Solitude 1887

By Ashes-Onik
November 3rd, 2018

Nighttime. It always carried an air of solitude, of starlit wonder and of peace, and promise of a future day to one so young; secure in the knowlege that another day would come had once brought the warm promise of forward time. But now this promise has grown cold with the snow that now blankets the land, as far as sight can see. There were no more nights of peace and there were no more promises, apart from the same sense of solitude. Scarcely a month had passed since the storm shook the world, and shake it did. The snow and bitter cold were merciless, as if the globe had been plunged into a winter bent on feezing the straggling reflections of hope itself.

Complacent cold is broken by a breath and crunching of a stray solutide breaker in the snow. Even with gentle steps the sound echoes across the blanket of fresh snow, and refracts off the thin bark of the many trees that dot the hillside. Another exhaled breath is accompanied by a small cloud that quickly rises and dissipates into the frozen air. Its remnants become startling diamond dust in compliment to the unnaturally come landscape. It seemed that the deathly cold was trying to convince its denizens that it were something far more beautiful than it was thought to be.

Our solitude breaker stands in a stark shadow of a frosted rowan tree... she had been here before. With glowing red eyes, a quick survey is made of her surroundings. There will be no signs of company here tonight. A quiet crystalline sigh further chisels at the solitude of the hills. A young girl with an animalian appearance akin to a black dog is our interloper. A simple and unadorned outfit loosely hangs from her frame; a simple shirt, skirt, a paisely red bandana tied around a furred neck, and a pair of thin leather boots shield her from the cold. For anyone else, it would be far from adequate cover in these frigid temperatures, but to our interloper, our solitude breaker, it would be more than enough.

Life had changed quite a lot for the girl that stands against the frozen hillside. The start of the new cold had brought a new life, in exchange of an old one. She hadn't seen her only family in several weeks now. A mother and a sister of similar appearance had become lost to the sway of wintry trees as they searched for firewood and supplies. Their fate was unknown, but it would be easy to assume. Desperate and lonely, our solitude breaker wanders the hills in the same search of supplies to bring back to the farmhouse just over the hill. With each moment she fears the same fate, but another event had steeled her against assailing winter winds; one she may never understand. Only days ago, she was changed.

Now she stands impervious to the cold. It touches her without feeling as she does the same in return. Just west, she knows there is a neighboring farmhouse lying empty and likely stocked of food. More crunching steps echo gently through the woods, as she follows memories of a dirt path leading down a road between the two farms. Frosted memories of what seems like a lifetime ago flood in, reminding her of walking home from the local schoolhouse in gaiety as cows, goats and horses would accompany her along the fenced road. Her steps, once lively, are now embittered with the burden of unwelcome change.

At the end of the path, she is greeted by the sight of a once-warm home. In the month of snow, its wood and stone had split in several places. A sorrowful, sagging facade greets any would-be visitors, warning of its contents to those that may enter. Much like the faith of the local mountain-dwellers, the roof had strained and buckled under the weight of the ceaseless snow. From the road, she can feel the tales of its walls bellowing a quiet eulogy to what once was. Tears now adorn an unaltered expression of detached grit. She approaches the house and carefully ducks inside the broken, waiting door frame. Still she wonders why she doesn't feel the cold around her.

Where the roof had collapsed, large piles of snow had accumulated in its corners like many years of dust. Flameless lanters still adorned the walls, and all doors hung open with nothing to hide. Once again, glowing red eyes survey. In the far corner, a suspect shape startles the girl. She knew this corner to be where the grandmother would sit in her chair and knit warm garments to stave off the mild Appalachian winters with the same hope and love that once filled the rest of the house. Now, only a mound of snow in a warning, waiting shape.

The tears now stream down trembling cheeks. Her whole body feels a cold not of winter, but of fear. Sometimes the things we fear most are the things we can't see. With trembling steps, she tears herself away and moves into the kitchen. A light covering of snow tumbles motionlessly across the threshold, far from the deep snow below the collapsed roof. An abandoned milk box rests in the middle of the floor. With shaking hands, it's grasped and slowly filled with jars and cans of assorted foods. Pickled vegetables meant to be enjoyed through winter in high spirits will now be enjoyed only in broken solitude of one unintended.

The crate is half full before our trembling looter can carry no more. Tears fall from her warm cheeks and land on the lids of the jars, freezing shortly after. Rest is needed, but now isn't the time for such pleasantry. An ill-timed attempt at steeling herself is met with feelings of helplessness and grief. Is this all life is, now?

Something falls from the wall, out of the corner of her eye. The girl whips to her left and covers her mouth with both hands in a vain effort to stifle a pitiful gasp. A coat hook rests inside the doorway, now empty after a tan duster coat and matching cowboy hat fell to the floor with a soft thump. She stares at the garments with a breath caught in her throat. Despite her fear, she begins to feel oddly comforted by the sad sight of these clothes whose owners would never be returning for them. Tentative steps forward are taken, and the clothes are examined by piercing eyes. Despite not needing insulation, she could benefit well from having a practical set of clothing.

With feelings of intrusion, she decides that they would be best put to good use. The clothes are donned, and are found to fit surprisingly well. The coat isn't far from dragging the ground, and is loose on the towering adolescent. It must have been the father's. A draw is located around the waist of the coat, and in a symbolic effort to shield herself from the sorrow around her, it's tied. With a slight newfound comfort, she revisits the crate of food, and hefts it with uneasy hands. A vigorous retreat is made from the house.

She knew she would return for the rest of the food eventually, but now, words are due. A goodbye, the only goodbye she's come to know. From the road, the same sorrowful home gives a farewell stare. The stare is reciprocated, with a pale voice adding, "I'm so sorry." It was all that needed to be said. Crunching footsteps lead to home, to a withered warmth; another solitude to be broken.


© 2022 Ashes-Onik