Dark Winter

📅 Published on January 24, 2021

“Dark Winter”

Written by Irving Crane
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

ESTIMATED READING TIME — 18 minutes

Rating: 9.50/10. From 2 votes.
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“Look, Daddy! An airplane!” my son Sedrek pointed up at the sky at the brilliant metallic dot cutting a white line across the clear blue sky.

This was something of a family tradition. When I saw airplanes as a little boy, I had to point them out. Now my youngest took up the mantle. His older brother Collin had long since moved past such foolish, childish things.

We wouldn’t have seen this one if it hadn’t been for the thinning leaves of the trees. We were playing a bit of catch before dinner and the airplane had glinted at us from behind the bare topmost branches.

The ball exchanged hands between my son and I a few more times before he exclaimed “Daddy! Daddy! I see another one! And another one!”

I humored him and shielded my eyes and squinted. The air traffic overhead had increased in seconds. There were indeed two more planes just like the first, rather unusual for the skies over Hayrock Glen. The evening sunlight cast a golden hue to the chemtrails that slowly fanned out and made interesting colors. I was moved to stand and watch along with my son.

Those quiet, nondescript moments were what I enjoyed the most about being a father. Those seconds where the world held still just long enough for us to hear the distant birdsong, watch the winking lights on the silent aircraft as they glided overhead, and we just existed without the weight of any great care or obligation.

That was all about to change.

We tossed the ball some more, keeping our eyes on the sky. At one point we could see seven high-altitude flyers. When I could see over eleven, a funny feeling began to crawl into the back of my head.

The feeling got stronger when I saw one or two of the planes do things I had never seen before. I thought their kind always flew in a straight line. Some of them began to make sharp, erratic curves.

Then some of said aircraft got bigger. Which meant they were getting nearer. Something was wrong.

There were flashes of light visible in the sky. You could have almost mistaken it for lightning, but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

Pops and bangs began to reach us. The kind that linger for a long time, as if echoing off the horizon in all directions. They were the sounds of war.

One of the planes made a spiral with its chemtrail as it went into a tailspin. I instinctively ran for my son even though the plane still had a lot of falling to do.

Its trajectory changed just enough that it missed our yard, but not by much.  It had passed by so closely that I could see inside the cockpit. The sound of the impact was deafening. That must have been the cue for all hell to break loose, because other airplanes spewing their plumes of ice and exhaust shimmered as they came within heart-stopping proximity of our small house and debris and fire fell like rain. I told my son to go down into the basement with Mommy, who was in the doorway nearly in hysterics.

Me, I was rooted to the spot. I had to see how this would all unfold.

One airplane glided so low that our trees touched its undercarriage and its chemtrail exhaust burned my nostrils and stung my skin. It skidded across the empty field at the bottom of our hill like a great stone skipping on a pond.

Other aircraft became apparent. The kind that were actually meant for acrobatics, American fighter jets. They darted among the slower, larger aircraft like hornets bringing down pigeons. It was in that moment that a detail pierced my senses: The planes that were being shot down had no markings. No numbers, no decals, no nothing, as if they were ghosts.

That was enough for me. I ran inside as another explosion rattled our windows and shook the ground. I joined my wild-eyed wife and our children in the basement. I suddenly doubted if the basement would provide sufficient shelter from a falling airplane.

The minutes crawled by. The din of war faded away.  I was still uncertain about the safety of coming upstairs. But I did. I stuck my head outside to see empty skies and smell the oil and burning metal and other harsh aromas of slain aircraft.

“Honey, get the news on the television!” I called back into the house. Bursts of light from gunfire and explosions bubbled on the horizon, telling me that whatever fight there was, it had moved past us.

What had I just witnessed? Had some sort of terrorist attack just been thwarted? As the sky calmed, so had my fears. I would find out very soon that my troubles had just begun.

Stepping into the house felt like crossing a threshold between insanity and normalcy, suddenly in the domestic ambiance of the house where my wife and two sons gathered around the television. She looked at me with her great dark eyes.

“What’s the news saying about all this, babe?”

My wife wrinkled her nose when she saw me.

“You smell like you’ve been dunked in ammonia or something.”

I was in such a heightened state that I had forgotten about the close encounter with the chemtrails from one of the doomed airplanes.

“Yeah, I got sprayed by something. I’ll shower in a second. Is the news giving us anything at all?”

“I can’t find anything. There’s no emergency broadcast or anything.”

Surely there had to be. Airplanes being shot down over American soil by our own fighter jets? There had to be something any minute. No news outfit worth their salt was going to just let a story opportunity like that just slide off the hook. Or were they?

