Snow Angels are Illegal Where I Live

📅 Published on August 22, 2020

“Snow Angels are Illegal Where I Live”

Written by Themascura
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on 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


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My town is in one of the northwestern states, which, if you know anything about the northeast, means snow like… six months out of the year. To make things worse, my town is approximately in the middle of bumfuck nowhere. We deal with it about as well as every other tiny northwestern town, which…

Well, all you need to know is that there’s a town up here that is literally based around a prison. That’s it. That’s the whole point of the town. Pretty much just to house the people who work there.

It’s pretty dismal sometimes.

So you’d think, given the lack of other things to do, they’d embrace all the types of winter entertainment. And you wouldn’t be wrong! Snowmen are an art form in my town. Ice sculptures get pretty competitive. Tobogganing and sledding are Big. Deals.

But snow angels are illegal.

In fact, I didn’t even know they were a thing until I saw someone doing it in a film one time. I was over at a friend’s house, and they had an older cousin visiting from out of town. She’d brought the tape with her; it was one of her favorites. She thought we’d love it. She saw Harry and I staring at the TV in confusion and laughed at us.

“What, you’ve never seen a snow angel?” she asked us mockingly. I don’t think it was malicious. I think she was just teasing the way some people do. You know the whole ‘kids these days’ trope that every generation thinks they invented. We both shook our heads and she climbed to her feet, gesturing for us to follow her while she suited up to go outside. She got as far as falling on her back in the yard, us following her like ducklings, before my friend’s dad came running out of the garage yelling at the top of his lungs.

I’d never heard Harry’s dad yell like that before. Ever. And I’ve never heard him raise his voice since. Scared the bejesus out of all of us, including Harry’s cousin. He sent Harry and I inside, and I didn’t hear what he said to her, but she was as white as a sheet by the time he was done. They came back in afterwards and Harry’s dad called mine to come pick me up.

Harry’s cousin never came to visit again, but I never forgot. I knew there was something wrong with making a snow angel, I just never knew what.

Harry and I never discussed it. We went back to sledding and snow forts and never said a word. We both knew that something big had just happened, but neither of us was old enough, or mature enough, to really take any meaning from it.

Nearly a decade passed before we thought of it again.

Harry and I were both pretty average-looking kids. Neither of us had a whole lot going on to give us any kind of social edge, so dating in our very small high school, where the boys outnumbered the girls by something like seventy-five percent, was pretty much a crapshoot, and neither of us was interested in the male half of the population.

So when Harry formed a crush on Melissa, we both kind of knew it was doomed. I was his best friend, though! It was my job to be supportive, so I didn’t say anything. Like. At all. I didn’t know the first thing about being a wingman, but I did hesitantly suggest that Harry might get Melissa’s attention by doing something ‘cool’. Which, in teenage boy, translates to stupid and/or dangerous.

Unfortunately, Harry took that advice to heart.

God how I wish I could take those words back now.

It was late October and it was already snowing pretty regularly. Nothing bad yet, but more than just a light dusting. Halloween fell on a Wednesday that year, so the weekend before a few of us got together for a kind of preemptive party. We’d basically turned it into an excuse to party the whole week. We were out at Harry’s new house; his dad had recently built a really nice new place outside of town. It was kind of isolated, but it also had a hot tub, so.

And anyway, the isolation worked in our favor. Nobody was liable to file a noise complaint or a curfew violation on us way out here.

The irony is, Harry’s dad had actually given us permission to have a little get-together as long as we promised to be responsible. I guess it was because Harry was kind of going through a hard time, what with his mom having left and all.

It was a full moon that night. It wasn’t snowing, but it had that morning. There was still a pretty thick carpet of it all across the lawn. There were eight of us. Four boys, four girls. Harry and myself, Melissa, her best friend Joan, her little sister Nicole, and their boyfriends, Travis, Hunter and Chad. Melissa and Nicole were in the hot tub with Chad and Travis, while Joan and Hunter and Harry and I were playing pong on the deck.

Harry and I were losing. Pretty badly, actually. Travis was mocking us from the hot tub, his arm around Melissa.

“Nice shot, asshole,” he commented after one of Harry’s swings had gone wild. The ball tapped impatiently across the deck, careening off into the snow beyond. Harry made an impatient sound. I could tell Travis’ comments were starting to get under his skin. His jaw was clenched and I could visibly see him holding back his temper as he marched down the steps to collect the ball.

