Snowdrifts and Echoes

*”Snowdrifts and Echoes” was written in response to a Reedsy.com prompt:

“Write about two people going sledding for the first time in many years.”

Authors note: As a writing exercise, I tried incorporating all five Reedsy Prompts for the week.

My other inspiration was memories. Sometimes they are like echoes, and other times they build up like snowdrifts until we’re ready to heal.

There is something about the snow here. It may come down softly at first, but it can transform into a full blizzard in little time at all. The last time I’d checked, the snow had been a speck on the horizon. Now the snowflakes looked closer to golf balls.

I glanced back at my computer screen. It had shut down 10 seconds ago with nearly everything else. I don’t know how it happened so fast. These buildings were set up to handle worse weather than this.

Looking around, I surveyed the empty offices. Of course, I’d decided to come in on my day off work. I did that a lot now. I vaguely remembered a different life that wasn’t all about my job. I shouldn’t have come in when snow was expected, but it was too quiet in my apartment, and there was a lot to do here. Well, there had been a lot to do.

I thought that I had more time. I sighed and picked up the phones to call security. There had to be a generator for this place. No dial tone. Great. I switched on the flashlight connected to my phone. There was still light filtering through the windows, but that wouldn’t reach far.

Sluggishly I stood and walked toward the exit. I’d either find someone to help or just go home. Well…if I wasn’t already trapped. The overhead lights flickered then flared back to life just as I passed The Door.

We didn’t go in there. None of us did. Some people said this was where they kept the prototype. All we knew was that we weren’t allowed inside. You needed better clearance than I had.

The lights flickered off again, and it was almost pitch black except for the cold illumination of my flashlight. I was sure it was locked, but curiosity was suddenly stronger than reason. I aimed my phone toward the doorframe, and its harsh blue light made the door seem more sinister than it was.

It was locked anyway. I was sure of it. My fingers tentatively pressed the handle, and it clicked open. I passed my light through the small room. It looked like a closet, but there was a darkness that my flashlight couldn’t penetrate.

This was the moment when you were supposed to leave or be the first to die in a bad horror film. Something tugged at me, though, irresistible. One step inside, and everything changed.

The darkness turned to bright sunshine, and I wasn’t in the closet anymore. I glanced behind me, but the door was gone. Instead, there were vast stretches of field, a lake, and a bare forest.

My breath quickened, and the fear rose, chilling my whole body. Then a real chill fell, and snowflakes began falling all around me. I held out my fingers and felt the cold drops tingling. It tasted like real snow too. The smell of it was in the air, mingling with something else…wood smoke.

I turned my head and saw the smoke puffing steadily from a small cabin in the distance. They’d have a phone, I was sure of it. However, as I got closer, the cabin looked more familiar, and my heart plummeted with the cold. I’d told myself I’d never come back.

Then I saw her. Alice. She stood on the porch, holding my heart, and I knew there was no phone. There was no electricity. There was just a wood stove, soft hands, and eyes that could melt chocolate with their warmth.

She waved at me, and I started sobbing as though I wasn’t standing in snowdrifts up to my knees now. I rushed toward her, and even when she was in my arms, I couldn’t make sense of such boundless joy and sorrow wrapped into one.

“You’re alive!”

“Of course, I am, sweetheart.” My heart was cracking, and I cried like I might never stop. When I finally calmed down, she took my hand and led me inside.

“Why’d you go outside, wearing that? Go change. I’ve been waiting to go sledding all day.”

I blinked, and a host of memories filled me in the quiet. I ran to change, but as I walked into our bedroom, I found myself outside again, although more suitably dressed.

“Come on.” Alice laughed, and its strange, beautiful music filled my whole chest.

As we loaded into the toboggan, her hands around my chest brought that familiar flip that I hadn’t felt in years. Even as we careened down the steep hill, the adrenaline was no match for that. As we stood unsteadily, I kissed her, and she laughed, clearly delighted.

I noticed the way her button nose was bright pink, and her eyes sparkled brightly like they had before she got sick. I was caught off guard when my arm jerked, and she pulled me up the hill.

I knew that I would sled all day if she asked me, and we almost did. When we finally headed inside, my toes felt frozen, and I was sure that hers did too. Her fingers and toes always got cold sooner than mine.

