The snow began to fall in late October. It was early for that time of year, but not unheard of. I remember the leaden sky, gravid with sharp edged flakes, giving birth to a landscape of crystalline brilliance, blurring trees and cars and houses in a serene beauty. My fellow villagers, warm in woolen hats and gloves, came out of their cozy homes to look in wonder at the magical changes wrought by the thick clouds, their tongues protruding to catch the tiny flakes. It felt like a time of wonder and we made snow angels and dodged cold missiles flung by shrieking children. And with astonishment at how deep the drifts became, we retired to our homes, laughing and joking about the sudden onset of winter, drinking hot chocolate with little marshmallows, promising each other endless fun with skis and snow-holes and snuggling under blankets. Still the snow fell.
In only a single day, the roads were impassable and the houses half buried, the snow reaching as high as second floor windows. My neighbor called out to me from his house. He asked me “when would it end?” but I just shrugged. I could see the children loved it though. They delighted in leaping from their bedrooms into the high dunes, and they made warrens in the snow, like rabbits burrowing into soft earth.
By nightfall, the power lines grew too heavy under the endless onslaught and they fell, plunging our community into darkness. People put their woolen hats and gloves back on, but they did not venture outside to marvel at nature’s beauty. They huddled together in single rooms, watching their breath steam the air. Still the snow fell.
The old were the first to succumb, to fall into the sleep. With no one to take care of them, and not able to keep warm, they became hypothermic, lips blue like deep, glacial ice. Whole families perished as our village was entombed under the beguiling snow. Those of us with oil burners or with a stock of wood to burn, survived the longest, but eventually that too ran out. For most, the sleep came long before the hunger, and they slipped away, frozen under their layers of blankets. They were the lucky ones. We survivors soon ran out of food and were forced to raid our neighbors, looking for anything we could eat, until that too was gone. Still the snow fell.
We did what we had to do to survive then. Living was all that mattered and we became savage. We fought over scraps of wood; broken tables, chair legs and picture frames more valuable than gold. We banded together for mutual protection, and to share our precious body heat. But with no food remaining, things became desperate. I do not know who said it first, but we talked about doing it; about crossing the line. There was plenty of refrigerated meat available and we would not have to start with each other for quite a while yet. Still the snow fell.
In time, the land was hushed. No more hustle or bustle. No cars or planes or people crying. A field of diamonds, shining brightly in an endless night. And for the last of us to succumb? A final peace, a glittering shroud.
And now we drift in silence, making no impression on the snow, leaving no footprints to show we were there. We lasted weeks longer than we had any right to, and we regretted every day, every act. Some of us stopped eating eventually, unable to cope with the shame and horror of it. I can see them sometimes, those too warped by their sins to move on, to leave this place. Our spirits haunting our former homes, now given a new lease as tomb and sepulcher.
When we venture outside to gaze in horrified wonder at the world, we do not talk or even acknowledge each other. Our shame burns as bitterly as the cold. So still the Snow.