The sky was the last place I had seen anything about what had just happened. I slept uneasily that night. I kept grabbing my phone and looking to see if anything hit the news. The internet was eerily silent, reporting on everything else but the takedown of nondescript aircraft.

I thought I would have been too short on sleep to get up with the alarm, but no. I made it just fine. Plus too there was the whole need to work for a living. I cursed myself for being a devoted father and husband like I was. I had even gotten up early enough to get out the door with a few extra minutes.

I was sure the school wouldn’t want to pay me any overtime, so I took the time to do a little patrol around the area and see if I could see anything. I remembered the crash in the cornfield that was visible from my own yard.

Finding the wounded field had been a cinch. The landscape was bare like the surface of the moon. There was the earth dug up and upset by the impact of the aircraft and the explosion. But there was no debris and no people. As if the plane that had been shot down evaporated and nobody thought it worthwhile to regulate rubbernecking.

I stood next to the field of blackened corn stalks for a long moment, leaning on the hood of my truck with the door open and the gentle sounds of Kenny Chesney drifting out.

Nothing to see here. How convenient. I brushed off the conspiracy theory devil and went to work. Couldn’t keep the school waiting. There were wastebaskets to empty from under teachers’ desks and from student bathrooms. Not to mention the mop work made for me from the kids just existing.

The world as I knew it seemed to go on as if nothing had ever happened. But something had happened. It would take several days for it to manifest, the same way it takes autumn leaves a while to fall after turning colors.

I hadn’t noticed the extra child or three that were in the nurse’s office. This had happened for a good four days in a row before I took notice. Their crying was on the level of a steam whistle, their faces the color of ripe tomatoes. The volume of traffic to the school nurse never decreased after that. It increased, if anything. I would be pushing a broom across the old tiles and catch a glimpse of the nurse looking the same way each time: bewildered.

One day, I didn’t see the school nurse at all. I saw one of the teachers wearing the hapless, helpless expression reserved for the nurse as she looked over the wall-to-wall mass of kids.

Then there weren’t any kids, any teachers, or anyone else at the school and the doors were locked up until further notice.

The intense headaches became a town-wide problem and the small hospital was overwhelmed in less than three days. Men, women and children had such agony locked up their skulls that the only way they could find relief was through heavy sedation, and there wasn’t enough of that stuff to go around.

I was out of work with the school locked up, so I was at home full-time with my wife who couldn’t stop screaming. She clawed at her scalp, pressed her palms against her ears, rocked side to side on the bed, unable to reach some caliper, some vice, some piston deep inside her skull that wouldn’t relent.

I don’t know that I have ever felt so helpless than I did right then. My wife was right there in front of me locked in a suffering that I couldn’t comprehend and I couldn’t do anything for her.

I had tried running to the dollar store for some over-the-counter headache relievers. They were closed in the middle of their business hours. Everyone must have been home with a migraine. I peered in through the windows. Their shelves of meds stood with gaping spaces where all the Tylenol, Advil, Aspirin, and similar used to be.

I looked around at the landscape, pretty sure I could hear moans in the silence between breezes. My sighs rose in frozen clouds of mist. The air was getting colder by the day. There couldn’t have been a worse time of year for things to go south like that.

My chest tightened when I looked up at the radio tower. Someone was at the top right next to the blaring red light that silently pulsed – RED ALERTRED ALERTRED ALERT – and did a swan dive onto the earth below. There was no way that was an accident. I drove over to the twisted body of a teenage boy and called 911. There was no answer. I could barely process anything. I ran in several short directions all around the body, waiting for the solution to enter my brain. There was nobody to get. There was nothing I could do. The boy gazed up with eyes that were just as blue, just as clear, just as cold as the sky that met his stare. I couldn’t just leave him. But I couldn’t do anything for him. My family needed me.

I got home and did recon around the house, snatching up and hiding anything that I so much as suspected could be used as a tool for suicide.

My wife started repeating over and over, “Kill me, kill me, just kill me, I can’t stand it, just kill me.” She brought back the body of the boy into my memory and he started to look more and more like her with each repetition.

No sooner had I gotten home and shut the front door than it was drummed with frantic knocking. It was our neighbor, a kindly old gentleman named Frank that always had a greeting when we crossed paths. He was frantic, saying that his wife had lost consciousness and became unresponsive after days of the crushing headache. He was trying to get through to emergency services, but nobody was answering the phones. They had to have been glutted with cases. I remembered the nurse’s office being wall-to-wall with kids. That’s how I picture the Hayrock Glen clinic. I felt guilty telling Frank that I didn’t know what to do. It was the truth. But it wasn’t enough. He went inside his house and we never saw him again.

