First Snow (a short short story)
Dark, cold, buried beneath a pile of thick, soft, dense white; it is a time to hibernate and hide away. The world has vanished beneath a thick, insulating cover and I see no reason why I shouldn't do the same. Sunlight gone too early and rising too late, the days are brief enough to be nearly inconsequential
And yet…and yet --
Today: a bright, overcast day, the sky not gray like rain, but thick, white like pillows of cream, the ground already obliterated, cocooned beneath a dense cover of soft, light powder; everything still, paused, silent -- as though nature, itself, holds its breath, is magnetic.
In spite of my desire to turn away, to pull warm, heavy curtains against the windows until the first crocus of spring nudges its nose through barely-defrosted soil, the blinding, brilliant, deathly silent stillness invites me, implores me to join the world.
The invitation is heartfelt, soulful, and a little sad, I am tugged out, needing to soothe the loneliness of an empty, blanketed world.
I feel guilty, my boots the first marking in a pristine fantasy world come to life. The crunch beneath my feet, while a gentle, tender, nearly-silent sound is too loud in the muffled, empty yard.
Curbs have vanished, the snow knowing no boundaries, not caring, filling streets and yards and gullies to one, even, never-ending surface. The trees' tangle of branches lay bare save for a frosting of snow, some arching downward, little clumps plopping free, leaving pockmarks below.
Crunch. I take another step into the yard, regretting every print left behind. But I notice other prints, tiny little fork-shapes where birds have miraculously hopped across the surface of the powder without sinking in, scavenging for buried see from the feeder above.
The world is never as silent as this. Everything obliterated. The snow like one, giant "Sshh…" from a comforting mother. It says, "Sleep. Rest. When you wake it will all be better. It will be new. We will start again."
I close my eyes to lose myself in the quiet. To allow it to settle around me, through me.
That's why I heard the sound before I saw it. The rhythmic crunch and muffled whirring coming down the road. I'm angry at first, "Who is interrupting the perfect peace of my moment?"
I open my eyes, blinking, waiting for my vision to fully adjust back from the blackness inside my head to soft, greybluewhite around me.
The car reaches the corner, snow spitting up from around its tires, and it is a moment before I realize how fast it is going; that one of the sounds I'm hearing is the wheels sliding as the driver tries to brake for the corner.
But the snow is deep, the road beneath, slick, the corner -- unforgiving and there too soon.
I am lost in a snow globe dream, the world slow, and easy and dreamy. The car moves as though caught in a slipstream of time, gliding, drifting; my mind registering everything a few seconds after it has already happened.
It skids, the back end not in control, the driver compensating, sending it back the other way, but the turn is taken too fast, the corner too sharp, and wheels leave the ground -- snow spraying up into the yard across the street.
The contact with the light pole is abrupt, jarring, catastrophic. The crunch deafening in the relative silence, ripping through it like a knife through flesh, opening a gash in the magical, peaceful silence.
The car flips, ricocheted off the pole, landing with a smash, a crash, a spray of glass and metal exploding across the empty whiteness. And something else…
Something else as I am frozen -- as frozen as frosted trees and buried bushes -- an icing wind blowing throwing me, anchoring me to the ground.
Red. Bright, vibrant, thick, staining the pristine-ness around me. An angry, violent, hot mess decimating the world in front of me. A rose in early spring. A cardinal on a winter feeder.
Red on white. Beautiful. But…no.
I look down at my boot print -- that marring now so inconsequential -- and I become unstuck, the world suddenly sucked forward in a gush, the sounds exploding in my ears, the birds that take to the sky, the wreckage coming to a halt. I race inside for the phone, stumbling, my knees leaving enormous divots, the unmarked beauty around me upset, upended…
I race inside, leaving tracks of that wonderland across the floor, picking up the phone, seeing the wreckage through my window, a soft breeze blowing the powdered snow up in a dervish, settling back down across metal, glass…red…
"Sleep. Rest. When you wake we will start again."