THE SEARCHER IN THE SNOW
(still a rough draft.)
Grayson Price sat on the front porch waiting for his son to get back from school. His wife was inside making dinner, gently humming a CCR song. The cold, crisp Canadian air nipped at Grayson’s face as his blonde hair illuminated in what little sun was showing through the clouds.
The school bus finally came around the corner, “Newfoundland School District” printed in all caps on its side. The bus door gasped opened and his eager son climbed down the steps and ran towards his father. He was a perfect replica of his dad, blonde hair and blue eyes, very Aryan. He was six years old and had a birthday coming soon. He jumped up the porch steps and hugged his father tightly.
“How was your day, Dexter?” Grayson asked his son.
“It was good daddy.” The boy said. “Can we go play in the back yard?”
“Sure, but just for a little bit. Mommy is almost done making dinner.” He said to the boy. They walked inside and Dexter greeted his mom. She picked him up off the floor and grasped him to her chest.
“How was school, honey?” Laura asked him.
“It was fun Momma. we got to draw pictures of owls.” Dexter said in his toddler dialect.
“We’re gonna go play in the back for a bit.” Grayson said to his wife. “
Okay,” she replied, “dinner’s in twenty.” He kissed her forehead and walked out back with his son. They threw a nerf ball back and forth for a few minutes until his cell phone rang. He checked it and saw it was a work call. He took his son over to the swing set and set him on the middle swing.
“I have to take this buddy.” he said.
“Okay.” Dexter said. Grayson pulled his son’s hat over his ears and kissed his forehead. He walked inside and answered the phone. It was his boss. They talked about a new deal he was working on for a few minutes. After he cleared things up and said goodbye, Laura told him that dinner was ready.
“Okay, I’ll go get Dex from the swings.” he replied.
“M’kay.” she said. He walked outside, pocketing his phone and looked up at the swing set. Dexter wasn’t there anymore. He looked around the yard for him, but found nothing. “Dexter?” he called out. He waited several moments, but there was no reply. He called out again, a little more frantically. Again, no answer. He walked to the gate that led to the front yard and opened it. He searched the lawn for his son but found nothing. Fear began to build up in his stomach as he went through the front door.
“Did Dexter come inside?” he asked, nearly panicked.
“I don’t think so.” Laura said to him. “He’s not out there anymore.” he told her, not holding back his fear. He searched through the house and continually called for his son. His wife joined him, but it was to no avail.
“Call the police.” He told her.
“Are you sure-“
“Call the police!” he yelled. She went to get the phone. Grayson kept searching through the house and found nothing. He ran through the front door and into the street calling for his son. He screamed for him, but no matter how loud he yelled, Dexter never returned his call.
The police arrived shortly at the house. They conducted a search and did a basic missing person’s report. After searching all night they found nothing. The event was all over the local news. People in the neighborhood helped with the search, but after several days they still hadn’t found him.
The police kept searching for the next year. They were almost certain he was abducted, but they could not find any evidence as to where the boy was. They gave up after two years and told Grayson and Laura that Dexter was most likely dead. But Grayson never stopped searching. He saw his son everywhere he went. Somehow, he knew, felt inside, that his son was alive. And it drove him insane.
Two years later Laura couldn’t take it anymore and killed herself.
And for the first time in his life…
Grayson was alone.
Four years later...
Grayson sat at the table and stared down at the barely eaten food he had cooked. After taking a few bites he didn’t want to eat anymore. He didn’t eat much anymore anyway. The sun began to set outside. The period of the day he loathed was approaching.
He didn’t sleep. When he slept he saw her. But he couldn’t stay awake because all he could think about was him. It was a cruel cycle. Many times he thought about suicide, even though he wouldn’t do it. He could still feel his son, almost as if he could reach out and touch him. He knew he was alive. Even if everyone told him he was wrong, crazy even, he knew that Dexter was somewhere out there. He still saw him. Everywhere, he saw him. Always in the corner of his eye or far off in the distance, and every time he tried to react or get closer Dexter was gone, vanished. He had almost given up hope.