My fingers burned as we entered the warm cabin. We stripped off our coats and boots and hung them by the stove. Bits of ice turned to water and water to steam. Alice placed a mug in my hand before I knew what was happening. She’d always been that way, taking care of others before she took care of herself.

I knew before tasting that it was her home-brewed hot cider. The cinnamon filled the air, coating everything with sugar like it coated my tongue. I drank the cider, and my eyes drank her.

I tried not to think about when she passed, and I had passed along with her. I wasn’t ready to die again. I wanted to live today. I would worry about the consequences later.

At one point in the afternoon, I noticed her ice skates. Before, I’d never wanted to skate with her, and she was always asking. Now there was nothing I wanted more. I held up her skates. “Well?”

“Yes. Finally,” Alice squealed and kissed me fiercely. We twirled around for a second before she set to work on the laces. There was a pair beside my feet suddenly, though I was sure they hadn’t been there before. I didn’t care.

I looked up, and suddenly we were beside the cold frozen lake. Alice took my hands, leading me onto its still surface. Tentatively I stepped onto the slippery ice and predictably tripped over my own feet. But she caught me, and I marveled at how lovely it was to be out of control if she had it.

I didn’t improve, but after a time, we whirled together, her propelling us forward and me trying not to get underfoot. Sometimes it’s okay to just not get in the way.

As we spun around, I noticed the snow starting to fall again and snowdrifts gathering like memories in my mind, like echoes of reality. I wasn’t ready for the echoes to end. I wanted to let the memories crop up until I was buried beneath them.

But the evening was quickly falling, and I was a bit afraid that the dream would too. So I held Alice tighter, breathing in her scent and reveling in the cold of my nose against her neck.

We finally walked back to the cabin, stumbling, frozen, and happy. I hated the cold, but here with Alice, it was the most precious feeling in the world. But so was the heat as we walked into the warm cabin.

So were the warm blankets as we got ready for bed. So was Alice’s skin as we held each other tightly beneath the quilts. Throughout the night, I was unable to discern what was memory and what was a fresh experience. It was some strange amalgamation that was as good as any reality I’d ever had. I didn’t know if I’d ever been this present before, this desperate to experience everything.

As we fell asleep, I heard an owl hoot and the brush of branches against the windows. I noticed how hot Alice’s skin felt beneath mine. My legs wrapped around hers, like roots beneath the earth, like a poem about a snowy night. I almost laughed, but I didn’t want to wake her.

Eventually, I fell asleep too.

When I woke on the floor of the bare closet, it was like being ripped from the world and plucked in a cold approximation of life. I desperately wanted to wake whatever lived inside this room and go back to Alice, but something whispered to leave before I was caught.

I’d barely stepped into the hall and closed the door when the system restarted. I didn’t stay longer than it took to grab my stuff.

As I hit the elevator, the pain moved through me in waves. Years of built-up grief, snowdrifts of pain, echoes reverberating through my body. I pulled myself together as I crossed the lobby, but it was like trying to hold back a furious storm.

When I stepped outside, the snow had miraculously stopped, and all that remained was a thick quiet. Once in my car, I slammed the door hard, screaming loud enough to scare any passersby. I roared again, a roiling gale of anger and regret. Then I glanced at my dashboard.

Only a couple of minutes had passed since I’d gone in the room. It almost shocked me out of my fury. I drove home in silence until I felt a tug, like the one by The Door. There was somewhere I needed to go first. I didn’t want to, but I knew that I needed it. I can’t tell you why.

What might have been minutes or an hour later, I sat beside a cold ice rink. At first, my fingers fumbled with the laces, then I could have sworn I felt Alice’s fingers on mine. A calm swept through me in waves, quieting the pain. 

I finished lacing up the skates and paused momentarily. I swear I felt Alice squeeze my hand, and then I stepped alone onto the rink’s frozen surface.

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Souvenirs

*TW for “Souvenirs”: Physical Violence

*“Souvenirs” is my entry for Challenge #2 in the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Contest 2020. My assignment prompts were the Thriller genre, a golf course, and a coupon. I hope you enjoy it!

Her body rocked against the inside of the trunk. She didn’t know how long her attacker had been driving, but her tears had dried on her face. The time for tears had passed, and her heart was beating like a drum.

