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Chilling Cold

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It has been five days since it happened. I do not know what my fate will be, but I hope that by transcribing my story here on these ragged scraps of paper, I can preserve some of the experiences I have gone through and make sure that I am not forgotten as though I never existed. Please take the time to listen.

It was a Monday. The sun had just peeked over the peaks of the neighboring mountain range when I awoke. I groaned and rubbed my eyes for a few minutes and then I swung my legs over the edge of the bed. At first, I couldn’t fathom what I felt. The floor seemed to be covered in a slick sheen of snail slime of some sorts. I blinked again and looked down. Ice had spread out from under my bed, creeping under the door of my bedroom. When I further investigated, I found that it had spread all the way to the bathroom, four doors down the hall. I was confused but less shocked than you might think. I lived in an old, Victorian house, and it was drafty as a cave and impossible to keep warm. I figured that last night, there had been dew from the mold in the floor and it had simply frozen over. I remember thinking that it must’ve been awfully cold to have managed to freeze the inside of the house. The incident quickly fading in my mind, I went about my uneventful daily business. At work, the waitresses and customers were all talking about how cold it had been. I enthusiastically joined in the small talk. Nothing more was notable until the end of the day when I had gotten home from work and sat drowsily in my chair in front of the fireplace. I turned on the radio. I remember little of most of the broadcast, but the scraps that I heard still echo in my head as the beginning of the end. The reporter said that Washington was going to have a cold snap and that we should all stock up on wood, and stay indoors. He also mentioned something about a bombing run in China killing hundreds of civilians. I went to bed soon after.

Tuesday was worse. The ice had spread from the bathroom to the living room, and I bashed my knee more than once on the icy stairs. I took to carrying around a cane, just in case. The radio broadcast had said that they thought that it might be a blizzard moving in, but that the pattern of the storm seemed to be almost living, as though the cold was an animal. China was mobilizing against the US, but they said not to worry, the reports of nuclear missiles was propaganda. This caught my attention mostly because news reporters never talk about things like they are scared, and this reporter was paler than the ice on my floor at night. The other people in town began to get irritable. All tourist trade ceased. The roads were too unfit to drive on. That night, the wind hit. Several of the downstairs windows shattered and my fire blew out. As I lay in bed, horrible headaches hit me and I remember huddling in bed, sweating and shivering, hoping that this cold front would blow out quickly.

Wednesday was calm. The wind had stopped completely, and we soon knew why. Huge walls of snow rose over the town. We couldn’t be sure of their exact size, but they blotted out the mountains and the sun didn’t rise till about 10 A.M. Vague vibrations could be heard in the distance, like large footsteps. A loud chattering noise, like thousands of monkeys could be heard. Most people dismissed it as the icy peaks melting and breaking, but I was unconvinced. This was the day the power went out. At first it was chaos, a panic that spread quickly and was silenced just as fast. We got organized and rationed out food and blankets. Generators quickly became more important than cars, gas more important than gold.

I retreated to my home again. Outside gave me headaches. This was a long day. You would think that the sun would go down before 3 P.M. considering the ring of snow, but it seemed to hang in the sky, taunting us with unrelenting heat that did nothing to melt the snow. The radio no longer worked. The giant walls of snow probably blocked the signal. Most of the others started scouting the walls, hoping to find a low place or a way out. I stayed at home. The headaches had gotten worse and I couldn’t stand up without getting dizzy and falling back into bed. Around noon, two hours later, a boy ran back into camp, screaming in excitement. In the babble, I overheard that they had found a cave. It led all the way through the walls of snow. Shortly after, I heard a great commotion. Children crying, mothers hushing, the men calling out to each other. It became obvious they were leaving at once. I lay there in my bed, unnoticed by all. I couldn’t make anything louder than a tortured wheeze without blacking out for a few minutes from the pain. I thought that I would die and I began praying for release. I now could no longer see; the headaches blocked out the world and painted everything in black relief. After three hours, and after a rigorous course of painkillers, the headaches faded enough for me to leave the house. All was deadly quiet. Shovels lay in the snow, and scraps of cloth lay everywhere. At first, I thought it was from a hasty escape, but then I realized the “rocks” I saw everywhere were actually bodies. It looked like there had been a mighty battle, the snow mashed and flattened all up and down the street. How it had managed to pass without a single sound escaped me at the time. I retreated to my home, suddenly terrified of the outdoors.

Thursday was pure terror. Many people describe their descent into madness as a slow crawl. Mine was instant. I knew something had happened to my fellow townspeople and I didn’t want the same unknown fate happening to me. I boarded up all of my windows, locked all the doors, put out all the fire and hid the food. I huddled in a corner with a blanket, using ice to lower my only temperature and hide my heat signature from them. It seems a bit extreme, now that I look back, but I was possessed with a mania and my only coherent thought was “I must not be found.” It repeated over and over in my brain, driving me to more extreme lengths.

