20 Nov Snow Blind
“Snow Blind”Written by Chisto Healy Edited by Craig Groshek and Seth Paul Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek Narrated by N/A
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available
⏰ ESTIMATED READING TIME — 13 minutes
Kerry had his hands in his pockets as he traversed the trail, walking quickly but still unable to escape his own mind. It was freezing, and he wasn’t at all dressed for it outside of his boots, but the air wasn’t any colder than he felt inside. How could she leave me now, this close to Christmas?
He left the trail and ventured off. He just wanted to get away, to be where other humans couldn’t even try to interact with him. It was the perfect place. There weren’t even trees out here. It was wide open, just green for miles. He loved it, even now, even with his breath caught in his tight chest and his heart breaking apart inside like a crumbling snowball.
The thought made him look skyward. They had said flurries on the news. It would be cool, he thought. He enjoyed the snow. It was beautiful, clean, unmarred in a world so filthy and broken that it made him sick.
Kerry was beginning to feel less jaded, to hold some hope for the human race, and he credited Nora with that. She brought light to an otherwise dark world which made him realize that the darkness wasn’t everything. Through her and some incredible meds, Kerry started to realize that there was light in the world. There was more to life than just depression and anger.
At least there was, until today.
Today, Nora pulled the light right out of his world. He had worked hard and saved for months to get her the necklace she wanted. He couldn’t wait to give it to her. Now she wasn’t there to give it to. Now all he had was a note. It wasn’t even a long note, a note that rang of truth and feeling and came with the regret that was so natural in hurting someone you loved. Did you ever love me? Was it ever real? Why was this so easy for you?
All the note said was: Kerry, I’m sorry. I have to go – for good. – Nora.
That was it. That was all she gave him. Didn’t he at least deserve so much as an explanation? Didn’t he deserve to know the reason? He had been good, taking his meds, holding a job, doing what he could to help her around the house, trying his best always to be kind and appreciative. Why did you go? What did I do wrong?
Kerry took a deep breath, and the air was so cold that it hurt his lungs. He sighed out steam and stared at it. Then he felt the wetness falling onto his hair and shoulders. Here comes the snow. Let it come.
Kerry wondered if she didn’t say more because it was about her and not him. Maybe the reason was something too hard for her to vocalize. She could have committed a crime or cheated, or who knows.
Kerry ducked his head and tugged the collar of his jacket up higher. The snow was coming down harder than he expected. This was more than flurries. Fucking figures. There was no fighting being jaded now. Even the weather kicked him in the nuts. Fuck it.
It was getting harder to breathe, and his muscles were sore. How long had he actually been walking? Hell, it didn’t matter, did it? What do I even have to go back to? Was that the reason? Did he love her too much? Maybe she felt smothered. Maybe she feared commitment or love. He just wished he knew. I have no way to know what you won’t tell me. I would accept whatever answer you gave me if you just cared enough to give me one. Dammit.
Kerry looked up and looked right back down. The snow had pelted him in the eyes. Shit. It’s coming down hard. I need to find some shelter until it lets up some. I’m going to get hypothermia out here if I don’t.
If he died out here, would people think it was intentional? He wanted to escape, to clear his head, not to give Nora that kind of power. Even as depressed as he had been his whole life, no human being was worth his life. He stopped and looked around for something, anything, that would keep him safe out here. He saw nothing. It looked the same, and it went outward in every direction. It was endless green that was now fading to endless white like a gradient. He couldn’t remember passing anything on his way here. He was lost in his thoughts, focused on his pain, not even bothering to acknowledge his surroundings. He didn’t need anyone to tell him he’d screwed up. He was kicking himself hard at this moment.
Kerry turned about-face, not wanting to lose his sense of direction. He didn’t think he would make it back to the car, to the highway before things got really bad, but he wanted to be at least headed in that direction. Maybe I’ll get frostbite, and my toes will rot off. That would be my fucking luck.
He started walking, and his sadness made way for anxiety. He quickened his pace, his feet matching his thundering heart. He didn’t want to run, to overdo it in this level of cold. He could wind up causing himself a heart attack. His goal was to survive, get back home and start the next chapter of his life, post-Nora. He spotted something he hadn’t seen on his way up, an opening. It was low to the ground. Something must have burrowed down into it. Kerry bit his lip, wondering if he could fit and, if he could, would he be able to get back out. If the snow changed angles, it could fill the hole inside and trap him underneath a blanket of white death.