I brought a glass of water to my wife who had somehow managed to fall asleep. I thought it would be cruel to wake her up. I leaned over her and felt a sinking feeling in my stomach. Her eyes weren’t completely closed.

“Babe?” I prompted.

She didn’t answer. I gave her a gentle shake. Nothing. Then I gave her gentle slaps on the cheek, called her name with increasing volume. Her head lolled, but it was from my motions, not hers.

She had a pulse. And shallow breath.

That was when time truly started to slow down for me. I kept the television on and tuned to the news. They weren’t reporting anything pertinent at all. No mention of the airplanes or the pandemic of migraines that were causing people to pass out or commit suicide.

I was just present enough to feed myself and the kids and put them to bed. The rest of me was poised to react to the slightest sign of stirring from my wife. For three days she was out like that. For three days nobody answered the phone at the hospital. Three days before she would open her eyes and weakly call my name.

I almost wish she had kept her eyes closed. Then I wouldn’t have to know just how much worse things were going to get.

When things were finally a billowing dumpster fire of a nightmare, the news finally started reporting on what was happening.

* * * * * *

I guided my wife to the restroom. Her eyes ticked all over as if they would suddenly start seeing. Her one free hand, the one that wasn’t holding my hand, trembled as it felt the wall like the shaking antennae of a cockroach. I didn’t want to see her eyes and yet I couldn’t stop looking at them. They were completely clouded over, circles of gray adrift in their seas of white.

After she was done mourning over the loss of her vision, we got on with helping her wherever she needed to go. She stubbornly tried to remember a few key paths around the house.

We spent a lot of time in front of the television together.

A plump brunette woman prattled away as if everything had just been learned in the last hour.

“The entire United States has gotten a headache, thanks to a pathogen that has researchers baffled as to its origins or its means of distribution. Seemingly overnight, businesses are shutting their doors and hundreds of breadwinners are going to bed to sleep off a migraine that has broken all records of pain levels. Nine out of ten people that succumb to the pathogen and the ensuing migraines will develop complete and total blindness.”

The camera switched to an aging woman wearing a white lab coat and thin-rimmed glasses.

“The inflammation is so intense that the optic nerves are crushed. But there’s other data that suggests that the ensuing fever also cooks the retina. So it’s a double-tap, you could say, of making sure that the infected lose their sight.”

They cut back to the reporter.

“There are some that are apparently immune to the pathogen, but they are the exception by far.”

* * * * * *

There was a knock at the door. I was about to go all out ballistic on whoever was on the other side of that door wanting something at the worst possible time.

It was the neighbor from across the street. The one that couldn’t see. But he was accompanied by someone that could see. An older Mexican gentleman, Rory Mendez.

“Colm? Colm, you in there?”

I pinched both of my temples and opened the door, looking into the blind eyes of Olly Griffith.

“Colm, Rory is trying to sell me something and I can’t tell if he’s being straight with me or not.”

“For God’s sake, Olly, why not?”

“Because I can’t see!”

“Well, what do you want me to do about it?”

“Double check the deal that he’s giving me! Make sure that he’s giving me what he says he is and that he’s taking the payment we agreed to!”

I looked into Mr. Mendez’s eyes and saw the frustration kindling there. As far as I knew, Rory was an honest man.

The two of us that could see guided the one that couldn’t back to his own property. Rory steered us toward a small pile of lumber stacked next to a larger one.

“He wants to buy a fourth of a cord for fifty bucks. Now I need you to make sure I’m giving him fifty and that he’s getting a fourth.”

I gave Olly a look that I knew he couldn’t see. Part of me hoped that he could feel it. I went from being useless to being a critical component of a business deal that had nothing to do with me. I waited for some sign that his conscience might be getting heavy. But nothing. He stood waiting like any other old man waiting on customer service to clear the runway for his takeoff.

“Alright, Olly. You indeed have fifty dollars in your hand from Mr. Mendez. And his apportioned wood amounts to a fourth of a cord if I’ve ever seen a fourth.”

“M’kay,” Olly said, all the pleasantness gone, as if dismissing a genie now that his wish had been granted.

Rory and I exchanged looks.

“How you holding up, Rory?” I said with a knowing smirk.

He shrugged. “I might get some respect now that people can’t see I’m Mexican.”

We both laughed. Our faces of amusement both burned out at the same pace and the serious, sober glowering draped us.

