24/25

Boy and cat sat in silence, listening to the fire. After a while, there was a soft whisper outside, as snow began to fall.
25/25

@MicroSFF I waited till the end to read this.
It’s a beautiful little story I really enjoyed.
Thank you.

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