The car came to an abrupt halt, and her face slammed against something solid. She could taste the iron of her blood. Only the tape over her mouth kept it from smearing over her face.

When the trunk opened, a flashlight shone in her eyes, revealing a dark silhouette above her. There was no doubt that she looked like a pathetic mess. Her dress was ripped, her makeup smeared, and long streaks of mascara streamed down her face.

He pulled her roughly out of the trunk and began dragging her across soft grass. She took in her surroundings. She saw a sandpit and a small pond glinting beneath the bright full moon. The golf course seemed somewhat neglected. The disrepair was evident in the untrimmed grass and bits of trash scattered around. 

They reached the edge of a wood on the property, and he shoved her beneath its shadows. Millie’s knees bit the earth and gravel hard.

He grabbed her long blonde hair and yanked her across the ground, pulling her farther into the dark wood along the golf course. Millie struggled and pulled away, digging trenches in the dirt with her heels.

When he finally came to a stop, he pinned her to the ground and ripped the tape from her face. She screamed loudly, and he didn’t even try to clamp her mouth. He laughed sickeningly and pulled something from his pocket. Millie heard the click of the switchblade, as a flash of moonlight glinted off its edge.

“Scream all you want. That’s why I brought you here. This golf course has been out of business for a while. No one is coming here to save you, and no one will find you. You’ll be gone. You will be nothing, except for this little souvenir.” In a single swift movement, he cut a swatch of her hair.

“Why me?”

“Doesn’t matter. You aren’t the first, and you won’t be the last.”

“You’re a bit sloppy for someone that’s done this before.” She shot back at him. He swiftly punched her in the ribs. As they cracked, a bark of pain left her mouth.

It occurred to her that this might be the way it ended, painfully, at the hands of this predator. It was the way that it ended for so many women. Calm swept over her then, where there should have been fear. But then there had never been fear, only that killing calm waiting in the wings. She’d been out of commission for a long time, and she’d become complacent.

“Personally, I don’t like to be this sloppy, but I needed time. It turns out that anyone can get caught off guard.” A deep growl escaped her throat, and she felt the familiar adrenaline course through her body.

Millie snapped through her restraints like they were made of paper. Of course, she’d been working through them while they struggled, and he babbled. With a twist of her body, Millie expertly flipped him over and trapped him beneath her.

“What are you?” Her attacker gasped when he realized he couldn’t escape.

“A woman tired of monsters.” She grabbed his switchblade and stabbed him, seemingly at random and yet effectively.

Millie stood momentarily to observe the wreckage, taking in the evidence from here to his car. She knew what she needed to do.

When she’d been an agent, Millie hadn’t been this disorganized with her kills. When she’d woken up in the trunk, Millie had known that she needed time to get loose, and she needed to cover her tracks.

Crouching down, she rifled through his pockets and found his cell phone. Hitting the emergency function, she made her report to the operator. Millie cried hysterically, and it was only partially an act. She was also crying for the women that hadn’t escaped.

After Millie hung up, she rifled through his coat. There were more people like him, and she was sick of it. Out of an inside pocket, she pulled a crumpled coupon for free ice cream.

Resolve settled down around her. Millie smoothed it reverently and tucked it inside her bra. She liked souvenirs too, and she thought she might like some more.


You can also read my entry for Challenge #1, “Pistachio Cupcakes.”

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Pistachio Cupcakes

*My entry for Challenge 1 in the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Contest 2020. My assignment prompts were Romantic Comedy, Farmer’s Market, An Eraser. I hope that you enjoy!

Claudia double-checked her sister’s list. Two people had called in sick, leaving both the bakery and the Farmers’ Market booth short. So here she was, late and rushing to open “Kerry’s Kreations Bakery” with an insanely detailed prep list.

Everything was done except the sign. Claudia grabbed the large board and chalk markers. She checked the cheat sheet that Kerry had given her and found the specials for the day.

People were already perusing the stalls, so she periodically glanced toward the passing crowd as she wrote. She didn’t have the best handwriting, but she tried. Kerry would expect pictures of everything. Claudia didn’t blame her. Everything here was representative of her brand. Davy was the one with the excellent handwriting, but he was sick.