“Come on!” I hissed at Travis under my breath.  “Quit being a douche–”

Travis opened his mouth, most likely to say something nasty, but before he could get the words out I heard Harry call out, “Hey Melissa, want to see something cool?”

We all turned expectantly just in time to see Harry pitch backwards into the snow with his arms splayed out.

“Oh yeah, real cool, turd money.” Travis jeered, “You fell down! Way to go. I bet your mom is real proud.”

“What did you just say?” Harry stopped mid-snow angel. We all kind of fell silent for a second. Even Melissa looked shocked. She pushed Travis’ arm away and scooted to the other side of the tub, giving him a look of disgust.

“Too far, Travis.” She muttered. Maybe he knew it too. I’d like to think he was going to apologize, but Harry was already getting up and Melissa was leaning out of the tub – trying to change the subject, maybe – and asking Harry what he’d done, and then we all heard it. None of us seemed to know what it was at first. It was… hard to recognize. A short, sharp sound, as if someone had just been socked in the gut.

You know that sound you make when you’ve had the breath knocked out of you? It was like that.

“It’s a snow angel,” I said into the silence afterwards, trying to tell myself that it was just one of those weird sounds that came out of the woods sometimes.

“Oh.” Melissa furrowed her brow.

“Hey, I think I’ve heard of those.” Hunter put in, “One of the kids from Moore got arrested for making one in the town square after the game. His parents had to come pick him up.”

“Let’s Google it! Inside–” I was quick to suggest, but then the second sob interrupted me before I could get further than a few steps toward the house.

“What was that?” Joan asked. Harry finished climbing to his feet and stooped to pick up the ping pong ball.

I didn’t hear whatever Harry’s response was. I was too busy looking. Frozen in place. Riveted by the sight of the single, pale hand draped across the edge of the snow angel’s ‘wing’. This time we all heard the wail. And knew exactly what it was. The identical looks of confusion and fear that flickered across all of our faces gave it away.

“What the fuck?” Travis said.

“Oh my god!” Joan shrieked.

“Harry!” I yelped. I don’t have any conscious memory of crossing the deck. I blinked and suddenly I was there, leaning over the railing and grabbing him by the shirt. Hauling him away from the snow and toward the steps. Meanwhile, an ethereal vision was rising out of the snow angel as if it were rising on a pedestal. Blonde hair coated in frost. Pale skin mottled with blackened spots. Blue lips bowed back in a grimace of misery.

She was wearing a brittle gray robe. It crackled as she climbed from her knees to her feet.

“What the fuck, what the fuck, what the fuck!” Travis was wheezing a new mantra somewhere behind us.

“GET IN THE HOUSE!” someone else yelled. I held Harry’s arms, helping him climb over the railing. We raced into the house hand in hand, a frenzy of splashing and screaming going on around us. I sprinted as far as the couch. Before Harry dropped my hand and went back to lock the glass door. Nicole and Joan huddled against the far wall, sobbing softly. Melissa ran to the kitchen. Travis hovered near the window, staring in shock.

“The fuck is that?” He squealed. I wanted to cover my eyes, but I couldn’t help but look. I was drawn to that face. The look of terror and pain on it. I could still hear the sobbing through the glass as it tottered unsteadily to the steps and began to drag itself up onto the deck. It– she– moved so wrong. So stiffly!

“Oh, god,” Harry muttered beside me. I managed to glance at him, only to see him looking back at the snow. Not the thing, but the place it had come from.

There was another hand edging out of the snow angel. This one wrinkled and shriveled.

“We have to get out of here,” Melissa came out of the kitchen carrying a kitchen knife, “We have to get back to town and call the police.” Harry’s place was brand new. The landlines hadn’t been hooked up yet.

“Yeah,” I agreed.

“Just one problem.” Harry put in, lifting a hand and singling out the keys and phones sitting out beside the hot tub. Travis’s keys. Joan’s and Nicole’s, too. We all shared a look, because that only left two cars: My beaten-up Suburban, which barely had heat – not usually a huge problem, since I was typically dressed while inside it, but given that half the party was still soaked from the hot tub and wearing only their bathing suits… and Melissa’s coupe. Which would barely fit four people, even if they sat on each other’s laps.

Fuck!” Hunter yelled.

“I don’t think we have a choice.” I ran my fingers through my hair. “Just grab some coats and blankets and let’s go. Hypothermia has to be better than whatever is going to happen when she–”

They,” Harry interrupted quietly.