“Think we can stay gainfully employed because of these?” Rory said, pointing to his eyes.

“The work will be steady. I don’t know about the pay.”

Rory flashed a grin of white teeth and nodded to the door.

“I’m not a stingy old shit, Colm. You need me, I’m right over there.”

“I appreciate ya.”

He nodded and excused himself.

* * * * * *

Winter crept in and wouldn’t let up. It was like a bad scene from a movie where all the characters are in the trash compactor and the walls just keep closing in to crush them.

The cold got colder, the dark skies got darker, and the tension in our little town grew. It didn’t bring things to a grinding halt. People still bartered and traded what they could and I was called upon frequently to oversee such transactions, often when I was in the middle of something. In exchange, I was usually fed and so was my family. There were no generous smiles to go with these moments. They were matters of necessity and people would have been glad to hold the lines of their own little bubbles and brandish their consciousness of caste and race and lineage and all else. But no. Now they needed each other, or else they might not survive to see… or, well… experience spring.

It took longer for these harsh realities to sink in with some people than others.

Father Igor Corbett stood outside the church hollering away for people to come in for service on Sundays and any day he got desperate enough to play the part of the holy barker, calling for a special emergency service.

I stood and watched him for a little while, the same way a child watches a wounded beetle struggle its way across a hot sidewalk.

“Children! God is still with you! With us! With Hayrock Glen! Now is the time to walk by faith, not by sight! Come and have your thirsty souls quenched with the Good Word! I can still show you the way to peace and relief!”

“You can’t see, asshole,” someone said.

Father Corbett’s pale face flushed rose for a few seconds, a leftover reaction from when he was more in control of things. The blindness changed that. He went to his usual color. Then went pale. Then he began weeping pearly tears onto his long black coat. Nobody was going to come into the church and hand him their money anymore. At least not until they got some firewood or food to go with his sermons.

It was almost a cruel joke, the way many people besides myself had snuck past him and were sitting in the sanctuary. We mostly sat with our heads bowed. There were probably fifteen or twenty. Nobody spoke to one another. Partly so as not to alert Father Corbett that there were people enjoying God’s presence free of charge, and partly because many had no awareness of their neighbors, guided inside by a seeing companion.

I dared to look around me one second too long, and I locked eyes with none other than Ron Simpson. He usually had nothing but smoldering hate for me in his eyes, but this time his gaze was gentler. Not gentle. Gentler.

He came over and sat close so we could whisper without disturbing the over-eager priest outside.

“Colm, good to see you have your sight.”

“Good in most ways. Lots of people ask me to play broker for them. I don’t know how they’ll manage if I ever go back to work.”

“What, the school is locked up?”

“You think teachers are going to shepherd a classroom blind? Most of them have a hard time doing it when their eyes are fine.”

He smirked.

“How is the family dealing with everything?”

I knew the question that was draped by those neutral words. He wanted to know how Elaine was. The one girl he almost married, until I came along and stole her heart.

Ron was a man that played the field and always would. I think that’s one of the big reasons that she let him go. And he continued to play the field after she was gone. But the question mark that hung above the heads of everyone too bored to do anything with their lives, was if he would have gone through with it and settled down for one girl. His family isn’t friendly to me for this reason. I radiated more commitment than he did.

“The only person that’s gotten the blindness is my wife. Both of the boys are just fine for some reason.”

This news physically jolted him. He raised his head to slowly look at all the panes of stained glass, then he got up and excused himself. I ruffled my eyebrows at him as he carefully exited the church. Sobs were beginning to shake Father Corbett’s voice.

Suddenly alone, I felt the need to chat with someone else. The plump figure of Bill Dalby was on the opposite side of me. The poor man was cursed with looking like Hitler, if the Fuhrer had eaten three square meals a day at McDonald’s. He sensed my attention and looked at me with those light gray eyes of his. I almost thought he was blind until I saw his pupils.

I scooched down to him.

“What do you think, Bill?” I said.

He grunted. “I think the government owes us a goddam explanation, that’s what I think. Did you see any of those airplanes our boys were knocking out of the sky?”

He answered before I could, “Blank! Spotless as cans of soup! They weren’t warplanes! They were commercial! Now let me tell you, my brother over in Omaha watched half a dozen of those planes fly over like they had the run of the place, and there’s a base less than a mile away. You mean to tell me these things flew all over the US and not one American pilot acted immediately? I don’t like the smell of this one, son. That’s got dirt of all kinds all over it.”