A lady in her forties paused by the tarts before moving down the line. Another stopped by with questions about the bakery and said she’d return. Refocusing on the sign, Claudia went back to work on the daily specials.

Claudia glanced up, dutifully again and saw her. Her skin drank the light that reflected off her dark curls. She looked momentarily sad, but then laughed at something the guy beside her said.

“Of course, she’s straight.” Claudia shook her head but didn’t take her eyes away from the woman’s broad lips, or the way that her eyes crinkled as she laughed. Taking a deep breath, Claudia tried to release the tension in her chest.

Looking back at her work, she saw that she’d drawn one long line where a small dash should have been. She cursed quietly and grabbed the eraser that her sister had packed for the board. Rubbing out the mark, she stared resolutely at the sign until she’d finished it. Claudia finally placed it on the ground, and looking up came face to face with her.

*

When Gary had insisted she go with him to the Farmer’s Market, Lilly had been secretly grateful. She’d complained, but they both knew that a change of scenery would do her good.

Since Sharon had left, he’d given her space. Gary had been her best friend for a long time, and he knew that she needed time to let go of people.

“There might be some cute girls there,” Gary had mentioned, brows wagging, as a means of incentive. Lilly wanted to move on, and he knew that. Getting out of the house was the first step. She’d grieved long enough. He wasn’t wrong, even if she still struggled with comparing other women to Sharon.

“Pistachio alert,” he said at one point. She looked at him, confused. He subtly nodded to his right. A particularly cute girl stood behind the booth. “That looks like a snack.”

“She’s really adorable, but that’s a bit objectifying.”

“What?” He paused in confusion before his eyes grew wide with realization. “Oh! No, they’re selling pistachios. I just meant that we should get some for a snack.”

Lilly started laughing to the point that she was bent over. “I should have known better.”

“Where is your head at?” It quickly became an ongoing joke throughout the morning.

Lilly found herself stuck in her thoughts again when Gary said, “I bet they have pistachio cupcakes over there.”

She started laughing abruptly, and for a moment, she’d forgotten about Sharon again. To patronize him, Lilly looked over at the bakery stall. That was when she saw her.

Long swaths of dark hair fell over her face, but it couldn’t hide her high cheekbones or the intense concentration that she held over the chalkboard in her lap. Lilly watched her long legs as she walked confidently to place the sign down on the ground. For almost no reason at all, Lilly felt a strange flickering in her chest.

Then she saw the sign. “Pistachio Cupcakes – $2 each.” Something came over her, and Lilly didn’t hesitate to walk over to that sign and that girl. For the first time since Sharon had left, Lilly was oddly grateful and hopeful. She didn’t know why.

 The girl looked up, and Lilly came face to face with the most astonishing brown eyes she’d ever seen. They pulled her in, and her breath caught in her throat.

“Hi,” the woman said, slightly startled.

“Hey.”

“I’m Claudia.”

“Lilly.”

“Lilly,” She breathed the name like it was a prayer, then glanced around like she was looking for someone.

“Could I have two of your pistachio cupcakes?”

“Of course.” Claudia’s eyes shifted. Lilly recognized customer service mode when she saw it. “I hope you and your boyfriend like them!”

“Boyfriend?”

“Yeah, the guy you were with, earlier.”

Lilly laughed loudly. “Gary? No. Though I’m sure, he would find that funny. He’s my best friend, but he’s not my type.” Lilly paid her and watched her making change. “Keep it.”

“Thanks.” Claudia smiled again, this time a real one.

“Do you like pistachios? Well, I guess you must, it’s your shop.”

“It’s my sister’s actually, but I do like pistachios.”

Lilly held out one of the plastic containers. “Would you like the other?”

“Oh no, that’s okay. I would hate to get between a beautiful woman and her desserts,” Claudia laughed, and her whole face lit up with it.

“But I bought it for you.” Claudia gaped at her, and Lilly just smiled. “Pistachios are my type, and so are you,” Lilly said it a bit too fast and almost cringed at her joke but held steady, smiling as confidently as she could.

Returning her smile, Claudia accepted the cupcake and offered Lilly a seat in the shade. Two years later, they served Kerry’s pistachio cupcakes at their wedding.


You can also read my entry for Challenge #2, “Souvenirs.”

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