Kerry knew he had to decide and soon. His feet were starting to hurt even within his thick winter boots. Dammit. He hurried over and went feet first into the opening. He slid and fell, landing hard on frozen ground. Kerry blinked and looked around. He couldn’t believe how far down he had just gone. It was more than a hole. It was some kind of cave. He didn’t have time to contemplate what could have made it. He looked up at the opening that took him there and his frozen breath caught in his chest. It was so high. He wasn’t sure that he could climb out in good conditions, and there was practically a blizzard blowing down from the heavens up there.
He started to wonder if what he considered bad luck or unfair treatment at the hands of life had all been due to bad choices of his own making. He’d certainly made a few today. Maybe Nora had been another. “I would love the chance to change that and start making some good choices,” Kerry said out loud to the universe.
He turned around and realized that some crudely carved tunnel had extended from where he stood. He had been right about something burrowing, and whatever it was had continued going, right through solid earth. Was it still down here with him? Right now he had to focus on surviving the snow. He walked forward and realized the tunnel cleared his head by afoot. How big did that thing have to be to make this? Don’t think about it. Just get in far enough to avoid the cold coming down that hole—one step at a time.
Maybe that was where he went wrong. Maybe he just focused on the current moment too much, whereas other people thought ahead to the future. Maybe none of this meant anything, and he just spent his life overthinking all of it. He was alone out here, though, he thought as he walked the length of the tunnel, hugging himself against the cold air. He had no company other than his troubled thoughts. At least I hope I’m alone. If I’m not, no one would even know I died out here. They’d never find me.
Now nervous, Kerry looked down the tunnel in both directions. He paused to listen, but all he could hear was the snow crashing onto the earth above him and the howl of the wind. Flurries, my ass. That guy should be fired.
Kerry kept going. Maybe the tunnel would lead somewhere. There could be another exit. It would be good if he could find something to build a fire. His clothes were wet, and he couldn’t shake the cold from his bones. The tunnel opened up, and Kerry’s jaw fell slack. It seemed someone had already built a fire down here. It was still going strong, the flames licking at the walls. The light from the fire cast shadows on the crudely torn rock and dirt wall, and the jutting shape of the wall itself made those shadows stretch and twist like demons. Kerry swallowed a lump in his throat and turned in a slow circle.
“Hello! Who’s down here?”
There was no response. What if it was a homeless person? What if they had gone out and gotten caught in the snow? They could be trapped out there, needing help. Kerry ground his teeth. If he went out there looking, would he even stand a chance of finding them? It wouldn’t do any good to go out there and die with them.
Kerry sighed and sat close to the crackling fire, as close as he dared to without fear of getting burned. The smoke pulled past him down the tunnel and dissipated into nothing. “I’m sorry,” Kerry said to whoever had built the fire that now warmed him. “I hope you make it back.”
As the warmth of the fire hugged him, Kerry felt suddenly exhausted. He told himself it was a bad idea to fall asleep down here, but his body didn’t listen. It didn’t take long for him to fade from consciousness and fall into dreams.
When he woke up and realized he’d been sleeping, he jumped with a start, panic filling his heart. The fire had gone out, and he found himself freezing again. He rubbed his stiff hands against his arms as he got to his feet. Whoever had been in this tunnel before he got here hadn’t come back. He had the sudden anxiety of being trapped and felt the need to see if the snow had stopped. He couldn’t hear it. Maybe it was over, and he could just trek back to the car. What’re a few toes in the grand scheme of things? My lonely Nora-free home sounds really safe and welcoming to me right now.
He tried to go back the way he’d come, and panic gripped him like a giant crushing hand. The hole he’d come down was gone. His initial fear had been correct. The snow must have filled it and created a wall. Kerry shook his head. No. No. No. No.