I didn’t bother to respond to that. I just dug my keys out of my jacket and headed to the door. I heard the others scrambling to grab what they could and following.

As soon as I was out the door I heard the howling. Not like wolves.  Like people. More than one, just… screaming. I sprinted down the driveway, half aware that I ought to have waited. I ought to have given the others more time to get ready, but some part of me just knew that every second we wasted was a step closer to death, and I wasn’t kidding when I said our chances were probably better for recovering from hypothermia.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Melissa and Travis make it to her car, Nicole right behind them. Chad, Hunter, Harry and Joan were hot on my heels. I didn’t have to bother to unlock the doors. My suburban predated electronic locks, and the town was so small that normally I didn’t bother locking them all individually. We scrambled in so hard that it rocked. The old shocks squealed and squeaked in protest. I dove into the driver’s seat and slammed my key into the ignition, ignoring the seat belt and everything else while the others dragged themselves in and hauled the doors shut behind them.

I didn’t do a headcount before peeling out. That came back to me later. It was a miracle no one got left behind. If they had it would have been my fault.

I still feel guilty about that.

I saw them coming around the corner of the house in the rearview mirror. Not my friends, but the corpses. I was full-on panicking. Each heartbeat felt like a punch to the ribs. My breath felt like razor blades. I was so, so sure that I was going to puke as swung onto the highway, already doing eighty before we’d done a half-mile. Joan was still sobbing in the back seat.  Hunter was crying too. I think I would have joined them if I hadn’t been too busy shaking.

“Does anyone have a phone?” Chad asked. It was a great idea.  I glanced at him in the rearview mirror and saw him covered in the old blanket I kept in the truck bed. His hair was trying to frost. He had a cellphone in his palm.

I started to ask what was wrong with it when Joan chimed in, “Yeah, but no bars.”

“I’m going straight to the police station,” I said. Being that I was the one driving, nobody else had much say in it.

“What if they don’t believe us?” Joan whispered.

“They’re going to,” Harry said woodenly, staring straight ahead, “They made them illegal for a reason.”

“Why didn’t they tell us?!” Hunter demanded. Nobody answered. I guess nobody had an answer.

It was a tense, long period of silence, during which I checked the rearview mirror a dozen times. Not just checking for weird, frozen zombies, but for headlights.

Where was Melissa’s car? My old Suburban couldn’t have been that much faster.

My palms were sweating and prickling on the steering wheel. I tried not to think about it, or draw attention to it, the last fifteen minutes into town. Part of me was hoping to get pulled over by a cop, but as was typical, there was never one around when I wanted one to be.

I kept looking for them, even as we barreled into town and into the safety of the slushy gray parking lot of the sheriff’s department. I nearly drove right through the front doors. The whole car lurched from the force of that stop, but I hadn’t even slammed it into park before the others were scrambling out the doors and pouring into the station like a biblical flood of half-frozen, half-dressed teenagers.

Everyone was talking at once. I was the last in, keeping one eye on the window and the road while the others babbled at Olly, the receptionist. He was a nice old man in his fifties, at least, and I could tell he understood about zero of what was being said. Until Harry stepped forward and put his hands on the desk, anyway. Everyone else finally stopped talking.

“I made a snow angel,” he stated. Calmly. Factually. If it weren’t for how pale his face was and how tight his bloodless lips had become, I would have thought he was calm.

Olly’s face fell. His chair clattered as it rolled back, allowing him to stand up.

“I’ll go get the sheriff.” I knew then that it was every bit as serious as we thought it was. We hadn’t imagined any of it. It wasn’t some case of… mass hysteria or something.

“There’s something else,” I added, pausing to look at the window, hoping to see Melissa’s car pulling in at the last second. It never did.

“I haven’t seen Melissa, Travis or Nicole since we left the house.”

Olly’s expression turned graver, if that was possible. The Sheriff was Melissa and Nicole’s father.

He turned and hustled to the back faster than I’ve ever actually seen him move before. There was a tense moment. A hushed exchange of words and rising voices, and then Sheriff Basket came striding down the hallway, bigger than life. He was a massive wall of a man, and all of us had always been a little intimidated by him. He’d never been mean, exactly. He was just stern. Quiet. Had a direct, down to earth way of dealing with things and usually that involved as few words as possible.

“How many were there?” Case in point.

