Let it Snow
“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?”
- John Steinbeck
Her breath fogged up the glass on her bedroom window. It was snowing. Well, it was snowing on top of the thick layers of snow that seemed to forever coat the small town. The view was similar to that of a toy town, complete with the steam train and the perpetual twinkle of laughter that echoed every time the snow fell.
She got dressed for school in her usual snow pants and snow boots. Fastening all of the buckles, she felt weighed down by her heavy boots as though removing the shoes would result in her flying away. Where she would fly off to, she could never answer. From the dense fog that always covered the sky and the looming woods that framed her town, the feeling of being trapped never strayed too far from her thoughts. Whenever she brought it up to her parents or any of the adults, they mechanically reminded her to stay within the town’s borders in case she gets lost or eaten by wolves. The wolves that no one had ever heard so much as a howl from nor seen even a flash of fur. But, the elders of the community reassured everyone that they were indeed there and they were supposedly starved. Their words were enough to keep the adults following their wishes that always felt sort of artificial to her.
Like always, she stomped through the piles of snow that no one ever felt the need to shovel out of the way and made her way to the center of the town. From the marketplace to the school to the playground always covered by flurries, children weaved their way through the constantly bustling crowds. They had all given up with buses and even cars since none of them could withstand the wear and tear of daily snow heaps. The train only remained in hopes of “attracting tourists” even though the entire population had never grown nor diminished from the original settlers. Everyone that lived in their town had been born, raised, and grown their family within this bubble, and not once had anyone complained.
“It was perfect,” they always cheered. There was no squabbling to be had, no society to conform to, no dangers for the children. There was simply snow, and that was safe. But she had always questioned safety. After all, what is safety without danger? What is danger without safety? Doesn’t one depend on the other? How can you assume one when the other is nonexistent? “Childish babble,” they chastised when she asked. Silence, she learned, was true safety.
Halfway to school, the ground rumbled angrily, and the trees shook violently. A blanket of quiet floated through the air as everyone clung to something. After it had finished, more snow continued to fall faster, and the people returned to their conversations. The elders labeled these occurrences as “earthquakes,” although they occurred every few days at a pace that was most likely unusual for average earthquakes. No one had figured out the source of them or why snow fell harder after them, but after they had concluded that they did not directly harm anyone, the earthquake theory was nonchalantly accepted.
In school, the children learned history, but not the history of the town since no one could firmly agree on the village’s beginnings. Some claimed that a group of people had gotten lost in the woods and came out to find this clearing. Others argued that the town was always there and they simply grew the forest to keep out intruders. They stuck to learning math and science and the small selection of reading material that was accessible to them.
During the monotonous lesson, she glanced out the window for any form of excitement. Her gaze caught on the gloomy forest. The leaves still rustled from the day’s earthquake, but the ancient trees were rooted to their spot. The darkness that lingered between them was beckoning her forward. The enticing potential of exploring something new had ingrained itself in her, and she began planning for her escapade.
As soon as class finished, she dashed home in hopes of hurrying the time before darkness cast its cover over the town and was met by the tedious ticking of a clock that seemed to move even slower than usual. By nightfall, the snow had eased to a few flurries, and the temperature had dropped even lower than the usual freezing weather. She bundled up in her snow gear and trekked out towards the nearest section of trees.
Right before she plunged into the unknown, a croak sounded behind her, “What do you think you’re doing?” The group of elders stood behind her with disapproving frowns slashed across their wrinkled faces. Her parents stood beside her with shame rippling off of their mortification.
“Exploring,” she inched closer to the tree-line in objection. “I refuse to be trapped in this bubble.”
“Trapped?” The elders rasped in amusement. “My dear, the only thing you’re trapped in is your foolish ideas. Come home, and we can discuss this feeling you claim to be experiencing.”
“No?” She shook her head in frustration. Perhaps if they had talked to her normally without the condescending tone that dripped from their words, she might have listened. “Well, then you leave us no choice. Seize her.” The ground rumbled. No, not the ground. The snow was moving. It was shaking and being pushed upwards. Ghostly white hands shot out of the dirt and latched onto the frozen snow to pull themselves up. Milky heads veiled by colorless wisps of hair followed the hands as dirt-streaked shapes akin to phantoms groaned towards her. So, she ran.
She dashed into the woods as branches scratched her face. She vaguely felt herself sinking but trudged deeper into the darkness. She had turned to glance behind her when she ran into something solid. Rubbing her bruised forehead, she felt around in the darkness, waiting for her eyes to properly adjust to the light. When they did, she found herself face to face with a hazy wall. Using her sleeves to wipe at the wall, she found that it was a clear barrier that stretched all around the forest in a rounded shape with more fog on the other side. Like a… snow globe, she realized, as panic seized her throat and latched onto her gut. She desperately banged on the glass, choking back angry tears, until she felt arms fastening around her. She clawed at the phantoms and screamed in futile despair.
She pleaded and begged to be let go or for something to open the barrier. To let her out of the snowy monstrosity. But it was no use. The sight of the fog covering up the glass was the last thing she saw before being devoured by the snow.
“Nothing burns like the cold. But only for a while. Then it gets inside you and starts to fill you up, and after a while, you don’t have the strength to fight it.”
- George R.R. Martin