He hurried back the way he’d come, back towards the extinguished fire. He moved past it, stepping right into the center of it, crushing the last glowing embers with the sole of his boot. He went down a thin tunnel in the back and gasped when he saw the light. His pace picked up, and he hurried along. Was this where the last owner had gone? He hadn’t even seen this way when he had first come down here. The way up was far more angled and not as steep as the way he’d come down. His stiff hands ached with the effort, but he climbed his way up towards the light and hit a wall of ice. Kerry had tears in his eyes. This was why the snow hadn’t filled this hole like it did the other. A thick solid sheet of ice had sealed it. If he wanted to get out of here, he had to find a way through it, and he wanted out more than anything in his life up to this point. Nora be damned. I just want to live.
He tried to push it, to kick it, to pound on it with his fist until the ice was streaked with blood and the torn flesh of his knuckles, but it wasn’t even cracked. Kerry knew it was important to conserve his oxygen, but he couldn’t help it. He screamed with everything he had.
Behind him, he could hear the sound of crumbling rocks, and he turned around quickly, gasping hopefully. There was light shining from the ceiling nearby. It wasn’t a large hole, but it was big enough to grab if he could jump for it. Maybe I can widen it.
Kerry looked at his frozen claw-like hands, though and wondered if they were up to the job. He took several slow deep breaths. There was no other choice. When he felt ready, he got as much of a running start as he had room for, and he leaped. His fingers grabbed at the opened ceiling, but it came loose in his grip, and he fell hard to the cold earth, dirt raining down on him. He spit and cursed and wiped at his eyes, rolling on the ground. Then he looked up and saw that the hole had grown. Not only could he fit through it if need be, but he also wouldn’t have to jump as far to reach it.
The cold wind blew through the open ceiling and chilled his bones. That was what was waiting for him out there. Don’t think about that yet. Just go.
Kerry went up the slope to the wall of ice to gain leverage. Then he let his feet slide down until he was facing the broken ceiling, and he jumped. His arms went right through the hole, and he almost cheered, but then it broke further and started to take him back down into the tunnel with raining rocks and dirt. Kerry held his breath and scrambled to pull himself free before the ground collapsed and took him with it. He reached for handholds but ended up with handfuls of powdery snow. Kerry growled and worked his arms frantically despite how much his muscles hurt and protested against the action.
He got up high enough that his foot found a wall, and he used it to push himself, jumping again. He landed face down in deep snow as the earth crumbled behind him, and he simultaneously laughed and cried. He shivered as he got to his feet. When he looked around, he saw that there was nothing but whiteness in every direction. The harsh winds were blowing the snow from the ground into the air, and it was whipping him in the face, obscuring his vision further.
He tried to figure out the way home from where the tunnel was that led him down. He chewed on his lip, hoping he had it right. If he got lost out here, he was as good as dead. Stuffing his trembling hands into his almost useless wet pockets, Kerry started off in that direction. The snow had gotten so deep that it went over the top of his boots now, falling inside and soaking his socks. I’m going to die out here. I want to blame Nora for leaving me, but she didn’t make me come out here. It’s time for me to stop blaming other things and people. I’m my own worst enemy.
Kerry hugged himself as he trudged through the deep snow in the direction that he hoped would lead back to the car that brought him here. He had to pull a hand free from his pocket and use it to shield his face from the blowing snow. Seconds felt like hours in these conditions. He felt like he’d been walking forever. His feet and toes hurt terribly. His body was screaming for him just to go back to the fire. The fire is useless now, he told it. The only way to survive is to get to the car. Keep going.
Kerry stopped. His head whipped to the side. He could have sworn he saw movement, but now, all he saw was white when he looked. His eyes danced back and forth, blinking against the snow building up in his lashes. Nothing.
He couldn’t stay here long. Kerry turned and started back again. Again he saw a flash of movement through the snow out of the corner of his eye. He turned again and saw nothing. Is it the person who made the fire? Do they need help? Should I call them?
Something about the situation made Kerry feel unsafe. It felt like they were following him but hiding from his view. He decided against communication and quickened his pace as he got back to trudging through the elements.
He didn’t see the movement this time as much as feel it. He couldn’t see much of anything out here, not like this. Maybe it’s not even real. Maybe this snow is making me crazy.
