She started as snowflakes whipped from the top of the year’s deepest snow, an effervescent twinkling of purest white. I knew her a child of the North wind, for her slow materialisation from a loose collection of white dustings to an image of porcelain perfection that nipped at my cheeks and numbed my fingers, confirmed it. If that nymph of the season knew I watched, I couldn’t have said, but I did. In frozen fascination, I observed her coalescence in the stark breeze from vague to almost to queen. She spun like a figurine released from a winter musical box, her seasonal tinkling emitting a cool radiance that chilled my spine with sheer joy. I shivered under her spell disrupting the first flutterings of a new snowfall; she saw me.
Her ice-blue eyes fixed upon my green in a moment of recollection, as if knowing me there but unaware of my status, whether man or beast, or broken mirror? She slid to a standstill, her cape of snowflakes spiralling to gradual non-motion, and then bowed in my direction. So startled was I that I looked around like a nervous child until sure it was me she appraised. In an iced panic, I bowed deep in return as if standing before a winter goddess; her blizzard breath upon my nape suggested she’d approached. I trembled. I shook.
When I dared to raise my eyes, she’d gone, although I thought I spied a twin flash of distant blue; it could have been arctic lakes capturing sunbursts. North Wind, as I came to call her, had breezed away to other climes of equal sub-zero degrees, gone to sample snowflakes and lick ice crystals from the air. I was left alone colder than ever.
I felt no warmth on my return home. In fact, I stamped out the fire in frigid dismay and dabbed snow to my forehead as succour. Nothing helped. Not until I staggered into my garden and glanced in the frozen stream that constituted its perimeter did I realise my skin to be blue and my eyes bluer. I was hers. I was lost. Good.
"They say its petals fall to remind us of winters past."
"I don't want to remember them."
"No. What's so special about winter, anyway?"
"Petals are more beautiful than snow."
"And if the petals fell early whilst winter still nipped at your cheeks? How would you know the difference?"
"I'm not sure."
"You wouldn't. This is how it is to stand beneath the Winter Tree whose petals tumble as constant snow."
"The Winter Tree does sound magical, I suppose."
"More so with age, my young friend. More so with age."
We sailed between the moon and infinity. So still was the evening, I almost heard the haphazard snowflakes kissing the canvas. The airship floated along as though drifting through a dream, or a fantasy novel, or an obsidian ocean with only the moon for company. The possibilities were myriad, your eyes endless.
We stared from our cabin, you like an elfin queen wrapped in your finest ermine and me clutching a red wine as though my life depended on it. I’d always hated heights but made the trip for you. Thank goodness I had. If I’d held my breath, I might’ve stayed there forever drifting over those mountainous peaks. I even tried. You laughed and kissed my cheek. I wanted more, but sometimes you’ve just got to admire the view.
Happiness was a windy day in January. Christmas had departed in a flurry of tinsel, turkey and talkative aunts, the three ‘tees’ and I’d escaped from a house still full of over-eager children. I was the eldest, wisest, fastest blah, blah, blah, when they wanted something, anyway, and also the easiest pleased: snow, I wanted snow. Grey skies and windswept streets meant I’d have to wait, but at least I’d have an hour or two’s quiet.
I turned up my collar to stave off the chill and went to sit in the park. I could sit there for hours, often did, on that solitary peeling bench. This day it was not solitary but occupied.
She had hair like autumn and eyes like spring. She was four seasons in one day. Her smile lit up my world and set me to ease. I sat, we talked, time flew. I couldn’t tell you what we talked about or why, but we did. When we’d finished, I exited my starry-eyed daze to two inches of snow and blue fingers.
Happiness was that January day. Happiness was you.
I remember before the knowing, when the pure whiteness of snow signalled the onset of Christmas and with it Him. My dreams were red and white with expectant tomorrows, the child that was revelling in the magic of that one day amongst so many others. It has not gone away.
There is a path off a road off a hillside off a dream, a path where all the silent ones go to sleep. I followed it once without care for myself. This is where it led.
The snow fell in relentless cascades obliterating my footprints so I might’ve stepped through a thickening fog that congealed around my feet. I would’ve said I knew the way home with my eyes shut, Sooty, my dog, barking at my heels, the same. Neither of us felt the incline nor subsequent slope. Neither of us realised we stepped from grass to mud to asphalt and back again. All was deep snow, so deep, I picked Sooty up in my arms and ploughed a lone furrow through that white onslaught. It affected us that coldest of days, my dog in my arms and my hopes in his senses.
We came across them as shadows on the road to limbo, the true source of the endless snow. They stood there as indifferent shapes against an indifferent background, as unaware of what I was to them, as they were to me. The only definite in that scene was the cases they held in smudged hands, the sums of all their endeavours packaged to be carted away into the forever.
I stared at them for the longest time unafraid, for they meant me no evil, one can tell such things when they’re forced upon them. They appraised me, wondered if to invite me on their march to another place, a silent place. I might’ve gone with them too, fallen succour to their impartial gesturing if Sooty had not growled his discontent.
They vanished into the snow as though enveloped by an avalanche that never quite reached my feet. They disappeared into infinity taking everything they’d been with them. I already cradled my everything in tiring arms, so turned around and made my way home.
50 Word Stories: Waiting For Snow
There’s a steel to the morning a cold unblinking chill. Birds fly with flapping scarves trailing, a dog wear’s three fleecy jackets and a squirrel just peers from his drey. Winter has set its sights on the foreseeable and wishes all to know. I do know, now where’s my snow?
The comforts of snow werenot lostonthosewho worked inthe pits. Darkness, permeated only by the will-o’-the-wisp headlights of our workmates, filled our heads and hearts; several thousand tonnes of rock overhead would do that to you. In between breaths choked with shattered shale and coal dust, we woulddig and pray, dig and pray, then pray some more.
The bell to signifying the changing shifts brought little in the way of relief; tiredness had broken us, we were nothing but jet-black ghosts. Seasons meant little down below, deep in the depths, but not so above.
When the lift breached the shaft entrance and flooded us with blinding white light, I for one thought we might have got off in heaven. I waswrong. I wasalwayswrong, and glad tobe. White blankets of peace and frigid air purged more than just ragged breaths, they purged our souls. Such was a miner’s lot in the Yorkshire coal fields, and the reason we valued our Christmases so greatly.