Saturday, 18 February 2017

Frostbitten

I remember when I was a child, how I'd play in the snow. It was lovely, like nature's blanket that covered everything. I loved to play in it with my family, my friends. How I'd always try, and fail, to make a perfect spherical snowball like those I saw in my favourite cartoons. It didn't matter, I threw them all the same. Either that or I'd try to roll them up into a bigger ball to make a snowman. Heh, it was magical, even when it was crappy.


Now, I can't stand the sight of it.


I was about eight when my mum, dad, younger sister and I decided we wanted to spend our winter in the countryside. The city didn't get nearly as much snow as it used to. Carbon emissions, I suppose. We took a train to town near some fields. The snow there was nice as it was everywhere else. Four inches deep apparently. Whoever had shoveled off the tracks really did their jobs. I looked around, a few cars, pretty small road though.


I could hardly wait to go to the Bed and Breakfast mum and dad had rented out for the next few days. We took a taxi out to the end of town, and I watched the people go by. It made me smile and think of Santa's elves, and I was in his village. As we went over a bridge, I looked down to the mostly- frozen water of the river. My mum was currently talking to the taxi driver.


"Have any plans to see your family?" She asked. I couldn't see it from the back seat but it was likely with a smile.


"Yeah, got a train ticket reserved for tomorrow." He replied. "How long are you all planning on staying out here?"


"About two nights." Mum replied. "Not much snow out in London, so thought we'd come out here."


As they reached the Bed and Breakfast, the driver wished them well and set off back to town. The owner, a man who was probably in his 40s from what I could tell. Him and his daughter, who was at least 10 years older than me, helped us move our bags into our rooms.


"Hope you enjoy your stay." The daughter smiled.


"But just so you know, I should warn you. Keep the windows closed after dark. And even more important is that you don't look out them." The owner informed us. "After 11,make sure everything is shut and unable to be seen through."


"Why?" My mum asked with a frown. He then told us about animals that could get agitated if they were seen. Accepting this, we headed to our rooms. My sister, Lyra, stayed with my Dad whilst I had a room with my mum. There was a TV that only really showed a few channels, some tea bags and milk in packets, a kettle and a bar of candy that seemed to be an odd old brand that you didn't think still got sold but, low and behold, it was still good. I finished it and played my Game Boy whilst mum read.


When my mum told me I had to go to the bathroom to clean my teeth, I wasn't very co operative because of not wanting to move from my spot. But since she was still my mum, she managed to coax me out of the covers. I ran to the bathroom, but stopped once I took that first step. I withdrew my foot once I felt how cold it was. The sudden lack of heat overwhelming me. It felt like the tile I stepped on was a block of ice. But, I walked in once I got my bearings. Rummaging in my toiletry bag for my toothbrush. I looked to see a small opaque window open. The cold feeling made sense to me. Probably there for the summer, since a bathroom could either be really hot or really cold. Try to guess which one this was.


I went to close the window, before pausing and sneaking a peak out. The snow was such a wonderful sight and wanted to get one last glimpse before I went to bed. It was beautiful as ever. It had stopped falling for the night though In the dark however, I noticed something I almost didn't catch. A woman, standing under the trees. I couldn't see much of her, but she had long, black hair, wore a white dress and her arms were pale. As she turned her head I quickly shut the window, feeling bad for eavesdropping.


I ran back to bed, where my mum turned off the light. Though in my bed, I started to shiver slightly. cold had followed me, it seemed, and I couldn't shake it, no matter how thick the duvet was. I tried to ignore it, but my attempts to tough it out failed. Moving around helped a little bit, but that was it. Of course, mum was already asleep, just like that. I didn't want to wake her and I was too cold to leave my covers.


***


I lay in my bed, curled into a ball and still feeling the cold under my covers. I was unsure whether or not I slept. I had my coat and gloves ready as we were heading straight out after the breakfast. I had some slices of toast with jam, Lyra ate cereal whilst my parent both had their respective Full English breakfasts. After that, we walked into town instead of a taxi. It was pleasant. I looked to the river bay we drove by. The woman didn't seem to be there this time.


It was a wonderful day for us, walking around the town doing a bit of shopping, through the fields for a walk. I enjoyed every minute of it, even when Lyra pushed a snowball under his hood and the snow went all down my back.


Once we arrived back at the Bed and Breakfast, I decided to go out again later. Lyra came too. It was 15:30 so it would get dark pretty soon at this time of year. We had a pleasant stroll to the park. We walked in the woods nearby when it got dark pretty quickly, but not that it mattered to us. Though, we had to promise to be back quickly because of the owner's warning.


In the woods, we came across an cottage. It looked pretty abandoned so we entered. It looked like some of the snow from outside had gotten in the door, probably from the shattered windows.  A chair was sprawled over in the corner, one of its legs having given out, the wood old and splintered. There was a table in the other room though, albeit on its last legs. A ceramic figure stood in the centre. I walked around, coming across a door. It was the only room that was locked. I looked through a keyhole in the door. Aside from all the snow in the room, it was empty. There was a bed, a nightstand and a cupboard. They were all, of course, old and worn down. The entirety of the room was covered in a dirty sheet of snow. Nothing notable besides that. Well, there was one more thing actually. A single window; the only one in one piece.


