It’s hard to type. My fingers are stiff and numb from the cold. My eyes are watering up, and I can feel the tears freezing on my skin. I don’t know how much longer my power is going to last this time, but I don’t think we will survive another blackout. When they find our bodies — maybe not until Spring when this cabin can be seen over the snow — they’ll know it was the storm that killed us. If I didn’t write this though, they’d never know it was a murder.
The storm has been brewing for a month before it hit. Rolling gray clouds teasing us with snow for Christmas, yet always holding back despite the continual predictions. The weather channel said it was a 100% chance of snow everyday for a week before the iron sky finally relinquished its payload. When it did come, it didn’t waste anytime with slush or dustings either. One night it was bleak and cold and bare, and the next morning I couldn’t even see out from my first-story window.
My whole college canceled classes — it was the first snow day I’ve gotten since grade-school. I was planning to just sit around playing video games, but my little sister Clara looked so horrified that I might as well have said I was going to spend the day looking for stray cats to cook.
Snow was a miracle, she said. Where was my Christmas spirit? We couldn’t waste time indoors, yada yada… I don’t know exactly how the conversation got away from me, but pretty soon I had the ultimatum of either going sledding with her friends or admitting I was the literal Grinch. Guess I’m spending my day with a bunch of high-school girls, whatever. At least I’ll be the cool, mysterious, older guy for a change instead of the blundering Freshman.
I don’t know how many of you have witnessed this, but something very strange happens when a group of high-school girls get together. They’re all super affectionate with each other, but it’s a vicious, competitive affection. Imagine four puppies who are all trying to be as cute and friendly as possible, but they know that only one of them is going to get adopted and they’ll happily tear the others to shreds if it means winning. Don’t get the wrong idea, they completely ignored me. I don’t even know who they were trying to impress, but it didn’t take long before they started daring each other to do ridiculous, potentially life-threatening things.
“This time we’re going to steer through those trees,” Farris said, flashing all of her sharp little teeth. “Hit one and you’re out. First one to make it through wins.”
“On this hill? I used to do that when I was four,” Clara interjected. Never-mind that I happen to know she cried every-time she touched snow until she was almost eight. “Let’s try it from up on the cliff, follow me.”
And then it clicked. The real reason I was here. They took turns riding in the sleds while I dragged them behind me, the others walking a little back so they could step in my foot-prints and not have to push through the snow. I wasn’t a bitch about it or anything, but I guess I was getting pretty grumpy. By the time we’d reached the top of the hill I was ready to just dump them all into the nearest snowdrift and head home.
When the snow stated falling again I thought I’d found my excuse to get out. I warned them about how fast it came down last night. They didn’t want to be stuck in a blizzard, did they? Of course they did. It was my mistake for making it sound like a challenge. They all looked like they were having fun though, and they assured me they would turn back if it got too bad. Good enough for me, I didn’t waste any time trudging back alone.
The snow was falling in thick white crystals, catching the light like thousands of prisms to scatter it in radiant waves. I’ve lived in the mountains my whole life, but I’ve never seen anything like this before. Some snowflakes were as big as my thumb, and I could actually make out the unique and intricate geometrical pattern that each was composed of. I stood there to admire it while the wind stirred thick flurries to dance through the air in a preternatural frenzy. The footprints we made on the way were almost completely filled in already, and I quickened my pace to beat the oncoming storm.
It was getting too dark. Too fast. Rainbow reflections were vanishing across the new snow, replaced by dark shadows and a malevolent, ghastly gray like putrid water. It took less than ten minutes for it to go from noon to midnight. Clouds were streaming in from every direction, distorting and writhing together into an impenetrably dense wall. It almost seemed like they were getting closer too, the ceiling of the world dropping over me in a suffocating wave like a blanket being pulled tight around my head.
I’m not a hero for turning back for the girls. I wish I was, but honestly they were still a lot closer than the house and I was afraid to be out here alone. The wind was picking up, a gentle moan rising into a savage howl that bit through my jacket and stung my skin like incessant wasps. At least it was behind me so it helped push me in the right direction, but it didn’t feel like a lucky coincidence. It felt more like the storm was trying to drag me deeper in. This unsettling sensation was compounded when flurries of snow were stirred into the air like a beckoning finger, appearing so briefly that I couldn’t convince myself whether I’d even seen it all.
I wasn’t sure I was even going the right way until I heard them calling. Their thin voices were immediately devoured by the screaming wind so I couldn’t understand what they were saying, but at least I knew where I was going now. The wind altered as soon as I heard them, whistling into a higher pitch to mimic their cries. It felt like there were hundreds of girls in all directions, all crying and shouting, all the voices mingling and morphing into one mighty omnipresent wail.
We slammed into each other all at once. We were both running and visibility was down to a few feet. It took a moment for us all to scramble back up — all of us except Clara who wasn’t there. The other girls just pointed back the way they’d come.
“It was just a dare,” one of them said. “We didn’t think she’d really do it.”
They didn’t wait to explain, didn’t look back, just ran blindly down the hill in a desperate scramble toward civilization.
The melody of the wind was beginning to change again. No longer imitating the shouting girls, it felt more like an unearthly song that swelled and pummeled me from all sides. The pressure continued to push me from behind, propelling me to stagger the last few feet to the top of the hill.
Clara was standing there, her back toward me as she faced the oncoming storm. Her clothes — jacket, shirt, pants, boots, all of it — had been removed and piled beside her. Her skin had long since faded from the bright-red flush into the blistering black and purple of frostbite. Her naked arms were outstretched as though welcoming the deadly embrace of the storm, and with her head thrown back I could now tell that she was the one whose song mixed with the tempest’s roar.
She turned her head to watch me, her blistering skin cracking as it moved, a wicked smile playing across her black lips. Besides that, she made no effort to either help or resist as I struggled to dress her again. She stopped singing to simply stare at me as though the whole process was infinitely amusing to her. I kept screaming at her to do something, but the only answer I received was that from the unrelenting wind.
When Clara was all bundled up again I put her in one of the abandoned sleds and leapt in with her. I tried to keep her warm as we rode downhill, but then I had to get out to drag the sled on the long trek home. I don’t think I would have made it if it weren’t for the wind again, changing directions without warning to aid my passage once more. It wasn’t a blessing. The storm had already got what it wanted, and it didn’t need us anymore.
I kept checking on her every minute to make sure she was still alive, but she seemed to be breathing quite easily despite her deathly pallor. She wasn’t singing anymore, but I still heard the echo of those unfamiliar words swirl around me as we went.
We got home a couple of hours ago. The car won’t start, and it’s completely snowed in anyway. I’ve piled all the blankets on her and turned the space heaters on, but she hasn’t said a word since she got back. She just sits there and stares at me, half of her mouth curled up in that twisted smirk. Once I caught her trying to stand and go outside again, but I stopped her and she hasn’t tried again since.
I managed to get a local news station for awhile, but they all seem as mystified as I am. I left it on while I went to brew some hot tea for Clara when I heard her laughing in the other room. I ran back in to see a flash of purple and black skin being carried off in a stretcher on screen. Clara was absolutely howling with laughter, and within seconds the wind outside was laughing with her.
Three girls were found in the snow by paramedics, the news said. They were completely naked, standing with their arms stretched out toward the oncoming storm. I turned off the TV because I couldn’t stand the sound of the laughing, but the silent staring that followed was just as bad. I have this unshakable feeling that Clara is still out there somewhere, or perhaps I really did bring her home, but somehow brought the storm home with her.
I don’t understand how anyone could go on living with a storm trapped inside…