I didn’t understand what he was asking, at first, but Harry got it straight away.

“Two, but I think a third was climbing out when we left.”

I watched Olly getting some emergency blankets and jumpsuits out of the back for the others. For Chad, anyway. Hunter, Joan, Harry and I were all more or less dressed. Olly passed me a blanket anyway. I mumbled a thank you.

“What did the first one look like?” the sheriff demanded.

“It was a woman!” Joan shouted. Her voice sounded reedy and thin. I thought maybe she was on the verge of hyperventilating.

“She had on this dress… thing,” Chad added, more subdued, “and she was blonde, I think. It’s hard to remember.”

“She was pretty,” Hunter whispered, sinking into his blanket and the wall at the same time, “She looked so sad.”

The sheriff looked visibly relieved, but his face was still tight with stress and concern. He looked gray, actually. His skin, his hair, even his eyes. I didn’t blame him. I was only a teenager myself at the time, but already I could sympathize.  I understood the terror he must have felt, knowing his kids were out there. In danger. Not knowing if he’d arrive in time, or what might have befallen them.

“It could be worse,” he muttered to himself.  I don’t think we were meant to hear.

“You kids stay here. Olly, call their parents. You lot were at the Olsen place, right?” He pinned us with a severe look. I nodded. I’m pretty sure the others did too. I heard one or two meek ‘yes sir’s.  “Your parents can explain when they get here.” Those last few words were so clipped and bitten off that I could hear his teeth click on some of the syllables.

I, for one, wasn’t about to argue. I wanted to see my mom and dad more than anything in the world in that moment. I was still young enough that for me they represented the epitome of safety. Nothing bad could happen to me when my parents were there, in my adolescent mind. They were still invulnerable giants. The axis upon which the world turned.

I watched in silence as he checked his revolver and then went to the munitions room and came back with a shotgun and a box of shells. He walked out into the night without even a nod in our direction. His eyes were already on the road. He looked to me like a man going to war. As if he weren’t sure he was going to come back, and was prepared to accept that.

Resigned, but also determined.

“Come on, kids.” Olly spread his arms and herded us all toward the back of the station, “Let’s get you warmed up. If any of you have a working phone, now’s the time to go ahead and call your parents.  It’ll be better coming from your number than the police station’s. Those of you who don’t – sorry,” he joked and pointed an ominous finger at the payphone on the wall and the stack of quarters beside it.

He was a nice old man – had kind of a beardless Santa vibe – but it was hard to ignore the tightness in his voice. And around his eyes.

Poor Olly. He had to be pushing sixty. He’d been working in the sheriff’s department since I was a kid. Sometimes he came to help provide ‘security’ at events in town. He’d never been anything but cheerful and friendly. Seeing him so pale made me feel…


What we’d seen at Harry’s house still hadn’t completely sunk in yet. A part of me thought that I was going to wake up any second, and that it would all turn out to have been a bad dream. All around me the others were calling their parents. I heard phones ringing. A couple had already picked up. Voices were cracking. Muffled sobs and sniffles filled the open office space.

I looked aimlessly between desks for a little while, my brain not quite having caught up to the idea I should be doing what they were all doing. Eventually my gaze drifted to Harry, only to find him looking back. It struck me then that he didn’t have anybody TO call. His mom was… well, he couldn’t call her, and his dad was probably still on the plane.

Which meant he didn’t have anybody but me.

“I guess we should call mom and dad.” I tried to smile, fumbling my cell out of my pocket, “They’ll be pissed if they’re the last ones to know.” Internally I cringed. Why had I said that? Especially after literally just thinking he couldn’t call HIS dad?

Harry only nodded.

My mom picked up on the second ring. I called her first because I figured she’d be the least likely to yank my ass through the phone to chew me a new one. I needn’t have bothered, it turned out.

“We’re on our way,” she said before I could even say hello, “Stay put.” And then she hung up.  But before she did, I heard keys jingling in the background and the car starting up. Cellphones were notoriously unreliable in my town. A text could be sent and hang in limbo for a week before arriving at its destination. Calls often just failed to connect.

I glanced down at the phone in my hand and up at Harry, running my fingers over the glossy screen.

“They’re on their way,” I reported. Harry just nodded again.

My house was only twenty minutes away from the station on a bad day. My parents made it in seven. I guess that’s where I got my lead foot from.

