192. Cold Souls

She danced along the streets of white, her feet gliding over the powdery snow that had settled, never making any footprints. She kind of missed the crunch of fresh snow underfoot, but at least the loss of sensations helped with the cold. Weather like this, normally, she would already be huddled under blankets in front of the fireplace.

She stopped briefly and tried to recall the memory of the fireplace. A word floated from the recesses of her mind: warmth. It was such an odd word. Warmth. It felt soft and heavy, unlike “cold”, which felt stiff and sharp. What did warmth feel like?

Toasty. Comfy. Snuggly. These were the words that came to mind. They sounded like nice words. Yes, the fireplace was a nice place to be near.

The clock tower in the distance rang seven times, and she knew that it was time for dinner. Yes, dinner was warm, she remembered. Dinner was when food was laid out on the table, and you could eat anything you liked. There were potatoes, chicken, green peas, sweet corn… There was something in her mouth, and she remembered what warmth felt like.

That’s right – warmth was a nice feeling. These days there was no warmth to be felt, only cold. Not the bitter, stiff cold that came to mind – not the cold that stung and numbed. The cold that she felt was a hollow, empty kind. It was a strange stillness, like the cold wasn’t really there, but she could feel it in her bones. It was the kind of cold that you felt in your stomach when you were hungry, and dinner was taking too long to cook.

She hopped over to a low window. There was a family inside, gathered around a table – and yes! They were having dinner. Nice, warm, filling dinner that chased away the empty coldness in the stomach. She could remember that. She could remember the end of dinner, after tummies were filled and appetites were satiated. There was nothing cold about dinner, only a toasty, comfy warmth.

She wondered if she missed dinner and warmth, and then found herself noting how “missed” sounded so much like “mist”. Perhaps it’s because missing something is like the mist – you can see it, but you cannot feel it. And it was cold – missing something, or someone, was cold indeed.

She pressed her face against the window, looking at the family as they shared their food around the table. Her breath didn’t fog up the glass. There was a boy of about 6 or 7 at the table, pouting at the broccoli that was being served onto his plate. He looked up, and for a moment, they were looking eye to eye.

“Mom, there’s a pale girl at the window!” he cried and pointed towards her. Alarmed, she faded out of sight.

The mother turned to look out the window, and even walked towards it to check the sides. “There’s no one outside, dear,” the mother said. “No one’s silly enough to be out in this cold.”

Was she out in the cold? She looked at the white snow underfoot. “Snow” sounded a lot like “cold”, so that should be right. Perhaps she was cold, after all.

She looked inside the house and saw the fireplace, alive with orange and golden embers, and a shiver seized her.

Perhaps she did miss the warmth.

She danced along, her feet trailing above the snow, but never touching it.

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