I looked out and saw an eerily familiar sight; the woman from the window standing a few metres away from the house. Getting a clear look at her, I could see an white gown that I saw in old pictures. For a moment, it seemed like the dress was a part of the snow itself. Her skin was a sickly pale. Her long, black hair stood completely still, only shifting occasionally. She stood in place, staring right back at me with blank, soulless eyes. A slight smile was on her face. In a moment, it has seemed like all my curiosity vanished in the wind. The familiar coldness I'd suffered through last night returned and I began to shiver, as if my coat, gloves and hat were non-existent.


I ran to Lyra, who was still looking around the house. I grabbed her frantically and ran out. I bolted out the front door, despite the protests she gave. I ran through the woods as snow began falling, but it didn't seem so beautiful to me. I dashed and fell in through the front door of the Bed and Breakfast and went to my mum and dad. Terrified, I held onto my mum and cried as I told her everything. My parents hugged me and reassured me.


“Don’t worry.” Mum said.


“We’ll leave tomorrow and forget about this.” Dad continued, giving me a tight hug. "I promise we'll be here for you. Everything will be fine." You have no idea what I’d give to forget.


***


I never left my mum's side all through the night. We stayed in and ordered a takeaway from one of the local restaurants. I was shivering even more, but it wasn't just because of the cold. No, the woman's image was embedded in my mind, like a brand that froze instead of burning.


"You're really cold aren't you." Mum said and wrapped her arms around me. I was still freezing but... It was comforting. Unfortunately, the same couldn't be said for sleep. As I drifted off into my dreams, I found myself in the cottage once again.


Like last time, I ran to the door, but was locked. Even the shattered windows, which I would’ve taken my chances with at this point, were no longer shattered, but completely fixed. I began to hear footsteps outside, scrunching in the snow. Even that young, I didn’t need to guess who it was. With each step, there was a small pause. Each gap mocked me, daring me to try and find a way out. I ran around her house, trying every door and window there was. Anything that might’ve been strong enough to break the window I was too weak to pick up. It was then that I noticed the table. The ceramic figure still lay upon it. I grabbed the figure immediately and tossed it to a window as the door handle in the front door turned. The window shattered and there was one final pause.


I slowly opened my eyes. The sound of whistling and flapping in the air met my ears. Once again finding myself shaking, I looked to the foot of the bed. She stood there, staring right back at me. Except, she was different. Her skin, it was tinted slightly blue whilst her hair, once straight and black, was now white and messy. Her nails, once clean and short, were sharp and messy. Claws, would be a better name for them as they were. Mist was released from her mouth. and had already spread across the room. Her eyes, once whitewash and blank, were now yellow and glowing. As she took a step towards me, I screamed as loud as I could, trying to wake up as many people as I could. Unfortunately, no one seemed to hear my calls. The wind increased, letting what was essentially a snowstorm loose inside the room.


My mum woke up at my sudden movement and screamed upon seeing the beast in our room. She... No, it's eyes turned to mum for a moment. As she sat up quickly, it drifted to the side of the bed and leaned over at us. My mum tried to find something to grab, she found everything on the side was frozen. It let out a large breath, the mist covering mum completely. Almost instantly, she began to shiver. Mum’s own breath was shaky, her eyes widening. She looked down to her hands and screamed more. Her fingers were turning blue, and it was spreading. Soon, her arms, legs, waist chest and her head were covered. She dropped dead, having been claimed by frostbite. She looked to me, her yellow eyes glowing even brighter than before it all but blinded me.


I looked around and it was gone, along with mum’s body. The snow was still everywhere, the curtains on the window still flapping. I simply sat in place, attempting to process what had happened. After a few moments that might’ve very well been eternal I quickly ran to dad and Lyra’s room. I threw the door open and entered. Same snow, and the same lack of people. I fell back, my breathing shaky. Tears welled up in my eyes.


***

Now I walks through my house, a weary look on my face. My body shivers. I consider turning the heating on but I know it won't help; it never helps when it's near, and It's always there. Even after taking everything from me, it watches me. Sometimes I can see it, sometimes I can't. Sometimes in a snowstorm I see its shadow out my window. Vague, but just enough to remind me who was there.

Sometimes I dream about being back in those woods, the cottage even being still there. The police couldn't find it when I told them about it. I'd found it was gone too. I remember holding the expression of shock, one that soon turned to pure and utter disgust as in the cottage's place was nothing but a thick sheet of snow. Despite that, she's still there. Always there. I always hide in the cottage. A way out is impossible, in more ways than one.


As make my way up the stairs I look out the window. Through the wind, it's right outside my yard, its misty breath covering most of the front. But even despite that, I can still see it staring back at me; smiling.