Joan and Chad’s parents made it first, but only by a few minutes. Both sets swarmed their respective offspring. There was a lot of scolding and fussing and anxious questions. I couldn’t help but think they looked like preschoolers. Small and lost and wide-eyed despite their ages. Maybe it was because I was feeling like one myself. Just a small kid on a big playground.

Woefully out of my league.

And then my parents came rushing through the door. Mom’s coat was barely on, unfastened and hanging off of her, as she stormed in. Dad’s boots were untied. They looked like they’d dropped everything and run to come get me, and I was so grateful for it. It was the most loved feeling I think a person could have. Dad rushed to me, but mom paused mid-step and diverted to Harry.

I wasn’t jealous. I was weak-kneed with gratitude. Trust my parents – the adults – to know how to make right the things I didn’t have the tools to fix myself. I learned a lot about empathy and maturity that day, watching my mom fuss over Harry as if he was her own. He’d been my best friend since childhood. He’d practically grown up in our house, and I in his. My parents were the closest thing he had to his own in that moment. Maybe better, knowing his parents like I did.

She checked him over like the other parents were checking their kids. Hands and face, arms and neck.

“Thank god you’re okay,” Dad said, catching me up and squeezing me like I was nine again. I squeezed him right back, fighting tears.

“They didn’t touch you? You’re alright?” Mom was asking Harry. All he could do was nod, I assume. His eyes were suspiciously bright.

“It’s okay,” Mom said, giving him the same kind of hug dad was giving me just then, “It’s going to be okay.”

“Melissa and Nicole were in the other car,” Chad half-yelled. I know he was talking to his own parents, but all of them stopped and looked at one another, sharing the look of horror and tense gratitude. How awful, but thank god mine are alright.

“Olly said you’d explain when you got here.” I wiped my eyes on the back of my sleeve and looked up at my father’s face. His blue eyes were haunted and unhappy, but he nodded once.

“Yeah. I guess it’s time. Normally we tell the graduating class after the ceremony…”

Mom looked up. They met eyes for a little while. I imagine they were searching for the words, for a good place to begin.

“Why didn’t anyone explain before?” Joan demanded, “Why didn’t anybody warn us?”

“Let’s just– let’s start with the most immediate problem.” My dad suggested when no one else spoke up, “Tackle one thing at a time. First of all, what did the first thing through look like?” I don’t know if it occurred to the others, but it struck me that this was the second time we’d been asked – and both times it had been the first question, after asking if we were okay.

“She was blonde, and pale. And wearing a weird dress. She looked like she was in pain,” I supplied, anchored by the presence of my parents.

It seemed to me that every adult in the room heaved a little sigh of relief.

“That’s good. I mean, it’s not great, but it’s better than it could be.” Mom muttered, wandering over to the pile of blankets on the desk and absently gathering one. I watched her bring it over to Harry to drape around his shoulders, fussing with the way it hung until there were no wrinkles to smooth out anymore.

“We’ll start with that, then.” Dad took a deep breath, “We call her the Angel. That’s what our grandparents called her. I assume that’s what THEIR grandparents called her. Of all the harbingers, she’s the least violent. She’ll lead the people behind her to the nearest, most easily accessible source of heat. Once they’re all thawed they’ll… go away again.” As dad explained, I absent-mindedly rubbed my chest.  It hurt, like I’d pulled a muscle.

Harry looked up, expression going from numb and distracted to suddenly upset.

“Melissa’s car. Adam’s heat doesn’t work.  I– they must have–”

Dad looked grim, but nodded.

“It’s possible. Especially if the doors to the house were locked. The good news is they won’t have hurt the others unless they tried to stop them. The bad news is, if the car stops running or the heat quits, they’ll go back to trying to get into the house.”

Everyone took a minute to digest that.

“So… all they want is to get warm?” I asked hesitantly.

“Yeah.” Dad nodded, “But only if the harbinger is the Angel.”

“O-kay,” Chad looked up at his parents, “but what are they?”

“As far as we can tell,” Chad’s mom was the school nurse, a petite blonde lady with a ‘can I speak to your manager’ haircut, but as sweet as could be, answered this time.  “They were people. People who used to live here at some point. People who… died. In the cold.”

“Then there can’t be that many, right?” Joan suggested hopefully. It was a hope I didn’t realize I shared until that moment. Surely one or two frozen zombies were a lot better than a horde, though.

“Dozens, at least forty.” My own mother put in. She gave Harry a little squeeze and looked at me apologetically.

