I wrote this in response to the prompt “Snowed In” from the Manomet Writers’ Group. Unfortunately, I could not attend the meeting. My work hours conflict once again.
I’ve been reading a lot about the concept of the multiverse, and that has gone a long way in explaining some other authors’ stuff, including the recent novel I beta-read. This merely breaks the surface. I want to play with the idea some more, probably in a larger format.
The Weather Channel switched from a five day forecast starting with Wednesday, to a map of the region with a three hour loop. White engulfed the map, left to right, then: again.
Suddenly, the screen went to gray static.
“Snow, great,” Niles said.
A sound came to Niles and it made him sit up and take notice. It started out like a case of tinnitus, high pitched and omni-directional. It grew to a horrific, inescapable metallic screech which seemed to be electrical in nature. It came from inside his head; he knew this because his dog wasn’t reacting.
Niles hunched against it while cupping his ears.
Abruptly it stopped and all he could hear was the light static emanating from the television. Niles looked wildly around the room. Lucky, his Jack Russell Terrier, was looking at him curiously.
Niles ignored the pain he felt from that sound, that gawd-awful sound, and said, “Wanna go out boy? Before the storm hits?” His head felt as though someone had driven a knitting needle into it; he just wanted to get past it.
Lucky tilted his head and then stood.
“Alrighty then, let’s go.”
Niles opened the slider to the deck and Lucky led the way. They stopped at the bottom step; two guys assessing the night air.
A jet tore open a seam in the night sky. Niles looked up, though he knew he wouldn’t be able to see it through the overcast. It began to snow. One flake; followed by a hundred. In no time at all it was a swirling white out. Soon, the only sound was coming from the enormous flakes as they landed on leaf and branch.
As if spawned directly from the maelstrom, a dark winged shape swooped into Niles back yard. A pencil-smudge on white paper.
“Christ on a cracker,” Niles said mostly to himself.
It was tough to tell with the way the snow was coming down, but Niles figured the wingspan had to be about ten feet.
He lost sight of it briefly.
Then at the far edge of his property line he saw an eery red glow. It looked like the tail lights of a car. Niles didn’t understand what it could be or how he could see anything with the snow coming down so hard.
Lucky ran toward it and was swallowed by the white out. Niles could hear Lucky barking, like he did when he treed a squirrel, could hear the change in direction like he was circling.
Suddenly the barking stopped.
Niles stepped off the last step of the deck, trying to see farther. The light breeze switched to head-on for a moment, snow melted on his face.
“Lucky?” Niles tested the night. Louder, he called, “LUCKY.”
Niles stepped out into his yard, following Lucky’s footsteps. They were rapidly being covered over by the falling snow.
“LUCKY. Come on boy. Stop messin’ around.”
Niles reached the far edge of his back yard and found a set of footprints big enough to be a man’s. There were side-by-side prints that each took a step forward and then stopped side by side again. No footsteps to show an arrival and none leading away.
Lucky’s footsteps circled. Niles could see them arriving and going around several times; could hear a memory playback of Lucky barking. But that was it. There were no paw prints leaving the scene.
A voice came to Niles. It said, “We will return your gog to you, Smiles The Clown. Go back to your houses.”
The voice made phlegm-rattled inhalations in its struggle for air.
Niles turned in place, looking for the source of the voice. “What did you do to my dog; where is my dog?”
“You must go back to your houses, Smiles The Clown.”
Smiles The Clown? Niles wondered nearly aloud. “My name is Niles. Niles DeGlauron. Who the fuck are you?”
“My name is John Rhodes, but my…associates call me Dusty. Now please return to your houses.”
“Like fuck I will. Now give me my dog back.”
The signal returned to his television, clear as day.
Niles opened his eyes to the weather channel. Lucky was curled up on the couch next to him. He sat there a moment waiting for his brain to catch up with his eyes as he scanned the room.
The remote control was on his lap, but facing him.It was lighter, like the batteries were missing.
The weather channel switched to the five day forecast, starting with Saturday. Saturday? Niles thought.
It was only Wednesday night.
And Lucky was gone.
Niles turned to look at the couch. Lucky wagged his tail when Niles and he made eye contact.
He could see the slider had been left open a few inches. There was a puddle on the floor but that was the least of his worries.
Snow blocked the way out. He looked out the windows and all he saw was the white of snow pressed against the glass. He wondered how deep it really was.
It came to him then; the ordeal with that Dusty character, losing Lucky to the dark winged creature, those horrible screechy noises.
But Lucky was on the couch.
According to the footer on the Weather Channel, he had lost three days. And from what he could see out his windows, it snowed quite a bit.
But how did he get inside? He had no recollection of that. Niles reached up outside the slider. He hung onto the framework inside and stretched as high as he could. It was snow as far as he could reach. He closed the slider.
Niles grabbed a pad of paper from the phone table and wrote at the top: Snowed in. He tapped the pencil on his chin, gathering his thoughts.