The snow fell
in sheets outside. Ugly grey sheets of snow.
Faded charcoal paper.
A woman sat near her window, looking out at the blizzard. At least the sky'll start clearing up, soon, she thought.
It had been this way too long. Much too long. It wasn't always like this. The last time she had seen the rays of the sun was when she was a little child. Sunlight. Something everyone dreamed about, at some time or another. Now, the memories of the past were fading. People stopped remembering the sun.
Little black flakes pressed themselves against the window for a moment, clinging to it like little men holding on to a rope dangling above a pit. Eventually, the wind dragged them all to the ground below.
She looked out, counting the dark flakes as they floated past her face. Each one was different. Unique, in some way or another. A beauty lying in something other than the pattern. Sometimes it was the texture. Every flake that touched the ground added to it a certain smoothness. There was actually a beauty in the dark snow, something that made her feel like reaching out to it. To touch such beauty, however, was certain death.
The sound of the ash pattering on the roof made her eyes droop, made her slouch. Leaning forward, drifting elsewhere. Worse yet, it her stomach felt uneasy. Such a beautiful, calming sound Death had. A sound like old memories. The woman shifted in the chair, trying to keep her stomach from churning. This was to little avail.
Pushing her bare heels to the ground, followed closely by her toes, she began to lift herself from the chair, resting her hand on the wall for support. She shuffled to the window. giving the beauteous Death a last glance before she turned and left the room.
Her kitchen was a barren place. Little stood in the room, excepting two chairs, a small table, and an old refrigerator. The fridge had been her father's, long before the war had begun. It came into her possession slightly after the fighting began, when his body, or rather what was left of it, was returned to the family.
No one was sure why there was a war. There just was. It would have been resolved in a few years and labeled World War III. China had to get involved. Now it's called an international tragedy.
A nameless war called a tragedy.
Staring at her feet, she walked in little circles on the old tile. The dust from the ground made wonderful little patterns. Memories of a childhood Spirograph surfaced, before drowning in thought again. A childhood that had never really been.
She had first gotten this house when her father died. Her brother had gotten the money. Fate works in strange ways, though. Brother Michael had come the same way as his father, returned to the family from overseas. Family, being just her. The money was hers. Everyone else in the world went on with their lives. Or they expired.
She was able to pull the refrigerator door open, with some effort. Inside she found what little remained of her food. Some cheeses, a bottle of wine her father had saved (now quite aged), some high-sodium meat, bottled fruit jams. Even an old bottle of catsup. She pulled out a slice of American cheese from the bottom shelf. Not to eat, but to examine.
The cheese was tightly wrapped, much like the blister packing on the toys of her childhood. Something had found its home on the cheese, and it had started to turn a purplish green. Toys in childhood, of purple and green. Plastic. Food. Plastic Food. She poked a hole through the cheese with her finger, letting it slide through the green and purple mold. Removing her finger, she placed another hole in the cheese, slightly to the right of the first. She took a fingernail and added a sideways parenthese under the eyes.
Holding the cheese to the light, a smile wrinkled across her face. It was little things like this that got her through the days now. Little bits of beauty and humor in an ugly, serious world. Living by herself wasn't easy. She had been alone for 10 years now. She still didn't like it.
She moved out of the kitchen to her front hallway, squeezing past stacks of magazines to look out into the world. The ash had stopped falling. The ground smoked, cooling with the breeze.
A cigarette put out on the world.
The time was ripe to go outside and see if there was any change.
Reaching out to the door, she paused, running her fingers over the cold metal of the knob. She couldn't be afraid. Not now. The ash had stopped. It was safe. Or was it? Did it matter?
The government had issued the warning years ago. Going outside was not safe, unless it was absolutely required. The government provided food and services for everyone. The entire country became a group of hermits. She couldn't have been happier. Life had been difficult. Simple solution. She put on her shoes.
Resolved, she made a fist over the knob and turned it. Her wrist made a small cracking sound. She pulled. The door was open. The sound of the wind entered the house, picking little bits of memory from her cave. The cave she called home. Was she ready to face the outside?
Putting a foot out, she quickly pulled back, kicking the side of the doorframe to remove the ash from her sole of her shoe. It didn't work. She knew how to do this. She had been outside. Just not for a very long time. Not until she moved into this house. Her family came and went, died and were buried, spread across the ocean, or just lost. She stayed at home. Checking the mail. Sometimes. Mail delivery hadn't happened for three years, now. Can't really deliver mail when no one wants to go outside.
She pressed her foot outside, rubbing her toe into the thick ash, forming little patterns. I can't be afraid, she thought. I shouldn't be afraid.
The other foot made its way out the door. A few footprints were played into the ground as she moved forward. She looked upwards. Grey clouds, still. But a little patch of sunshine just for her.
The snow fell
in sheets outside. Ugly grey sheets of snow.