More ice, douse the floors in gas to hide the scent, draw them off with blood-soaked rags. They must not find me. They must not find me. That was my only state of existence that whole day. The booming footsteps were much, much louder, and seemed to thump in time with my heartbeat, pounding in my ears like rushing blood. I could smell smoke throughout the whole day, but no fire was to be found. That night, however, I felt suddenly safe and bold. The footsteps had stopped, and the smoke had been blown away by the wind. Instead of staying in my hiding spot, I walked the streets like a zombie, half-open eyes scanning the horizon. I couldn’t see much because of the huge walls, but I could make out the faint outline of the stars. They seemed to be burning green and yellow and red, rather than their usual cold, bright, white light.

I suddenly snapped out of my trance and came back to my own state of mind. I looked in horror at my body, black with cold and emaciated. I stumbled into the nearest building, the grocery store. After raiding the shelves for food, I stumbled into the back room, pulled up a burlap sack, and slept.

Friday was the day of my escape. At 3:00 in the morning, I woke up. I pulled on anything warm I could find and grabbed a shovel from the backroom. As I walked through the town, I realized how intact the town had been left. As I walked through the quiet and cold, I could have almost been an early-morning hiker. The people could have been inside, sleeping in their beds. The certainty grew in my head until I had to stop and check one of the houses to make sure that I had not just gone insane again. It was abandoned but in perfect condition. I sighed and resumed my journey.

As I got closer to the wall, a cold wind sprung up, chilling me. My feet were already blocks of ice, but this bit deeper than ever. I staggered but kept going. As I kept going, the wind got stronger and stronger. My hand dimmed before my eyes, and I realized it was growing darker by the minute. As I came within ten feet of the wall, a dreadful howling filled my ears, piercing my eardrums. The rest of the ten feet I covered in a controlled fall, collapsing against the side of the mound. The howling was making me dizzier, and my headache was flaring up again. Gravity seemed to be steadily increasing, and I realized that my strength was failing. I lifted my shovel, struggling against the multitude of forces begging me not to. The wind whipped faster, trying to yank the shovel from my hands. I put the remnant of my strength into bringing it down. If I couldn’t at least hit the mound of snow once, I would be defeated. Then the shovel struck the snow and bit deep into the side. The howling abruptly stopped. All was silent.

I blinked snow from my eyes and looked down in confusion at the shovel. Black ooze was trickling from the snow mound. Then the vibration started. A deep humming once again attacked my poor head, quickly moving up the range of sounds until it became nothing but shrill whines. Then the snow began to move. Not just a little, here and there, but the entire snow mound, all at once, lifted away from the ground, faster than a plane, faster than I could comprehend. Before me, still bleeding, the shovel still embedded in its side, a huge white worm towered over me. It had a mouth that yawned wider than the biggest cave. It began moving its head back and forth, slowly, as though picking up signals from the air. It opened its huge maw, which I blearily noticed was filled with teeth like rocks and glass, and dove for me. The sheer weight of the creature was palpable through the air as it rushed towards me. I could barely breathe; the air was being forced back in my lungs by the pressure. I turned and dug deep into myself. I dove, legs collapsing for the final time, snow snapping like frosted glass under my weight. The worm struck the ground with a thunderous sound, so loud that my eardrums finally gave up and blew, flesh ripping like a sail in a storm. My screams fell on deaf ears. The worm began to disappear into the ground, the “walls” around the city uncoiling and following the head down the hole. I realized it hadn’t even noticed me, merely preparing to dive underground. I lay there, staring, as the clouds turned white again, and the snow became slush. I watched as the city was once again revealed. I gazed into the horizon, at the surrounding land. Once green and lush, they now seemed to be scorched and burnt. Not more than a mile off, where a farm had once stood, a blackened crater now stood. I idly wondered as I lay, waiting for my body to finally stop fighting for life, what had been worse; the worm or the war.

Then my neck gave out and I knew no more.

I woke up three days later, still lying on the outskirts of town. I lie here now, transcribing these words, because I can’t even muster the strength to drag myself back to my house. What’s the point? Everyone is gone. The only thing that keeps me writing is the vain, human spirit of hope thinking of future explorers, or rescuers, finding these notes. But even though the sun has melted the snow, the cold remains embedded inside me, like a blizzard in a bottle. I shiver to remember those days, and I fear death less than I do the thought of being found. All I want is to be heard, not saved. Living with this cold would be worse than death, is worse than death. But I don’t want to be unheard, my story wasted on my cold lips. I do not want to pass into that light forgotten. Nobody wants to die alone.

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