The pair walked along the lake's surface. There was no snow as the past few days had been warm, but now the cold descended again, radiating up from the ice in waves.
The sun froze in the sky, just under the horizon, so that twilight hung in purple-orange sheets. It reflected lazily off the ice around the pair and wrapped them in thin light.
The older one walked with a steady gait. His breath billowed out in great clouds, like a steam engine. His bare face greeted the air with two hallow cheeks and a coarse layer of stubble. He looked straight ahead as he walked, his cold blue eyes gazing into the distance. He breathed in deeply and felt the cold air run into his lungs and along his veins.
The younger one, arms folded, jumped a little and shivered. He was taller than the other man, and thinner. Only his eyes showed between his low hat and high scarf. They were a deep, mahogony brown. The older one had once said a house could be built from those eyes. At the time, the younger one hadn't understood.
They walked at a languid pace, optimized for distance. They left no footprints on the cloudy ice.
"What is the point?" said the younger one, his voice muffled through his scarf.
"Hmm?" said the older one, lost in his own world, voice coming from far and deep.
"What is the point?" he repeated.
"I haven't figured that part out yet," the younger one said dejectedly.
They walked on in silence.
"You will," said the older one after a while.
The younger one sighed and said, "But when? I feel like everything is a means to an end, but there's no end in sight. Nothing is an end in itself."
The older one looked sidelong at him then said, a latent gruffness grating on his voice, "So everything is a tool then?"
"What about your life?"
"Yeah, my life is a means, although toward what end I don't know, and I'm not sure I even care. Maybe the end is just death."
"That's not right."
The younger one shrugged and stared at the ground. The cold slid up their feet to their shins.
"What are you thinking about?" asked the older one.
"That maybe my life is a means, a tool, a paintbrush, say. Maybe time is my canvas. I leave streaks on the past. In the present, every second is a brush stroke."
The older one looked thoughtful for a moment and replied, "That doesn't seem so pointless."
"Or maybe I'm fucking up and everything is wrong." The younger one stared off into the sky. He tripped on an imperfection in the ice and stumbled forward.
"Good," said the older one at length.
They walked on, whisps of snow whipping about their ankles.
Many miles later, the younger one turned to the older one, a glint of resigned despair in his eyes and said, "Where are we walking?"
The older one's mouth cracked into a smile, and he let out a laugh that bubbled up from deep inside. The lines on his face, once taut, loosened, and a suggestion of youth played across his face for a moment before disappearing. His laughter subsided slowly.
Throwing up his arms, he said to the open air, "If we knew that, we wouldn't be walking!"
The older one hopped forward and picked up the pace, and the younger one followed.
Blur by mi_kirk (source image)
Footprints by shoofle