Kerry turned and squinted his eyes. He could see someone in this distance. They were just standing there. He couldn’t make out any details. They were little more than a silhouette in the blowing snow. Kerry stood there for a moment, facing the stranger. He was shivering badly, but the person in the distance remained perfectly still. Kerry rubbed at his sore eyes and stared forward. Could the person be a hallucination? What did that mean for him?
Then the answer became clear as the figure launched forward, charging through the snow towards him at an impossible sprint. Go!
They seemed like they were far away from him, but they also seemed to be coming fast. Kerry didn’t trust himself to outrun anyway in his current condition. He felt a surge of panic, though, because he didn’t see any other remaining option. There was nothing out here, no resources, nothing to use. There was nothing but snow, ice, cold and the person running straight for him.
Kerry felt like he was going to cry. The only reason he didn’t was that he already couldn’t see well enough, and he was afraid his tears would freeze on his eyes. He was trying to run, but he felt like he was moving in slow motion, each step taking his leg two feet down into the snow. His arms were too cold and tired to swing hard and propel him. I just want to go home. I just want to make it to Christmas. I want to sell that damn necklace and buy myself something nice, like a cheese and sausage basket from one of those catalogs, some wine, and some damned hot cocoa. Please just let me get home.
Something ran past him then, so fast that he was sprayed with a crashing wave of snow that almost took him down. He yelped. “Who are you?!” Kerry screamed into the cascading snow. “What do you want?!”
The answer was silence. Kerry kept trying to run, to take those deep plunging steps forward even though he was sure it was entirely futile. Something slammed into his back hard, and he went sprawling forward. How did they get behind him? They had just run by. Were they that fast, or were there more than one? What did they want?
He slid across the frozen earth, his face like a plow moving the snow before it. He coughed and choked as it filled his gasping mouth. The tears came now, and he didn’t try to stand. Instead, he swung his arms and pulled himself forward, swimming his way through the powder all around him. He could feel someone moving with him then, matching his pitiful crawl with slow steps. He wanted to ask why they were doing this to him, but he was afraid to open his mouth.
Then something came down on his spine, pinning him to the ground. He tried to fight it, to drag himself forward, but he couldn’t move at all. He struggled and struggled and made no progress at all. He just couldn’t get himself to stop fighting, to stop trying to survive.
Finally, the weight lifted, and Kerry dove forward, flipping around to see who was there, who was doing this to him.
“Nora.” What the fuck? Why? How?
She looked down at him with sad eyes. “Why did you have to come out here? You could have gone anywhere.”
“I wanted to get away from people after you hurt me. Why the hell are you here?”
“My ship is buried out here. I wasn’t supposed to stay as long as I did. I had to go. You were getting too close and would discover my truth soon. I couldn’t jeopardize my mission, and I also cannot leave any witnesses.”
Kerry’s eyes widened. “I don’t care. Please. I don’t care. I got you the necklace you wanted. I wanted to give it to you for Christmas. Please, don’t do this.”
Nora’s face was a blank mask devoid of emotion. “I got the necklace. I found where you hid it, in the closet. I wanted it because I needed the crystal to fix my ship. You should have just let me go.”
Kerry trembled, and for once, it had nothing to do with the snow. He watched the love of his life’s hand raise and pointed something at him. It didn’t look like any gun he’d ever seen before, but he was sure that was what it was. His head shook. “Please,” he begged. “Nora, please.”
“When I return with my people, there will be nothing left to live for anyway. I am sorry, though, that we didn’t get to have Christmas. Goodbye, Kerry.”
Nora pulled the trigger, and Kerry screamed in horrible agony as he realized how she made the fire in the cave. There was one spot than in the endless expanse of white where the snow had melted, and the frozen grass showed through beneath Kerry’s charred smoldering remains. He didn’t feel the rumble of the ground or the cracking of the earth, snow and dirt sliding through like so much sand. He didn’t hear the whirring engines kicking to life, which was why she chose this place. No one would see or hear.
Kerry didn’t see the lights flash on and shed their bright colors over the snow, allowing it to take on its hue. He didn’t see the enormous metal craft shedding snow as it burst from the ground and lifted into the windy sky as Nora left him for the second time. Kerry didn’t see or hear anything after his end, and soon enough, neither will we.
🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None AvailableCraig Groshek and Seth Paul Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek Narrated by N/A