A steel gate lies unhinged and slantwise against the hedge of winter-black thorn. A man stands, stoop-shouldered, in the gateway, the damp, dark earth of the field lying combed and naked under the colourless sky. Three crows lift heavily into the air. It’s a bitter, monochrome day, desolate as a grave.

      The man looks at a small bird lying weightless in his ancient hand, it’s berry black eye stares blankly as it’s fluttering heartbeats still. He sighs, his breath white in the raw air. His frigid benediction was too much for this tiny being, as it is for many. Some days, as he walks ancient and stiff-legged across the land, he feels it is too much even for him.
      He brings the bird to his mouth and huffs a breath, it whitens and freezes. He blows and a tiny snowstorm of silver crystals, glittering, sharp edged and hinting of feather, spins out into the cold day.