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The Whiteout

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The reports began to appear about two months ago. You’d be browsing through news channels, possibly even listening to the TV in the background as you fixed breakfast, when you’d catch a passing note about oncoming snowstorms. The reports started out infrequent, with one or two appearing here and there, and then quickly became the norm as coverage of the storms became the staple topic for any station. Snow was pouring down on pretty much anywhere in the country that was able to consistently stay below 32 degrees fahrenheit. There’d be meteorologists casually remarking about the sudden flurry one day, and then, the next day, through chattering teeth and vision obscured by your own foggy breath, you'd watch the morning broadcast about the white-out that had hit a huge patch of the US.

It was frightening enough for us at that point alone. Snow was coming in at a rate that made it hard to clear roads, and without the ability to navigate their towns or even cities, people were unable to get new food or repair damaged electrical equipment. News companies stayed as active as they could, but moving their camera and mic equipment was implausible in the conditions at hand. Some managed to get helicopters airborne, and the footage they captured was shown on their respective networks as usual. We all did our best to tough it out and hope the storms would end before our food supplies ran out.

At this point, I was uncomfortable but not at risk. Plenty of food, several good blankets, and a water bubbler in my kitchen. I was also one of the people in my rural neighborhood to still have power after a few of the local telephone poles got slammed by a shitload of ice, so I was able to spend the first several days keeping up-to-date on the state of the storms from my laptop, passing time playing games that consumed as little electricity as possible. I tried to watch the news nightly, but on one night in particular I was too tired to stay up for it, so I set it to be recorded. Shows what I get for trying to keep my sleep schedule stable, because I didn't sleep a single hour uninterrupted by waking up due to that night’s extreme cold. That's at least what I attributed it to.

The next morning, the snow eased up. I was relieved, and I went outside to see if I could finally shovel out my walkway and get back into the local road, which would probably have been plowed in a few days. I got dressed in what little snow gear I had, which consisted of a heavy coat, snow pants, gloves and boots, and stepped out of the front door.

Immediately I sank into four-foot snow and almost lost my footing. It was fucking frigid outside. A couple snowflakes that still hovered down towards the endless snow piles hit my face, and I had to lower my head in order to keep the shit out of my eyes. I squinted and surveyed the landscape of the small neighborhood around me. Something caught my eye.

My neighbors, a couple who I’d known for a very long time to be extremely bitter towards one another and spend most of their time working on a divorce while avoiding each other as much as possible, were kneeling hunched-over in the snow. I squinted. They were both in their morning bathrobes, hands ungloved, and the wife was missing her glasses. I breathed out of my mouth and half-watched as it puffed out into the slight breeze. She had told me about a year ago that she had a vision condition and that her eyesight was extremely poor without those glasses. I took a long, shuffling step into the snow, managing not to trip and drown in it, and yelled out to them. “Hey! Are you two alright?”

I paused. No answer. They didn't even acknowledge me. I thought they must be suffering ear issues from the freezing cold. Either that, or I was fucked from the lack of sleep.

I called out again. “You two are in danger out here! You're not wearing enough and if you don't get inside you're probably going to get frostbite! What are you doing?”

Nothing. I wiped some snow off the bridge of my nose, waiting for a response, but nothing came.

But then, something happened. The husband was moving. Even though I could clearly see the both of them in full, I had no idea what he was doing. His arms, fingers and neck visibly twitched for a moment before-

I felt my stomach drop as the man's head jerked a few inches forward and a steady stream of whitish-yellow vomit poured out of his mouth. Most of it pooled in the snow in front of him, and some of it splashed up against the edge of his bathrobe like rotten milk. Even from across the street, I could hear his quiet retching as another spasm hit him and he emptied his stomach completely.

I was about to slog back towards my house and call an ambulance or whatever equivalent emergency vehicle could get there in spite of the snow. I figured they may have been in a state of shock from the temperature or something. I'm not a fucking medical expert, but I had not seen someone throw up that hard in my entire life.

Right before I turned, however, I caught more movement. I focused in on them again.

The husband hunched over even further, extended his fingers, and used both hands to make a clump of snow big enough to fill his palms. The wife mimicked him, her own more slender hands forming her own clump.

I watched as they both brought the snow to their faces. Their heads bobbed into the powdery sludge and at that point I realized exactly what they were doing. They were eating the snow.

I stood, completely petrified with confusion, as they shoveled the stuff into their mouths. It poured messily from in between their fingers, some appearing to melt off of their hands when it came into contact with their breath.

I started to sweat.

As they took a second handful of snow, their faces drenched in clumps of icy, watery stuff that dripped into their mouths and rolled onto their necks, I turned and walked hastily back into the house.

I tried calling 911, but all I heard on the other end of the line was a soft, wet noise, like cups of water being repeatedly poured onto the floor of whoever was on the other end of the line. I hung up.

I flung off my snow gear and quickly grabbed my laptop. Fuck. I'd forgotten to charge it before going to sleep and the cold had sucked out the last of the battery. I was about to shove the power cord into the thing when I remembered the news broadcast I’d recorded last night. As I hit the buttons on the remote, my fingers trembled due to what I could only assume was the cold, but at that point there wasn't a way to tell.

When I watched the recording and I saw the report about the multiple cases of women hospitalized with unexplained pregnancies and unsurvivably low regular body temperatures, I turned the TV off and looked out the window. All my neighbors were hunched over in the snow, stuffing the cold, icy shit into their mouths.

The first couple I had seen were now lying facedown in a pool of rapidly melting snow with a distinctively thick silver tinge. As I watched, a dark red puddle very slowly began to spread into the snow under them, quickly overcoming the color of the silver liquid.

After that, I loaded my gun, a Glock 17 that I'd owned for a year or so, with a the only clip in the house. I took a kitchen knife, all the canned food in the house, any water I could find that didn't come from the tap, and went to my room.

I've been here for the past 5 days and I'm running out of water. I so badly want to go outside and swallow some of that delicious, cold, watery snow, but I don't think I can get my fill without my stomach bursting.

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