“Cold”–flash fiction from Difficult People

Cold

 

 

          Born on a day with every frame of the house frozen, the walls groaned as the cold shrank the skeleton while the muted fire within expanded feebly the inside spaces. In the air the breaths of the dwellers exhausted through the chilled air. Hands avoided banisters and walls and especially metals of any kind. After the weak sun rose to its pale zenith just over the fir trees the crows took up cawing raucously, some seeds at the base of the tree, and better, the icy bloodied remains of a rabbit killed, half eaten in daylight by a hawk or owl, maybe a fox. The tracks would tell the tale of the predator and prey, all too familiar. The cabin showed no signs of life but a faint wisp of gray smoke swirling now and then from the chimney top. All was quiet, and within the dark cabin, its gelid walls and furniture, the immense snow banks holding them prisoner, the denizens kept still in their resting postures, wrapped in clothing, blankets, any scrap that came to hand. The food was nearly gone, so was the charcoal…and soon someone strong enough would have to drag in wood from under the snow, someone still strong enough. They were a small band of five people, two related as brother and sister, the others as college friends…and a week’s getaway in the high snow country, skiing, hiking, snow shoeing had come to this dead end of entropy and will. No one knew where they were, exactly, but they were confident, less and less now, someone was coming to rescue them—take them back to cleared roads, warm homes and stores, smiling faces, confident in civilization to care for them, feed and clothe them. Now, time expiring, energy draining into a frigid inner space, their talk, once defiant, buoyant, was silent, their eyes half open, watching the white plumes of their breath.

 

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