Dead of winter.

They had been at the cabin for three days when the snow started to fall. Henry saw the flakes piling up in the early morning and decided to take a trip into town on the ATV. Clara was worried they would be snowed in without enough food to last. The snow started to fall faster as Clara waved good-bye and Henry disappeared over the crested hill.

At first she busied herself with moving the split wood from the small shack at the end of the makeshift driveway to the waterproof storage container on the front porch. If the forecasters were right about the severity of the oncoming storm, it might be days before they could get to the end of the driveway.

The snow started to pile on the porch and Clara decided the container was full enough. She went inside and started the wood-burning stove. She wanted the house to be warm and cozy by the time Henry returned from his ten-mile trek. Clara wondered if the others in the area had already stocked up for the storm. Would there be enough leftover on the store shelves for them?

Clara wrapped a quilt over her shoulders and sat in front of the fire. She tried to read a book, but her thoughts kept jumping to Henry and if the weather would deter him from coming back to her. She held the quilt tighter around her and watched the fire. She soon found that watching the orange flames had a calming effect on her nerves.

Henry had been gone six hours. The front yard was covered in white, and the sky had darkened as if night had come early. Clara put another log on the fire, watched the flame grow again, and sat back on the couch. She picked up the book again, hoping to distract herself from the oncoming storm and her absent husband.

She awoke to find the cabin drenched in darkness. The fire was mere flickering embers and there was nothing but black at the windows. She listened for sounds coming from the other rooms, but knew instinctively that she was still alone. Clara put another log on the fire, coaxed it back into flames, and shuffled into the kitchen.

Her heart seemed to leap from her chest when a heavy pounding came from the front door. After a hesitation of only seconds, the pounding came again. Three heavy knocks in quick succession.

She shuffled to the door, clutching the quilt around her for warmth. She peered out the peephole and saw Henry, his face partially concealed by his scarf. She flung the door open and her husband hurried inside, not bothering to stop the snow from his boots. He closed the door frantically, throwing the deadbolt and dropping a large duffle bag on the floor. He wrapped his wife into a bear hug for only a moment before hurrying off towards the back of the house.

“Henry? What’s wrong?” When she spoke, her voice cracked. She hadn’t used it since she’d kissed him good-bye and told him she loved him. Now she watched him pull on the back door to find it locked. “Henry?”

She followed him as he quietly hurried about the house, checking that every window was locked. She had seen his eyes were bloodshot and frantic. She tried to ask him again to tell her what caused this panic, but he remained silent. Only when he seemed satisfied that the house was fortified did he lead her into the kitchen and sit at the small formica table.

She stood in front of him, the panic-stricken look on his face even more intense than she had thought before. “Henry, what is wrong with you? Did something happen?”

“They’re dead Clara. All of them. They’re all dead.”

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9 comments on “Dead of winter.”

  1. Idiosyncratic Eye

    I was lulled into a nice, traditional scene reminiscent of Little House books and then that ending! I’m sure Pa never brought news like that home from town! 😉

  2. Valerie

    This was perfect for today! Snow is on the way here!

    I loved the warm and cozy feelings this story gave me at first-and then whamo! I was on the edge of my seat!

    More Roxanne, please. This is too good to leave me hanging like this!!

    (And thanks for your wonderfully sweet comment on my blog today! I appreciated it so much.) 🙂

  3. Tina

    Eeek! Are they all coming back as zombies to eat some brains? Great job building tension up, but what a bang at the end!

  4. Kelly K @ Writing with Chaos

    I like how the ending surprised me, definitely not what I was expecting based on the opening.

    As far as concrit goes (and I see you’re doing NaNoWriMo so I don’t know how much time you’re spending editing), but in the opening three paragraphs everything kept “starting” instead of just “doing”. Examples are: “the snow started to fall” “the snow started to pile” “started the wood burning stove”. The repetition kept jarring me from the story. Altering to things to “the snow began falling, the snow piled, she lit the wood burning stove” would break it up and help the opening flow better.

    I love the last paragraph, as well as the little detail, like her voice cracking from lack of use, because that simple thing highlighted how lonely her wait was more than anything (for me).

    I want to know who/what killed everyone…

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