It’s getting towards summer time, so I thought I would write a horror story set in an apocalyptic winter.
The idea made sense at the time.
So button up your coats, and don your winter caps, because this is a flash fiction called:
There are very few times when smoke pooling out of your mouth is a good sign. My family all turns to watch as a thick white fog issues from my mouth, covering my head. It hangs there for a moment before disappearing into the air.
In response, the front door groans, its hinges giving off the tiniest of popping noises. I look over at the rest of my family and wait to see if anyone volunteers. My father just nods his head in the direction of the door, demanding that I be the one.
I suppose I can’t get mad at him for that though, as both my mother and sister are holding on to him for dear life, sucking up his warmth. He can’t move, buried underneath them.
When I stand up, the blanket shifts and exposes my leg. It’s only for a second, but I can already feel every hair stand on end. A shiver shoots up the length of my spine and another puff of cold escapes from my mouth. Every step is a challenge, a concentrated effort with only one goal: do not, under any circumstances, allow the blanket wrapped around my shoulders to fall.
It takes exactly four steps to arrive at my destination: a large mechanical block covered in seemingly useless piping. It’s an indoor heater, the only protection we have. It gives the room an endless beat as it works; a tune that was starting to wane, demanding I risk my hand for its recovery.
A can of oil sits directly next to it, taunting me towards pain. I adjust my blanket and cautiously reach out with a gloved hand. I can already feel the temperature ripping through the cotton, exposing my hand to the flames of the cold. It’s numb when I pick up the can, the handle’s frost only further damaging my skin cells.
Coordination is difficult, yet soon enough the cap comes off and the gasoline goes into the machine, giving it new life. Water begins to leak from underneath the door again, further destroying the rug. The heater was a protector, but it was also a weapon. It stopped the snow from entering, and despite the water’s tendency to freeze solid beneath my feet, it was infinitely better than letting the snow in.
Because the snow must never get in.
I walk the circuit like I have so many times before, bringing new vigor to the other two heaters busy banishing the load on the other side of the door. A groan goes out from all around the house. It wants in, and it screams at us, the wood of the ceiling stretched to the breaking point. Every day I pray it will last.
Having completed my task, the rule was that I walk back over to my chair and sit back down; that I make as little noise as I can, that I stay as still as possible.
Yet, like every person that hides from a storm, I have the strangest urge to look out the window again, to reaffirm what I already knew awaited me. The curtains are pitch black and it’s a shock to my senses when I peek along its edge. It’s white like an angel’s ascension out there, blinding from contrast alone.
My father gives a small sound of protest, urging me to come back to my chair. I wave a hand at him, assuring him I wasn’t stupid enough to pull open the curtains. All I do is inch along the length, catching a glimpse of the figure pressed up to the side of the glass, held in place more by the reinforcements on the window than anything else.
It is creepy how well-preserved the body is. The skin is blue—bordering on black–and the veins threaten to break free at any moment. Yet, you can still tell it was a man, a mailman specifically. His uniform frayed and degraded, his name tag placed at just the wrong angle for me to read properly.
I lean an inch further forward and attempt to take a look at the corpse, impeded by my own limits of safety. After trying a few more angles, I give up and shuffle back on my feet, avoiding taking any loud steps this close to the window.
My foot falls on a floorboard and it gives a peace-shattering noise. It’s just a click, but the snow knows foreign sounds. I can hear it move around on the ceiling, crying in its frustrated voice that no human can match. My sister starts to shriek before my mother’s hand smothers her mouth, holding her for so long that when she pulls away she’s quietly gasping for breath. My father glares daggers at me through my entire trip back to my chair.
I sit down, keeping silent, listening to the shuffling of a mass moving across and around our house. All of our pairs of eyes follow its motions, guessing from the noise where it was. It lasts for hours, but to us it is only a few moments. We are used to the long days, and the stretches of stillness. We gave up our sense of time months ago.
After the snow calms, we eat. Again I do the chores of the house, walking towards the open pile of food. There is no need for refrigeration anymore. I pick up a few random pieces for each person, and pass them out, taking care to keep the sounds of packaging being ripped open to a minimum.
As we eat, something nearby the house breaks. The sound of wood shattering, of something falling to the will of the snow. It fades quickly as the swarm smothers the noise. From the sound alone, we’re uncertain of what it was. It could have been just as easily a tree, as an entire house.
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