“I’m crazy.” He told himself. “I’m crazy and alone.” Grayson stood up and grabbed the plate off of the table. He walked to the trashcan and threw the food in, then discarded the plate in the sink. He walked to the couch and lied down. Using the remote, he turned on the TV and started flipping through the channels. He didn’t pay much attention to any shows but he liked to have the background noise. He couldn’t stand silence. Silence left him alone with his thoughts, and none of his thoughts were ever happy. He kept looking through the channels until he found one that he watched regularly. He rolled over on his back and looked up at the ceiling. He watched as the ceiling fan rotated slowly, following one of the blades with his eyes. He did this until he slowly drifted to sleep.
His dream was vivid, just as they always were, but this one was different. It was as clear as real life. He was lying down in the middle of a snowy pathway. He looked up and saw he was in the woods. He recognized the woods clearly; he had taken his family there many times. They were the southern woods of Ontario, good for camping in the summers. He looked around at all the frozen, dead trees. His head suddenly started to hurt immensely. He grabbed his forehead and fell to his knees, screaming in pain. He collapsed on the ground and everything went dark. He could hear Dexter’s voice through all the pain and haziness. He said one thing:
“Come find me, daddy.”
When Grayson opened his eyes he was somewhere else. He was still in the woods, but in a thicker part. He was propped up against a tree. His vision was extremely blurry, but he could make out a figure standing in front of him. The haziness began to slowly fade away, and he saw the figure was his son. He had something in his hands and was motioning for Grayson to take it. He couldn’t see what it was, but he reached out and took it. He couldn’t control what he was doing. His vision clouded again and then went black. He heard a dark, deep voice whispered something so quiet it was almost inaudible.
“Do it.” Grayson woke up violently in a cold sweat. He gasped in air, trying to take deep breaths. That was the first time he had seen his son clearly since he was taken. Tears rolled down his cheeks and he made no effort to stop them.
He had to go to Ontario. He had to find his son.
One week later…
Grayson finished packing his things into his backpack. He had a spare set of clothes, a flashlight, and his 45 pistol packed, along with a few cans of food. He walked out the door to the driveway and was hit by the cold air. It was the middle of winter and the snow was fresh, covering most everything. He opened the door to his car and threw his backpack in the front seat. He climbed in on the driver’s side.
Grayson put the keys in the ignition and sat back in his chair. He pulled down the mirror and looked at his reflection. He hadn’t groomed himself in a long while. His hair was long and un-kept and his beard was messy and rough. He stroked his cheek and found that his skin was gritty and coarse. He put his hand on the key and closed his eyes tightly. He ignited the engine and opened his eyes. No going back now.
He backed out of the driveway and left the neighborhood. He drove for almost two days on the icy roads, pulling over occasionally and sleeping to the sound of the radio. After what seemed like an eternity he finally saw the entrance sign. “Welcome to Ontario.” It read, “More to discover.”
He drove through different towns and villages until he found the dirt road that lead to the woods. He turned on to it and continued to drive down. A thick layer of fog seemed to slowly materialize around him as he went farther. It got so thick that he could barely even see the road with his high lights on. He eventually found the end of the road which lead to the entrance of the woods. He pulled the car over and grabbed his backpack. Pulling the hood of his heavy coat up, he stepped out of the car.
Grayson put his backpack on and looked around. The entrance had been heavily snowed on. The snow was more than four inches thick. The trees were all in hibernation and frozen. The fog was very thick and he had trouble seeing the ground as he walked the first few steps of the pathway. He took his flashlight out of his bag and ignited it. It didn’t illuminate much but it helped him navigate his way around.