Just as Bill’s words were about to make me roll my eyes, he had me hanging on to every word. Assuming everything he said was true…

I glanced down at my phone and politely excused myself from Bill who, as usual, hadn’t even begun to get into everything he had to say.

I passed by the blind Father Corbett who could no longer speak intelligibly. He just stood and sobbed with his arms outstretched – wait. Was he holding a collection plate this whole time? Really? Not that many would actually see him, I guess.

The meek will inherit the earth, not the mewling, I said to myself.

* * * * * *

New Year’s Eve came and went with utter silence. If anyone drank, they did it at home. I had my share. But I had to be careful. Elaine would never see me sneaking drinks, but I didn’t want to upset her radar; that wife radar that women have. It was the only secret I kept from my wife. Sorry, but sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s got to do.

Secrets.

I wondered if Elaine kept any secrets from me. You get married and then everything is open, including the things that you thought would always be private. Somehow the other person always ends up finding out. Somebody from your past calls for the first time in twelve years, just as your spouse is the only person home.

An email from a coworker is discovered that just happens to be perfect for taking out of context.

Then it hit me. It’s the dead of winter. Everyone is blind. I can go through my wife’s phone. One of those things you think of when hammered.

Finding my wife’s phone was a breeze. Doing so with muddied coordination was more challenging than I expected. But I got it without making much noise.

All of her texts were from months ago. Most of them were from me. One thread was from someone with no name, just a series of hearts for the first and last name fields.

My inebriated brain triple-checked that it was a separate thread from my messages.

She had been talking to someone behind my back, using eager, surreptitious words that someone like me was never supposed to discover. I eventually found a message where she called him by name.

Ron.

He must have found a way to get her attention again. I felt that moment coming on, where I bask in the bitterness of the revelation and try to sort out what it was that caused her to seek out greener pastures. Before that could happen, I needed to check something else.

I accessed her voicemail.

There was one from Ron, dated from the Sunday that I had run into him at the church.

He was breaking up with her. He told her that he had no interest in caring for a blind woman and their plans were off. It was terse and cold, just the way I had always figured him.

I stood by the doorway to the boys’ bedroom for a long while, reviewing mental footage of me and them and her. Questioning just how good of a father I really was. If there was something a character like Ron could give them that I couldn’t. Nah. He was the type that would set them up with TV dinners and candy and video games each time they would want attention. He couldn’t be a father.

So what did Elaine see in him that she didn’t see in me?

Maybe she didn’t even think in terms of how her decisions would affect others. Maybe she was more like him than I ever realized.

I decided to drink some more.

* * * * * *

I woke up to pounding on the front door.

An officer was at the door who had clear blue eyes.

“Sorry to bother you, sir, but I’ve got an official letter for you, for your eyes only.”

I opened it with shaking hands, and I almost couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The officer paraphrased the contents as if he didn’t think I could read.

“It’s January 1st, so the local schools are all being turned into assistance and education centers for the visually impaired. You’re being mandated by the Federal government to serve as an instructor inside the institution and as a broker for business dealings outside. You will be compensated very well for your cooperation. You and your family will never go hungry or cold again.”

He entered my kitchen and pulled out a chair and sat in it backwards.

I looked at the letter. Looked to him. Gestured to it with one of my hands and shook my head.

He smirked.

“I need your signature before I leave. Otherwise, I can’t leave.”

I stared at the letter, not seeing the words. Then I saw my wedding ring on my trembling hand.

I could have played the desperate betrayed husband card and refused, just to see if they’d haul me off to prison so that my wife would get nothing. But that would mean the boys would get nothing.

No. I couldn’t do that. I wasn’t Ron.

When you say “I do,” you mean it. You commit to forever, no matter how long that ends up being. It was going to be a little longer for me than her from then on, but… oh, well. I had more to live for than just her.

I signed the paper.

We stepped out onto my porch and gazed off in the general direction of where the school buses were headed. They were filled to the brim, what with seeing drivers being a commodity.

“The meek shall inherit the earth,” the man mused out loud.

I shrugged my shoulders. “I’ve met some really brash people without their eyesight.”

“Well, they’ll have to learn to be meek if they want to gain any independence. Right now, all these people needing your help have the system in a lockdown. We need you to help these people stand on their own two feet and see with their own two hands.”

I looked through the open window at my wife who sat, rather symbolically, on the couch in front of the television as she “watched” the news. Perhaps the people I was going to help would see value in me that she didn’t.

I would let her hear Ron’s message eventually.

Rating: 9.50/10. From 2 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Written by Irving Crane
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Irving Crane


Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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