By L. V. Gaudet
© December 2008
It was a dark and stormy night.
No, actually it wasn’t. That is just so cliché.
It was neither dark, nor stormy. In fact, it was quite bright and tranquil with the snow lazily falling and blanketing the world in a soft downy blanket.
However, there was a dark storm brewing somewhere, deep within the breast of one fateful soul who will have a rather fate-less affect on those around. Not so much in a way of lacking chance and destiny, but rather in a way of that destiny being one that is lacking in fortune and future. It would be a fate resulting in no fate, no future, and ending in a finality of fatality.
To everyone else it was a day as any other day. It was the weekend, Saturday to be precise; and only days before Christmas. The muffled scrape of shovels clearing driveways and sidewalks didn’t so much echo in the air as it seemed to be carried on the wings of the very snowflakes themselves as they drifted down, billions of flakes carrying the sound on the faint draught of air that could not even be called a breeze.
The distant soprano rumble of sleds bounding across the fields could be felt more than it could be heard. The sudden grinding of a snow blower starting rattled off the snowflakes like a lumbering abominable chain saw. The shlish and scream of children tobogganing down a hill somewhere cut through the downy muffled hush brought on the world by the gentle snowflakes. Somewhere a dog barked.
A scream bounced from snowflake to snowflake. It didn’t sound right. It wasn’t the fun filled happy shriek of a tobogganing child. It was shrill and desperate, torn violently from the throat, frantic and terrible.
The scream didn’t register though, so lost was everyone in their own activities, in their own private little bubbles of their own little worlds within this winter wonderland, separate from all the other little bubbles, bouncing about each other without really touching.
At least, it didn’t register on the consciousness of any people living within their own little private bubble lives. Most people live in their own little bubble, most but not all. And dogs, dogs don’t live in bubbles; they are tuned in to the world around them. It’s hardwired into their makeup.
The dogs heard it. All around the little town dogs barked and howled.
It could be some time before one of these little private bubble worlds bounced and touched the little bubble world the scream was torn from, before someone learns the terrible truth behind the scream that everyone heard, yet no one noticed.
Perhaps the next snow fall.
The air tasted crisp, so intense was the cold, biting at fingers and toes within their protected confines, making noses sting and lungs burn with each inhalation of chill air. It was too cold even for Jack Frost to be out performing his public service of decorating window panes with his intricate artwork.
The cool light of the moon seemed colder, more distant, shining with an ethereal pale light wrapped in ghostly light circles as its light refracted off the invisible frozen air crystals hanging suspended in the atmosphere enveloping the earth. The stars, their light much dimmer, tried feebly to point their little beacon lights to the ground below, like a distant warning.
The clouds rolled in, shrouding the ground below, hiding it from the moon’s view, shutting off its pale light. The snow started to fall. Barely at first, scattered tiny flakes drifted down, growing bigger and thicker, multiplying in number, and turning into a dreamy soft down gently touching every surface.
This time there was no scream bouncing off the gently falling snow, just a wet sort of gurgle, low and quiet, and the pristine white virgin snow slowly turning bright red. This time even the dogs didn’t notice and the people mostly slept, safe in their own little lives and oblivious to the other little lives all around.
A stray dog snuffled about in the snow. It wasn’t a homeless or abandoned dog, just one that had escaped the rope tethering it in the yard. The dog walked as if on a mission, purposeful, intent, tail and body tense, sniffing and snuffling at the snow as it went. Deep tracks followed the dog through the thick blanket of snow. The dog stopped, snuffling deeper, nose digging down, snorting. The dog startled with a yip, turned tail and ran away, its trail following like a shadow. The snow in the hole dug by the dog’s questing nose was stained crimson. Like a soft sigh, snow began to fall.
People moved about, safely cocooned in their private little bubble lives, each doing their own thing and oblivious to the lives around.
Without a sound one of these little bubbles popped. The woman walked with some difficulty through the snow along the edge of the trees where the snow was less deep. She looked about her keenly, every now and then cupping her hands to each side of her mouth and calling. She was looking for the family dog that had escaped off the rope tethering the animal safely in the yard. At last she came across a track leading away from the trees and across the field. Just beyond it lay another track, less defined as though made by less careful movements. This track led into the trees. She thought for a moment and decided to follow the next track into the woods.
She didn’t get far before she found the dog. Well, what was left of the dog anyway. Her heart thudded hard and fast in her chest, her breath caught as her chest constricted, eyes widening in horror.
Something slammed into the woman, knocking her sideways a few feet and down into the white downy snow. A crimson stain slowly began to spread across the pristine snow.