He kept walking until he saw the first clearing. It was a small picnic area full of now broken and wet picnic tables. They had rotted and were falling apart. He approached the sturdiest looking one and sat down to rest. The fog had lightened up a bit and he could see his breath in the cold. He closed his eyes and rubbed his red, numb face. He pulled his scarf around his face more tightly and started to get up, but was interrupted. He heard something in the distance. It sounded like something moving in the tree line.
“Hello?” Grayson called out. There was no answer. “Is anyone out there?” he saw a shadow walking in the trees. “Hello?” he called again. When he saw her his heart stopped. Laura walked into a clear spot in the trees and then back into the thick tree line.
“Laura!” he yelled, running into the tree line. He scanned the area but couldn’t see her. “Laura, where are you?” he screamed. She didn’t answer. He sprinted through the trees looking for her. “Laura!” he screamed over and over. He kept running until he was out of breath, and then leaned against a tree. He panted heavily and once again screamed her name, but he received no reply. She was gone. He leaned his forehead against the tree and cursed, planting his fist into the bark. He caught his breath and stood up straight. He looked around the trees. He couldn’t remember what direction he had run from.
“No… No, no, no, no, no… fuck!” he yelled. He had no idea where the path was. He looked around one last time and then started walking. The forest started to get thicker around him. The snow was plentiful and tall, and he found it harder to walk as he got farther. He sighed and sat on a stump. He pulled a thermos of soup and a spoon from his backpack and opened it. He ate a little bit of it before he lost his appetite. He sighed again and closed the lid on the thermos. He unzipped his backpack and started to put the food back.
Suddenly, he was hit hard in his back by something and was knocked down on his stomach. It started to claw at his back, ripping through his coat and gashing his skin. Grayson yelled and rolled onto his back, flailing his arms at his attacker. It started to claw at his face. He reached over to his backpack and grabbed the pistol. He blindly fired at the attacker as it gashed his eye. He fired two more times and heard an inhuman shriek, an awful sound that was so loud that he had to cover his ears. He opened his one good eye and saw the thing retreating. Its features were almost indescribable. It was like a dark black, smog-like creature. It moved unnaturally fast and disappeared into the fog.
Grayson gasped violently for air and grabbed his face. The beast had scratched down his forehead to his chin, gashing his eye shut. He looked at his hand and saw it was covered in blood. It started to drip from his face onto the snow, creating a gruesome slushy.
Grayson rolled over on his stomach, screaming in pain, and passed out.
Grayson awoke lying face down in the snow, a small blood puddle on the left side of his face. It was the middle of the night. He groggily sat up and touched his face, quickly retracting after the stinging pain. His eye was still bleeding. He reached into his backpack and pulled out his spare shirt, ripping it into small shreds. Wrapping it around his face, he made a makeshift eye patch. He looked around in the snow and found his gun. He picked it up and tucked it into his waistband.
What the hell was that? He thought as he gathered his things. He could barely comprehend what happened. He needed to find the path .Looking around, Grayson pulled his backpack over his shoulders and started walking. Hours passed as Grayson walked through the frozen unforgiving woods. His hands were so numb that he could barely move his fingers. He started to shiver uncontrollably. He picked up a few small branches and wrapped the remnants of his spare shirt around them. Hands shaking, he took his lighter out of his pocket and lit the cloth. He sat close to the fire and let the heat envelop him.
Looking off in the distance, he saw something moving. He grasped the grip of his pistol and listened. He heard a rhythmic snapping of twigs on the ground. He pulled the pistol from his waistband and aimed into the trees. Searching for his flashlight, he rustled through his backpack, keeping the pistol aimed at the trees. He found the flashlight and pointed it the trees. A figure was walking towards him. He tightened his grip on the gun and stood up. The figure continued its walk, only a few steps away from the flashlights glow. Grayson clenched his teeth and held his breath, trying to stay calm. The figure moved closer, step by step, until he could see it. He dropped the gun into the snow as tears rolled down his face.