“I’m sorry honey. There’s other’s… but they don’t all come at the same time, usually. It all depends on the harbinger, like we said. Usually, it’s no more than eight or nine at a time, but sometimes, when the shepherd comes through–”

“The who? The what?!” Travis cried, his voice warbling a high, awkward note that I thought he’d left behind in middle school.

“Harbingers are…” Dad rubbed his fingers together, obviously searching for the words.  “They’re like the leaders. Only one comes through at a time. They’re the first out through the gate when it’s open, when a snow angel is made. Some of them, like the Angel, are mostly harmless. Mostly. There are four that we know of. Four that we were told about. Her, the Shepherd, the Prophet, and the Hermit.”

He walked away from me while he spoke, folding his hands behind his back and pacing over to the desk and from there to the window.

“The Angel comes with eight or nine others, who are mostly peaceful. They’ll smash doors and windows if they have to, but so long as they’re left alone and you don’t attempt to harm them they’re harmless. They’ll find the nearest source of heat and stay there until they’re all… warm… again.”

I didn’t want to think about that too hard. I hoped it was more… supernatural than it sounded, because the way he put it made me think of a bunch of warming corpses in a room, and that made my stomach churn.

“The Shepherd is one of the worst. They – he, we think – comes through with all of the followers. And he’s not content with just them, either. He hunts down anyone he can find when he comes through and will drag them out into the cold to die and join his herd. He sends the others, too. If he ever gets through the only thing to do is start the siren and get to the bunkers around town, and then pray that the barricades last until dawn.”

I started to shake just thinking about it. Imagining it was… it made me feel cold from the inside out. I shared a look with Harry, knowing he felt the same way. How close we’d all come to THAT. What he had to be feeling knowing that he’d almost let that through.

“Then there’s the Prophet. She won’t outright hurt you, but if she finds you she’ll… it’s hard to explain. She puts people to sleep, in a way. Mesmerizes them with a song.  And when you’re under, apparently you have visions. Of the past. Of things that happened in this town.” Compared to the Shepherd, that sounded like a cakewalk.

“But you’re there until she’s done with you. Which could be hours. And wherever she catches you, which might be out in the cold, or in the shower, or–” He left the rest up to the imagination. “Her followers put out lights. They pull down electric lines and will smash lamps.”

Okay. That sounded less ideal, but still a whole lot better than the zombie-murder Woodstock.

“The Hermit is the worst, though.” My dad looked at Hunter’s parents and then Joan’s, and finally sighed like he didn’t want to be the one to say the words.

“They come alone, and unlike the others, they won’t vanish at daylight. They keep hunting, keep killing, following the people of the town no matter where they run until a sacrifice is made. Our parents thought that might have been where the new harbingers come from. Sacrifices to make the Hermit go away.”

“That’s horrible!” Joan gasped. I cringed too. It was awful to think about. Deliberately selecting someone you knew, someone who you lived with, to go die. And then making that happen! Killing them in the worst way I could imagine.

How did you even begin?

“But it’s just the Angel this time,” Hunter said, his voice shaking.

“Yeah,” My dad nodded, “She should be gone by morning.”

So that was it, then. We just had to make it to morning, and then everything would be okay. Right?

It wasn’t, though. In fact, I can confidently say that was the beginning of the end, the slow roll into the destruction of the town, and the majority of the people who lived there.

For a time it was quiet. A few of us managed to fall asleep, either in the padded benches of the holding cells or in the chairs lined up against the walls. I was still wide awake, watching the windows with Harry and clutching a cup of hot cocoa for warmth. The hands of the clock barely seemed to move, and then–

With a pop and a crackle, the dispatch radio came to life.

It was the sheriff. I didn’t understand the codes he was using, but I got the gist of it pretty good from everything that was said between.

Multiple 123s, more units required. Send medical and the blasters.

After that, it was a flurry of voices and sirens. Orders were being shouted. Sirens blared. Olly sat behind his desk and closed his eyes. His lips moved silently, tracing the words of some prayer. I reached for Harry’s hand, but the look in his eye… he was practically on the moon. So far away I couldn’t reach him.

We both knew that it was going to be bad.

We didn’t know how bad until one of the other officers started talking.

“We’ve got two injured juveniles in route to the hospital. Clear the roads, provide escort where possible.”

Only two?

