This is a short story I've had sitting around for a little while. Epistolary fiction isn't normally my jam, but this was fun to write. I think a lot about legacy when I write. Once, long ago, I took a class on developmental psychology and learned that later in our lives our minds naturally turn to our legacies. This story considers what that legacy might look like for someone who has lived a rather interesting life. Let me know what you think.
By the time you read this letter, it will be too late. Already, the air outside grows unseasonably cold and the first bitter flakes drift down upon the apple-laden trees outside my window.
The end nears, my daughter, and here in the relative freedom of the Briarwood Orchard Hospice Center, I find my final thoughts drifting to the legacy that I will soon leave behind. Here it is, 1964, and at nearly one hundred years of age my own mortality is a cold shadow before my failing eyes. Will I be remembered for my own superhuman accomplishments, dear daughter, or for yours?
Please do not take offense at the petty nature your dying mother, but you are not my legacy. My wish is to have a place in the history books all my own, not a side note as the mother of the world’s first superhero. If I am quite honest—and why not at this point—then I will admit that your accomplishments came despite me. It was I who made you strong, but no influence of mine ever made you great.
Some say that your greatness twisted me into what I became, but those are lies to slander the legacy that I deserve. Your rise to fame after your defeat of the great train barons before the onset of the Great War may have been the seed of my jealous villainy, but it was not the rise of the brutal power of the Winter Witch.
My heart embraced cold when they killed my beloved Amber, long before your birth. She was my one true love, whom nobody could ever replace. Upon her death, bitter shards of ice grew upon my cursed heart. Your father, that fool, courted me and married me, but he never held even a spark of my love. Not even a year into our marriage, he fell hard to my wrath. How he must have regretted his infidelity when his limbs froze solid before his horrified eyes. All this, before you were born.
Yet, you protect this wretched world. This society would not let you fight the Great War, even though as a teenager you shrugged bullets the way others cast aside sand? Even the second world war they forbade you in their prejudice. What oppressed, bitter people would grant you keys to every city for your heroism, then rebuke you when you heave aloft those two M4 Cannons in brutal defense of your countrymen?
You could have ended that war, but they told you a woman’s place was not on the battlefield. These are the fools you protect?
I hold regrets in my frozen heart. As I write this letter, my chest aches with the desire to meet your daughters—my granddaughters—one time before the end. I would like to speak of all of the things you have no doubt hidden from them. My last memory of you, before that day you tore me from my fortress atop Mount Saint Helens, was of you as an obedient housewife and mother in the modern style of the 50s. Subservient. Weak. How could you do that to me after I fought so hard for your freedom and your vote?
Frost shades my windows, isolating me from this terrible world you love. Soon, I will pass and the cold of the Winter Witch will find its way free.
Winter Witch was what they called me in whispers long before the snows of Houston and the frozen tornadoes of Oklahoma City. They named me even before your wretched father showed up frozen solid on that warm summer’s day, and I hated them all for it. I named you Glory to remind me of the feeling I got when, one by one, I froze solid every man who ever mocked me.
For that, I have no regrets.
These years in prison have been hard. The world fights to erase me. My legacy drowns in the frozen, cruel seas of your American Dream. How can the memory of an old crone wasting away in prison survive when there are bundt cakes to prepare and Jello molds to form?
My joints stiffen as I write this final letter to you. I only hope you find it before the cold forces even you to flee south. Outside, the wind blows and the snow falls. My empty heart lets loose its frigid wrath.
My chapter in the history books will always speak of betrayal, but betrayal is not the legacy that will put me on those pages.
This is my legacy: one hundred years of winter. Soon, the whole coast will find itself engulfed in the greatest snowfall it has ever seen. They will speak my name with frozen lips for a millennium.
I’m sorry, Glory. I am so sorry that I had no warmth for you. I am sorry for the pain caused when you fought that mysterious foe atop the mountain fortress—only to find your own mother—poisoning you your whole life with her own frigid bile.
This is what we do to our daughters in this society you love so much. This is the poison of the patriarchy you fight to protect. Remember that when your daughters betray you. Look north and remember your mother’s cold fury.
Look north, and let your daughters build a legacy of their own. They will eclipse you.
Do not make my same mistakes. Do not hold them back, whether they be hero or villain. The whole world will do its best to stop them, Glory.
Teach them that they cannot be stopped. That is what I should have taught you. It’s what my mother should have taught me.
Remember that, when you look north.
That is my legacy.