The boy stood in the snow, just as Grayson remembered him. He didn’t ask questions, he just fell to his knees and cried. “Come here son.” He said, motioning him to come to him. Dexter didn’t move. “Dexter?” he asked, concerned. The boy still did nothing. Grayson stod up and walked toward him. “Dexter what’s wrong-“
He was interrupted by a splitting pain in his head. It was the most painful thing he had ever experienced in his life. He felt like he was on fire. Screaming louder than he ever had, he fell face first into the snow. Visions started flashing into his head. He saw indescribable horrors so unbearable that the pain was nothing in comparison. He clenched his forehead and dug his fingernails into his skin.
“Dexter!” he screamed at the top of his lungs. “DEXTER!”
Suddenly the pain stopped, like it had never been there before. He opened his eyes and saw that Dexter was gone. The fog around him had gotten thicker, so thick that he couldn’t see his hand in front of him. He grasped around the snow in search of his gun. He couldn’t find it anywhere. He groped the snow for a few more seconds until he found his flashlight. He turned it on and pointed it at the ground, scanning for his gun. He was interrupted by a scream in the distance. He looked up in the direction of the scream. He heard another one, louder than the first. Then he heard a third one.
“Grayson!” He recognized the voice. It was Laura. He stood up.
“Laura?” he screamed.
“Grayson, help me!” she screamed in the distance.
“Laura, I’m coming!” he yelled. He started sprinting in the snow, leaving his gun and backpack behind.
“Grayson!” The screams were getting louder, closer. He continued running as fast as he could through the fog and snow. Several tree branched hit him in the face, but he kept moving. He had to save his wife. She kept screaming his name. She screamed it one last time and then went silent. Grayson stopped running.
“Laura?” Grayson yelled. “Laura!”
His head raced around as he tried to find her, looking every direction possible, until he saw her. She was hanging from a tree. Her arms hung limply at her sides and her feet pointed downward. Her skin was pale-white and frozen. She looked like she had been there for hours.
“No…” Grayson said. “Oh god, please no…” he couldn’t take this again. Before he could contemplate what was happening, the smog beast lunged from the bushes and attacked him. He covered his eyes as the beast scratched at his hands. It let out an ungodly screech that was louder than the last. It popped his eardrums, and suddenly he could hear almost nothing.
He spun on his feet and sprinted through the fog, the beast at his heels. He ran as fast as he could, but his legs started to tremble. They were close to giving out. He kept running as fast as he could, but he was getting slower.
The fog was too thick for him to see the hill. It was steep and covered in sharp rocks. He abruptly tripped over the edge and was sent stumbling down the long drop, bouncing off of the rocks. He tumbled down and hit the ground hard on his side.
Grayson lied in the snow for a few minutes, letting the pain wash over him. He tried to roll onto his back, but it was too painful. His lower spine had shattered. His shoulder was dislocated, and he was too weak to pop it back in. He looked down at his legs and saw one of them was broken. A splintered bone poked out through the flesh and torn fabric of his pants. His entire leg was soaked in blood.
He rolled over onto his stomach and pulled himself forward with his one good arm. He flinched as his entire body hurt. He planted his bloody fingers in the ground and pulled again, taking the pain. He pulled again and again, sobbing as he did. He reached a large tree and grasped the trunk. Sitting up, his shattered ribs dug into his lungs. He propped himself against the tree. With every gasp of air his entire body was in pain. He looked at the trail of blood he had left in front of him.
Closing his eyes, he thought about everything he had gone through, and the sobs flowed violently. He opened his eyes one last time. Dexter stood in front of him. His face was sullen and emotionless. His skin was frozen and dead like his mothers. In the palms of both his hands, he held Grayson’s gun. He motioned for him to take it. Grayson paused, then reached out and took it. He understood what he had to do. He put the barrel to his temple and closed his eyes. A dark, deep voice whispered something so quiet it was almost inaudible.
Grayson opened his eyes.
And pulled the trigger.