“We’ve got eyes on them. Eight. Angel is missing, repeat, the Angel is missing. One victim unaccounted for. All units respond.” It went on like that for a while. The noise woke up everyone who’d managed to fall asleep. One by one we gathered at the window, watching for the flashing lights as they sped like shooting stars down the main road toward our tiny, provincial hospital.

Wondering who was inside. And if they’d make it.

Eventually, the noise from the radios died down to chatter back and forth between officers sweeping the woods. I gathered bits and pieces, but no more. Something about a set of bare footprints heading into the woods. Something else about a second, fresher set of tracks behind. Both vanished near the pond. The search went on, but nothing else important was said.

Eventually, the first blush of dawn touched the sky. We watched it rise, Harry and I, side by side, as the first of the officers returned to the station, muddy and disheartened. The adults gathered in a huddle with them. I wasn’t meant to overhear, but my ears had always been sharp. Like the radio, now in person, I caught snatches that were just enough to paint a picture.

‘Travis and Nicole.’

‘Broken arm. Severe frostbite. Should recover.’

‘Melissa. Missing. Old lake. Angel.’

They told the rest of us a barely edited version of events a few hours later. Travis and Nicole had been found outside Harry’s place. Travis had a broken arm. Both he and Nicole had pretty bad frostbite and were suffering from hypothermia, but were expected to mostly recover.

Melissa was still missing. They thought the Angel’s flock had mobbed the car while Nicole was still getting in. Melissa had gotten it started, but hadn’t driven away immediately because her sister wasn’t fully inside yet. Travis had taken the passenger seat, and Nicole couldn’t get in past him, as he was too big.

Well, the delay was enough for the heater to get started. The dead had converged on the heat, and when Travis tried to fight back they’d tossed him aside like an old newspaper.

Melissa must have run. She didn’t know what we’d just been told. She probably thought they were being attacked. I mean, that’s what I would have thought– did think. But in the end, I guess it doesn’t really matter why she ran into the woods. They never did find her. We all went home, one by one. Harry’s dad came home on the next plane, but, understandably, Harry didn’t want to stay in that house anymore.

They moved away a couple of months later. Not long after Nicole and Travis finally got out of the hospital. Travis ended up losing the arm; the frostbite combined with the break made it impossible to save. They tried, but in the end, there was nothing to be done. Nicole recovered physically alright. She lost a few toes and a finger, but the real damage was psychological. Losing her older sister like that… the way it all went down.

She was never the same.

The rest of us got together after graduation. The same ‘party’ where the town’s secrets would originally have been explained to us. It turned out there were a few things we still hadn’t been told.

“I just don’t understand why anyone lives here at all,” Joan was saying to Mr. Harkman, the man that had formerly been our math teacher for pretty much our entire lives. The town wasn’t big enough that we really needed more than one or two. There were rarely more than thirty kids per grade. I was standing by myself under a pennant banner, watching the flecks of light from the disco ball swim around the floor.

She was going off to college next spring. So was I. I think we all were, except Nicole and Travis – and Hunter, I think. He’d decided to stay behind. Or maybe he couldn’t afford college. I don’t know, I never thought to ask.

“Most people do leave.” Mr. Harkman sighed. “I think we all tried to escape at one point or another.”

“Escape?” Chad, who’d been over in the corner beside Hunter and a couple of other kids from our grade, lifted his head to ask. By then the story of that night had spread to every kid in our tiny high school, regardless of grade. I can’t help but think that was a good thing.

“Well, why’d they come back, then?” Joan demanded heatedly at the same moment. Her face was flushed, her eyes glittering.

“Your parents didn’t tell you?” Mr. Harkman looked surprised, and then just sad, “I’m sorry. I guess I can see why. The thing is, you can leave the town just fine – until you have kids. And then… the town pulls you back. Things happen. You lose your job, you have an accident, your plane or bus gets rerouted. You black out and wake up back here, in town, with your kid. It’s inevitable. If you try to leave, you end up here again.”

A hush fell over the room. I don’t know if they were thinking the same thing I was, but my very first thought was: I’m never having kids.

Poor Harry. If only anyone had told him.

Rating: 9.94/10. From 16 votes.
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Written by Themascura
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
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2 years ago

“I guess it was because Harry was kind of going through a hard time, what with his mom having left and all.” 
As to Harry’s mom being, I’m curious if she’s only temporarily escaped (to soon return due to the the town keeping those who have kids) or if she’s dead…

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